He walks into the crowded auditorium and everyone is eager to hear his next great sermon. He speaks every year at the conference and they always love what he has to say – usually something incredibly inspirational and thought provoking. Last year it was about faith and unity across denominations and the year before it was about the abundant life in Jesus – everyone left the conference saying they encountered Jesus. This year he gets on stage, prays and begins to unfold why black lives matter and when he is finished, a hushed chatter takes the space once filled with the sound of applause. He won’t be invited back because he has just been deemed unsafe. Who is he? He is so many black Christian leaders who were once accepted by the white evangelical church, who refuse to remain quiet about the state of the nation and the present injustice smothering black men and women. When he stated that racial inequality in America is a gospel issue, they decided that he is speaking out of offense and no longer are they able to trust his otherwise untainted character.
I am one of these aforementioned individuals. Asked to preach because I made everyone feel okay and at times, I kept other black people under control. Today, this is not an option. There is too much at stake for me to stay in the boundaries. My concern for being liked and accepted has taken a backseat to my burning conviction to stand against injustice.
Lives are on the line, and there is no time to pretend like the church has no fault in this. There is certainly no room for subtle conversation or clever anecdotes to make the point clear. There was a time where slave masters manipulated the minds of their slaves with words from the Bible, and up until recently, the mindset of the church has not been far off from this. Hear me, I love the church and I am not saying it was happening intentionally or out of evil intent, but that does not change that it was, in fact, happening. Now we must prepare as ignorance has kindly been asked to leave the room to make space for progress and intentionality.
For reconciliation to happen, people need to begin to speak up. Addressing that there is an issue is the very first step leading to healing and togetherness. Some will argue against the way some individuals are speaking out against the brazen injustice. Those individuals who take offense at the response of a hurt and frustrated people at times like to reference the sanitized version Dr. King as a guide on how people should respond to injustice and that Dr. King would condemn the protestors out right. However, when Dr. King reflected on the riots of his time, he said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” I share the same sentiment in regards to what is happening today – I do not agree with these methods, but I understand as riots has long been the language of the oppressed.
I in no way stand with those who believe that killing cops or stealing or any measure like that is acceptable, but I am not against rebellion in its core genesis. It is not an easy message we are carrying as black people, and upon hearing it white Americans will and should feel uncomfortable. This is what we have come to, and if we want to continue forward we must address the issue in totality.
I have no doubt that eventually my character, like that of many others who share my stance, will come into question. If I really love Jesus will eventually be up for debate, and I can only imagine what other things I am privileged with will become endangered because I am refusing to be silenced.
Let me just say, before you write me or another off as just an angry black man or an angry black woman, look around you and decide what side of history you want to be on. People love to quote Dr. King or use his name (like I just did), but often he is put on a pedestal because he was non-violent. Only in the physical way was this man non-violent, in every other sense of the word, he was as rough as they come. If he were anything but radical, would he have been imprisoned and eventually murdered? No! There was not a single tame bone in that man’s body.
Our tendency is to look at great leaders and only choose to idolize the parts of them we can swallow. The world does this with Jesus when they say they will take him as a teacher but not as the only way to God the Father. How easy to see this in an example like Christ, but how tragic we miss it in so many other prominent and influential figures. The white moderate will always say they believe in what we are saying but that we must wait for the right time. Asking us to work within the confines of the law.
The oppressor is dictating the oppressed how to rebel – this is not working together, this is modern day slavery of the most under-handed kind. The white evangelical church is waving banners urging for peace, peace, peace – never should there be peace from the church when injustice is running rampant in the pews. Everything is not okay and we have completely lost touch with reality if we pretend like it is.
I realize that I am running the risk of being labeled as the angry black man who only talks about race. Maybe I no longer fit into the mold that you hoped I would. Sooner or later you will need to learn to take someone in totality without trying to fit him or her into your narrative that you are comfortable with. A good friend of mine once reminded me that historically, peace is not the absence of war, but comes as a result upon completion of the war. We are able to have the peace that is in Christ Jesus, while being at war with sin and evil in the earth because He has already attained the victory. There has to come a point where the church engages in a holy war; we need to bring reconciliation. It has already begun, leaders are rising up and proclaiming that enough is enough. The hard truth is that justice will come at a cost; I am here to say that fighting for the right thing is always worth the price we pay for it.