A Zen Buddhist friend reached out to me today to ask me why so many Evangelical advisers to President Trump have remained silent on Charlottesville. By the way, I don’t think this Zen Buddhist was particularly interested at the moment in finding religionists from across the ideological pond who also engaged in silent meditation. So, I sent this recent article indicating how a few Evangelical leaders spoke out against the white supremacy on display in Charlottesville. In response, my Buddhist friend sent me this article about how so many Evangelical advisers have stood by the President, remaining silent, even while many business advisers have spoken up and abandoned him. If only many of us who are Evangelical leaders would remain silent and listen empathically when our African American friends and acquaintances speak their minds on the same issues!
One white conservative Evangelical pastor, a friend of mine, models the way forward after Charlottesville. While he confesses to being frustrated many times by how people tend to blame the white church for problems in our society, making him want to react vocally, he has caught himself and stopped to listen to African American friends and acquaintances’ concerns. He has taken it one step further and asks himself the following questions in a recent blog post and encourages other white Christians to do the same. So, I will ask the same questions with him:
- Am I insensitive to what my brothers and sisters live with every day?
- Do I get angry at injustice and respond with words and action? Or do I dismiss it?
- Do black lives really matter to me? For instance, when a young black man is killed in a part of the city where I don’t go, is he nothing more than a statistic from “out there?” Or do I get on my knees (my pants should have holes in them by now)?
- When a court decision is rendered that leaves my black friends to question the equality of justice in America, do I sit in silence? Do I even know the impact this has on them? Have I asked?
- Do I make excuses for the inconsistency and the ultimate trajectory of political positions I hold?
- Do I see children of color in America as our American children, or do I have dividing lines?
- Am I trying to understand how dots get connected or am I connecting different dots and standing in opposition?
- Do I love like Jesus loves?
“Most evangelical leaders, including those who advise the White House, have been focused on ministry in recent days,” says [Johnnie] Moore. “Politics has been the last thing on our brain. We’ve been reaching out, doing what the Bible calls us to do as ambassadors of reconciliation, reaching across the aisle, [and] reaching out to other ministers.”
Hopefully, such reaching across the aisle as ambassadors includes those of diverse ethnicities.
Reconciliation must go beyond what white Evangelicals take to be black and white issues to include consideration and empathic concern for what black and brown and red Christians consider important, too. Unity is not homogeneous, but diverse—a point brought home by a Chinese American Christian leader and colleague in response to Charlottesville.
While the Chinese American Evangelical leader spoke out on the need for diverse unity in the context of Charlottesville and beyond, for which I am grateful, I am also grateful for how this white Evangelical pastor remains largely silent and LISTENS rather than reacts when African American Christians speak out. Hopefully, President Trump’s advisors will be consistent and listen empathically to African American heart cries, too. Then, just maybe, they will come to the point of advising the President to do the same.