I promise you almost every predominantly black church will talk about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this Sunday morning. I can also promise you that almost every predominantly white church will be silent on it.
This should not be so.
The reason for this is because the killing of unarmed black men deeply affects the lives of every black man and woman in America. Whenever it happens, it rips open the wound yet again. A reminder of injustice. A feeling that things will never change. Fear for their lives and the lives of their children. And a reminder that “All men are created equal” is still not a truism in this country.
White churches won’t talk about it for a number of reasons. Talking about police brutality will offend people. If people are offended they will leave the church. So we’ll just talk about Jesus and tell people about Jesus, as if Jesus wouldn’t have said anything about the oppression of blacks or as if praying that the Kingdom of God come to this place (Matthew 6:10) has nothing to do with how blacks are treated. As if Jesus and his teaching can be divorced from each other. It’s the same reason white Evangelical churches didn’t talk about Jim Crow laws in the 60’s or rally to Dr. King’s side at his marches. We say racism is bad, but we don’t connect the dots of how our faith and what we talk about are supposed to turn into action.
Less malicious but no less damaging, another primary reason white churches don’t talk about police brutality is because we simply don’t feel it. When you live in an unequal society and are in the group with power and privilege, you never see the inequality. If a kid is born into a white affluent suburb, they go to school and church with white, suburban kids, and then college with more of the same, it’s not their fault that all they know is white affluence (and yes, many white people grow up poor, but are still drastically privileged over people of color, which you can read about here). I’m not writing this to shame the many in this boat. It’s truly not their fault they were born in to this. But it is true and something we need to wake up to. It’s time to know. It’s time to learn and listen. When we don’t wake up to this and remain in our white sheltered slumber of non-reality, it sends out a wide vibe of non-love to our brothers and sisters of color. They are nursing gaping wounds right in front of us and we are acting as if everything is peachy and that we should all smile and talk about Jesus. Imagine having a broken leg, bone jutting out from your skin and all, and a group of able-bodied church folk invite you to play basketball with them. Their silence would be more than deafening. Their confusion about why you don’t want to play even more so.
Meanwhile, whites are the first ones to tell you they don’t see color and that everyone is the same and will even talk theologically about how we’re all created in God’s image and are one in Christ. (There’s a whole bunch wrong with saying you don’t see color by the way, which you can read about here.)
But if we’re one in Christ and all a part of the same body, when one part hurts, the rest feel it too! If my leg is gushing blood, my arms don’t relax as if everything is fine in their world. Which is why white churches cannot be silent about police brutality on Sunday morning. Our leg is gushing blood right now!
When I watched the movie Selma, I cried when I watched the following scene. The reason I cried is because I know what the white clergy’s response was to this invite by Dr. King, and I cried because I know it would be the same today…
But I also cried because I know I would have gone! And I know I would have went because I won’t be silent about police brutality, and neither should you.
A life-changing must read for white Evangelicals: