This past Sunday churches across color, culture, class, and denominational lines participated in what was called “Solidarity Sunday”. The purpose of Solidarity Sunday was to bear witness to the theological truth that Black Lives Matter because they are made in the image of God. After non-indictments of white police officers in the cases of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and John Crawford many have awakened to the reality that black folks are the “disposables” of our society. This was in no way an attempt to say that other lives don’t matter. Rather, it was a needed emphasis in a country, and more specifically in a “Christian” context that has devalued, dehumanized, and destroyed black lives for most of its history. It was a call to protest against the horror of racism and a prayer for its end in our hearts, homes, court houses, & houses of worship. For the black church this was nothing new. Protest has been in the blood stream of African-American Christianity from its inception. A seamless blend of unbridled praise, unwavering prayer, uncensored prophetic speech, and undaunted protest in the face of grave opposition is in the very DNA of the black church at its best. However, for many white and multi-ethnic churches this was an uncomfortable baby step. I use the term “baby step” not to demean the action, but to underscore this as the infancy stages (beginning) of such actions for many (not all) in evangelical spaces. To be clear, it was absolutely AMAZING to see and hear reports from all over the country of white brothers and sisters in Jesus wearing all black, “hash tagging” #BlackLivesMatter, interceding for justice and hope in the black community, and wrestling with how the America they have experienced is quite different from black folks AND brown folks like Luis Rodriguez.
I’m extremely grateful for that. But in my gratitude there is a passion to see the Church be all it can and should be. The reality is that many of the churches and denominations that made strides yesterday have been on the wrong side of history in previous pivotal moments. Yes, there have been public acts of repentance and reconciliation services but you don’t unlearn racism and undo its affects by “hug-a-thons” and a few Martin Luther King quotes. You certainly can’t cultivate prophetic perspective and mature activism by osmosis in a world that constantly reinforces racial stereotypes and numbs us to the pain and plight of “the other”. That said, there are many of us who are praying and believing that this “moment” will become a Spirit-empowered “movement”. I want to see last Sunday’s sincere gestures of solidarity turn into sustained efforts to heal the festered wounds of racial injustice and division. Because “solidarity is not mere sympathy”. [i] It cannot be relegated to a “special Sunday”. It is not cheap. It is not without pain. It is the supernatural work and fruit of Christ’s Spirit active in submitted souls and bodies in the beloved community. The Church’s unity in the heat of racial division and tension is an evangelistic apologetic according to Jesus. Our prophetic witness as God’s salt & light is key for renewal, justice, and reconciliation in the earth.
Biblical Unity comes as a result of prayer, prophetic truth telling, public dialogue, forgiveness, and comprehensive repentance. Unity in the kingdom goes against the grain of what the world has taught us. At times it is awkward & uncomfortable, yet it is beautiful & redemptive. Real solidarity is often counterintuitive. I believe God’s Spirit has used the chaotic void of the last few months to create a hunger in many hearts for authentic solidarity. I want to offer 6 practical, but deeply spiritual ways that individuals and institutions can work to that end. Each of them deserves a separate blog, but I’ll briefly try to make a case for their importance below.
- Listen- (James 1:19) Be slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to anger. By God’s Spirit you must resist the urge to immediately discount the views of your brothers and sisters. From a place of compassion you must seek to understand what people are trying to communicate. Listening is a deeply spiritual practice. So often these conversations go absolutely no where because people approach them “to defend their position” and privilege rather than to love and HEAR their sister and brother in Christ.
2. Lament- (Romans 12:15, Nehemiah 1:4-7) Enter the story. Feel the pain. Weep with those who weep. Evangelicals must stop trying to “police” and sanitize human emotions in these moments. Lament is a biblical form of worship and prayer. Scripture tells us that “godly sorrow” leads to repentance but so often we try to circumvent this important part of the process. We need to allow sorrow to run its course through our souls as we repent for personal and corporate sin and apathy.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done…. (1 corinthians 2:7:8-11)
(For a powerful example of lament check out my friend and fellow CCDA Leadership Cohort #5 member Brandon Wrencher’s piece here!)
3. Learn Cross-Culturally- (1 Cor. 9:19-23) We all have a habit of constructing echo chambers where the voices we listen to see it “our way”. We must resist the urge of running to our homogenous huddles to debrief issues of race and begin long-term learning from folks with different perspectives. How many books have you read by people of color? How many non-aculturated minorities have mentored you? How deeply have you immersed yourself in environments that you are not the majority and that your social, theological, and political views are the minority. Resist the urge to find “safe” people of color who “parrot” the views you already have. (Bonus: Diversify your news media sources. As this article points out, some networks are masterful at misdirection and misinformation.)
4. Lift the Voices- (Isaiah 58:1, Acts 2:17-18) MLK Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” At some point we must be willing to bear our crosses and lift our voices against racism. We must do so in a way that helps amplify the voice of God in unheard people groups. We don’t give people voices. We simply honor and give space for the voice that already exists. You are not called to be a “savior” of helpless black folks. You are called to solidarity.
5. “Levelization”- (Isaiah 58:6, Galatians 3:28) Not a “real word” but I’m trying to get at the fact that racial injustice has created uneven “playing fields” in our country & in the Body of Christ. If the Church is called to “love mercy” and “do justice” it must participate with God in undoing oppression & inequity. Doing justice is the work of bringing “equity” (not equality) for those who have endured the brunt of oppression. (see pic to left) Don’t settle for charity work that ignores the root causes of oppression. Sign a petition, join a protest, support those who engage issues of policies, stick your neck out when you see injustice in your spheres of influence. If you believe ALL people stand on level ground at the foot of the cross let ACTION accompany that faith. When the implications of the Gospel take root in a community it causes a “social inversion”. Christ’s death takes us beyond tokenism and tolerance into honor and loving acceptance. Diversity by itself is disastrous. Diversity MINUS inclusion and solidarity equals implosion. Diversity PLUS inclusion and solidarity equals an explosion of God’s glory and influence. Working towards this type of radical oneness & witness gives us the credibility & “the chops” to be salt and light change agents in our city.
- LOVE- (1 Corinthians 13) If we eloquently speak the language of diversity without love we are only “a resounding gong or clanging cymbal”. If we speak prophetic truth to power and by faith move the mountains of historic injustice without love, we are nothing. If we put ourselves on the frontlines to be hated and martyred for our stance against racial disunity without love, we gain nothing.