When Black People Die, Where are the White Christian Leaders?

You would be hard pressed not to know that our country is in a crisis at the moment. Almost every news outlet and every other social media post is discussing the nature of policing in America. To some, it appears that African Americans are under attack by the very people and organizations charged with protecting them and perhaps you’re shocked at what could be a nationwide genocide. To others it appears as though the ones who claim to be victimized are creating further chaos and disorder and perhaps your fears of a lawless cultural subset have been aroused. No matter your paradigm, no matter your rhetoric reasoning or rage, it’s clear something is wrong in America.

What if you are a white, Christian leader? Perhaps you’re a minister, evangelist, preacher or pastor. Your charge is to lead people in times of trouble, to point to supernatural solutions in the midst of natural problems. Your job description is to show the love of Jesus to those in need of comfort, healing and salvation. You are called to live righteously, obey the laws of the land, respect those in positions of power and affirm order amidst chaos. You are driven to see social justice carried out and yet the justice system as it stands seems skewed. You are commissioned to serve those in need, love the least of these, care for orphans and widows, feed the homeless, clothe the poor and visit those in prison. You are compelled to stand for what is right and to call sin by its name and yet those who are called to uphold what is right seem to be in the wrong.

Your friends on the right will tell you that the officer who shot Tamir Rice had no choice and that the real issue is those darn airsoft replica guns. They’ll tell you that Michael Brown died because he was a thug who lacked respect for authority; suggesting the young hooligan stole cigars from a local convenience store and viciously attacked an officer simply doing his job. They’ll tell you that Eric Garner died because he refused to obey orders; they’ll mention his weight, health problems and how he fought with officers. They’ll tell you that Trayvon Martin died because he was high and in that haze attacked a Good Samaritan trying to protect the community. Your friends on the right will suggest that the recent protests are really just thinly veiled riots. They’ll point to additional violence, and looting as evidence of an out of control group of people that need controlling. They won’t use those words, of course, but you’ll get the drift when they elbow you in the ribs and say, “you see what I mean?”

Your friends on the left will tell you that the country is in crisis and even though it’s been like this for hundreds of years, they’ve finally had enough. They’ll tell you that what you see on TV is nothing new, that blacks and browns have always been victimized by those in power. They’ll remind you of the civil rights movement and how vehemently white people fought against it. They’ll remind you that the very backbone of this country was built with the bound hands and gagged mouths of generations of stolen Africans. They’ll point to the vitriol and the rhetoric of police and lawmakers who continually victim blame and shame as evidence that white America and those in power do not care about black lives. They’ll remind you that the only person indicted surrounding the death of Eric Garner is the man who videotaped the killing. They’ll show you that even when a coroner deems it murder, justice is not done.

So you stand at the cross roads while your black and brown clergy friends stand at the forefront. When Pastors like Samuel Rodriguez and Jamal Bryant fight for paths to citizenship and an immediate stop to victimization you remain silent.

Why are we silent? Do we feel like we don’t need to say anything? Do we think our black counterparts have it covered? Are we afraid to say anything because we don’t know what to say? Do we feel like we’re not an expert on race relations so we should remain silent? Are we afraid to anger one side or the other? Do we even see the problem? Or are we so confused by the tug and pull from both sides that we feel constrained to say and do nothing?

How dare us. How dare we call ourselves leaders or representatives of Jesus Christ and remain silent. How dare we tell our congregations and our groups of the love of Christ and not also take an opportunity to talk about justice. How in the world can we remain silent when the world is looking to us for an answer? We represent both the perceived problem in white authority and the absolute solution in Jesus’ authority. We have an opportunity to make a stand with those who have been victimized and yet most of us haven’t done anything. Not one thing. Not a march, not a sermon, not a prayer, not a tweet, NOTHING.

Where is the reconciliation, the comfort, the counsel, the healing? Where is Jesus? Why are we only sharing the Jesus who spoke of blessings and not the Jesus who stood in front of the woman who would be stoned? Why are we not standing in front of those who are being killed? Where are we?