I need to start this by saying, it is not for everyone. In this season where so many people at different stages in understanding racial injustice are asking, "what should I do?" the answers must be given with care. This post is for those who are not surprised but disheartened at the no-indictment decisions and the police response to Ferguson. This is for those who have been studying quietly and developing cross-racial relationships intentionally. If you are new to the conversation, this is not your time to lead but to listen. I have a different post coming for you.
To those of you who have been fearful to speak, its time to break the silence.
Its time for churches across the country to break the silence on racism and racial injustice. There are many who have chosen the way of silence, believing it to be an apolitical stance. Except that we all know the truth. We all know that silence is a political tool used to plead ignorance or plan avoidance. In this moment in history, there are many tools made available to you, and silence is certainly one of them, but I encourage you to smash silence into pieces.
If you believe that racism and injustice are not sitting in your churches, indicting your credibility as a witness of God, you are sadly mistaken. If you have ever heard one story about injustice. If you have ever had one complaint from a person of color. If you have ever been in a meeting and heard one insensitive joke, heard one racial stereotype, heard one racial slur, heard one inappropriate comment- than you have work to do. Silence cannot be an option for you.
If you proclaim to believe that we are all created in the Imago Dei, you must break the silence. If you say you believe we are all brother and sister in Christ then you cannot hold back. If you believe that we are all one body and when one body suffers- we all suffer, then you must break the silence. If you profess love as a defining characteristic of your body, prove it. Prove that you love all people. Prove that black lives matter. Your silence speaks more than you realize.
The other side of silence is scary. I know. Because silence once broken gives opportunity for the hearts of people to be revealed. Anger. Hatred. Frustration. Confusion. Grief. Hurt. Fear. Bitterness. Outrage. If these come pouring out, you must then know they were sitting in the room the entire time. You must know that if this is what leaks across the floor when silence was broken, then Outrage was already sitting in the pews, Frustration was teaching the class, Hatred was baptizing the people. Your silence doesn't make these things disappear- only keeps it hidden, keeps it protected, keeps it festering. We must smash silence to let these loose and let understanding in.
Silence must be broken, never to recover because your one sermon will fix nothing. Racism and racial injustice has been a problem for centuries. Silence must be broken so hard that no one can put back together the pieces. We must remain committed to giving voice. We must remain vigilant in our storytelling. We must remain absolute in our commitment to watch, to see, to hear, to unpack, to learn. This is not a one-time event. This is not a check list. This is a structural change to the way your church operates.
Silence must be broken so that action can break forth. If we won't talk about it, how will we fix it? Smash the silence with protesting. Smash the silence with advocacy. Smash the silence by speaking truth to power. Smash the silence in your services, in your classrooms, on social media. Silence never breeds hope. If you will be a place of hope for our families, a place of hope for our children, a place of hope for the future, a place of hope for tomorrow- you cannot remain silent.
There are many who have chosen silence in our nation's past. There were those who chose to be silent during abolition. There were those who chose to be silent during civil rights. You would certainly not be alone in choosing this way of being- but is that the company you want to keep? Or will you chose to join the company of the outraged, the grieving, the defiant, the hopeful that things can and will change. Will you choose to stand for oppressed? Will the world outpace you, Church, in declaring the human dignity of all?
There are black churches who can lead the way- who are skilled in protesting, understand community building, and preach regularly on the affirmation of human dignity. Why would you recreate the wheel? For too long you've thought of yourselves is little independent bodies, functioning more like business trying to retain customers than a unified body of believers. Its time to break the silence between our churches.
What does the Lord require of you? Can you do justice silently? Can you love mercy silently? Does your humility require silence in any other area of your life?
Break the silence as pastors and teachers. Break the silence as lawyers and journalists. Break the silence as counselors and doctors. Break the silence as artists and innovators. Break the silence as students and professors. Break the silence wherever you are, using the influence you have, employing the gifts you possess. Break the silence on racism and racial injustice.
In our Bible, the Divine regularly requires that we give voice. Regularly. Will you break the silence?