A number of years ago I had left the academy and become a full-time preaching pastor. I knew that I now had a greater responsibility to not only expound what the Word meant but to help the people apply to their lives.
Before, when I was lecturing students, I always sensed a greater obligation to teach the Word in hopes that the students would find the application in their personal lives and in their ministries. Now that I was in the pastorate, the responsibility to provide the application fell more on me.
Not long into my tenure, there was the killing of unarmed, black man (let’s be honest: that sentence is probably true for every minister out there—”not long into my tenure there was the killing of unarmed, black man”).
I didn’t understand it. And I certainly didn’t know how to address my congregation.
I was a middle-aged white evangelical pastor. I grew up in a white evangelical, middle-class, suburban town. I rarely saw the inner-city. (I did teach a seminary course in downtown Philadelphia for an urban, mission cohort. All my students were African American pastors. Ironically, they were all from the suburbs, and, like me, they all had to commute to downtown Philly for this one class. I chuckled when of them even drove up in a corvette).
Nonetheless, as I was preparing to preach that Sunday, I didn’t know how to process the riots that were resulting from the shooting of this unarmed, black man. So, I called a pastor that I had come to know from some justice work with Christians in the Middle East: Bishop Ronnie Crudup.
Bishop was so kind. He spoke to me at length. He explained to me, an ignorant, though well-educated, white man, what it means to be a colored person living in America.
And I wept.
I still weep every time I reflect back on that call.
I weep every time I think about what it means to be a person of color today. I have since made efforts to know persons of color—blacks, Latinos, Asians, indigenous peoples. (there are many other groups [e.g., women] that are discriminated against as well; but allow me to keep this article brief and focused. NB: I am working on a manuscript that will broaden the discussion)—and to hear their stories.
And I weep.
I have learned that parents of colored persons have to have “the talk” with their kids; where they tell them to be careful how fast or how slow they walk, where they walk, when they walk, and how they walk.
And I weep.
Today, Americans are crying out because we are tired of being “sheltered in place.” “We live in a free country,” they exclaim.
But, is America truly free equally for everyone?
It doesn’t seem like it is when someone like Ahmaud Arbery cannot take a jog down the middle of a street with being shot because of the color of his skin?
Now, someone might say, we need to let a jury decide this case? That is true. But we have to admit that it sure does seem like juries have not done a fair job in the past arbitrating decisions with people of color.
I will not go into the history of American at this point. But one must be aware of our past history of discrimination. One must be aware of the terrible ordeals that people of color have had to face.
We must recognize that when they riot in the streets it is because they have not received justice in the past.
Sure, America was founded on justice.
But do we believe that it is perfect? Do we believe that blacks, Latinos, Asians, indigenous peoples, and many others live just as freely as I, a middle class, white person?
So, to all my privileged, middle-class white, friends, pass this along if you believe America is a free country and if you believe it should be for all!