Posts tagged church
The Only Logical Conclusion

I need to open by asking for grace for the words I am typing now. I need grace because I am not super human or super woman. On Wednesday night I was laying in bed, finally getting over a cold. I was about to turn on the Golden Girls as I fell asleep when I decided to check my phone one more time. When I opened it, I saw immediately Chris Hayes describe a shooting in a black church in 140 characters. I have been through a range of emotions since that moment- grief, rage, frustration, numbness. I have wept and pounded on tables. Much of my emotional journey is all over twitter where I generally don’t hold back my humanity. I say all this to drive home the point that I am human, with deep feelings and emotions over what has transpired. I do not feel “strong”. I don’t feel “passionate”. I feel grossly, overwhelmingly human. But I don’t know what else to do besides write. I hope that my words will be helpful to someone, but please know, they just might be more for me to make sense of the world, than to change it.

I’ll start with a confession. Last night when I went to bed, I just knew by the time I woke up we would know who the shooter was and that he would be apprehended. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered the shooter was still at large. However, within just a few minutes new reports started pouring in that the suspected shooter had been captured. As various officials were interviewed there was a resounding theme. “Safety has been restored.”

“Our community can now come together.”

“Now the healing process can begin.”

“The threat is now over.”

Though I understand what these officials meant. I want to say that safety has not been restored. I am glad the suspect is in custody. I really am. I am glad for the country, but I am mostly glad for the community of Charleston and anyone that was afraid their home, church, community center or neighborhood might be another target. But my gratefulness does not extend far enough to create any sense of safety. For the next few weeks, maybe even months, black churchgoers will not feel safe because we know the threat is not over.

There have been far too many mass shootings in America. I still remember watching columbine and Virginia Tech unfold on the news screen. More recently I remember crying over Sandyhook, shock over the movie theater shooting, fear that my own mentor could have been a victim of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University. Those were frightening, awful, gut wrenching moments in their own right. They and many more ripped our hearts out, created trauma for so many families. But this is different.

Though the weapon is the same, gun violence, this is different because the driving force was white supremacy, this act the epitome of racism, the goal to kill black people. The level of terror that black people feel in America at this moment cannot be underestimated. Because when the driving force of such a massacre is the very thing imbedded in the roots of America, thriving on the branches of generation after generation, sitting in the pews unchallenged every Sunday morning in white churches- there is no reason why black Americans should feel safe.

The sin of white supremacy is thriving in this country because white Christians refuse to name it and uproot it, refuse to confess it and dismantle it, refuse to acknowledge it and repent of it, refuse to say the words

“Its in my family”

“Its in my church”

“Its in my soul.”

Every time I write about race, someone white says “just know it isn’t all of us,” believing this will bring me comfort. It is offered as balm, but fails miserably. I would much rather people say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.” That’s what I want to hear. Creating distance from it doesn’t serve me, doesn’t bring me comfort. Because it is in all of us. White supremacy has infected all of us who know America. If I have to deal with the white supremacist notions within myself, than I don’t want to hear about how “its not all of us”. It is. It is all of us who must learn to love blackness as an equal and authentic image of God. 

Some of us are doing that work. Naming that work. Wrestling through that work.

And others are content to let it grow. And I need you to know those are the only two choices. There is no such thing as neutrality. You are either nurturing love or hate. There is no middle ground, no third way, no alternative.

There is this pervasive belief that Christians can simply choose to be tolerant, or polite, or even kind. There is this sense that as long as certain lines aren’t crossed, that you’re okay. As long as you don’t tell the racist joke, as long as you had a really good reason for moving into an all white community, as long as you never say nigger, as long as you do charity work, as long as you go on the mission trip, as long as you never do anything mean- then you’re alright. Not so.

Jesus has two commandments. “...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your soul. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39). The second is like it. So loving your neighbor as yourself is like loving God with all your heart and all your mind and all our soul. Love. 1 John 4:20 says this, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Cannot.

I need you to know that these two verses fly in the face of the sin if white supremacy and racism. To not uproot white supremacy from the mind, heart and soul is to miss the mark on loving your neighbor as yourself and is hatred toward God. I repeat. The sin of racism is hatred toward God. Racism is hatred toward and denial of blackness as an equal and authentic image of God. Now you can let that live if you want to. You can try to wrap it up so tight that it never leaks out. You can try to bury it so far deep that no one ever knows. You can try to avoid contact so that you never say anything stupid. You can try to cover it up so that no one ever calls you out. You can try to fix on MLK day but let it linger every other day. You can talk about it once a year from the pulpit. You can remain silent and never speak of it at all. Those are all options. But it allows hate to live.

Those verses do not say:

Just tolerate one another.

Just be nice to each other.

Just don’t say anything stupid.

Just go volunteer.

Just take the mission trip.

Just don’t be rude.

Just give them some money.

Just build a center.

Just attend a multicultural church.

Just make sure you have one black friend,

Black family member

Black child

God demands love. Love toward God. Love toward humanity.

This love is a decision, and too many Christians have made their choice by simply refusing to acknowledge the power, the depths, the reality of white supremacy in America.

This shooter took white supremacy to its only logical conclusion- death. Now you might never shoot anyone, or plant bombs, or brutalize anyone. That’s entirely possible, but is that really your threshold, your standard for determining the health of your heart, mind and soul? My life might depend on whether or not you, your family, your church are willing to uproot racism and nurture love or instead continue to let the same evil that compelled this shooter to pull the trigger, to live on in your soul.

I hope you will choose love today and tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

I wrote on twitter that every church in America should be talking about this shooting on Sunday. But you know what? My real fear isn’t that churches will ignore the shooting. My fear is that churches will underestimate it. I fear that it will alter one Sunday’s plans and nothing else. I fear that the words will be reduced to one lone shooter, to one silent moment, to one prayer. I fear that it will change nothing about every Sunday thereafter, that it will inspire nothing of lasting significance, that no one will make a declaration to kick racism out of the pews. My real fear is that this moment will slip by just as so many others have, that white churches will refuse to see their own reflection. Or that they will and simply turn away.

That is the fear of black Americans because white supremacy is deadly. And people who look like me are its victims.

And despite this reality. We are still here. We still speak truth to power. We will mourn and cry and lament and wail. But we also fight. We resist. We refuse to be erased. My words here will be joined with hundreds maybe thousands of other black writers who will declare that we wont lay down, we wont hide, we wont go away quietly. You haven’t heard the last from us. We fight on. 

* this is unedited. and honestly i dont plan to edit it anytime soon. I'll do my best as i notice typos. I hope none are so egregious as to miss my meaning. If you want to tweet and know there is a mistake, feel free to fix it. Its all so raw right now. I need to take my time before re-feeling all these words. thanks to readers who have stuck with me through all of my demanding posts. welcome to new readers. get comfortable because demanding is my new norm.*


Seminary DropOut

Today's post is a fun interview I did for Seminary Dropout with Shane Blackshear. We talk about my start in racial reconciliation, the events of Ferguson (while we were still waiting for the indictment decision), and the role of the Church in reconciliation. 

Take a listen while you drink some tea after your Christmas shopping or during your travels for the holiday! 

Break the Silence

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.  

By Andy Miah [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andy Miah [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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?

What Now?

So I recently wrote this thing. I was sitting at a beach, steaming from all that was unfolding in Ferguson. I said some things. Things I stand by. But I also included a list. A list of what individuals who are tired of easy answers can do. I also stand by my list which came from the inspiring decisions my friends have made to change their lives. But in my emotional state, I made a mistake. I made a list that was highly individualistic and didn't talk at all about what churches could do as a body to respond to racial injustice. So, I'm back to fix that. 

This too will not be an exhaustive list. Sadly, there is so much work to be done, I'd have to write a series of books to name everything that we have to work on as a Church. So this list is just what has been churning in my head and heart. I pray that it serves as a good starting place, a match that the Holy Spirit might strike. 

1. Study with honesty and integrity the history of your church from a social perspective. Admit if your church body has always been centered on whiteness. Admit that it ignored racial tensions of the [insert decade here]. Admit when whiteness failed AND how that effected communities of color. That second part is really important. Its not enough to pretend that your choices as a church existed in a vacuum. Your choices as a church effected people. Families of color didn't feel safe coming to you. Multiracial families were isolated in your church. Your church members didn't allow a shelter to be built. You were so busy running the food pantry, you didn't vote for wage increases that could have helped every family who comes. Your members moved when people of color started to arrive. People of color are regularly pulled over on the way to your church because its so racially isolated, and your church has done nothing about it. I don't know your story as a church, but you should. Confess the ways your church has promoted whiteness and then move to confessing how that impacted the rest of God's Church.  

2. Stop talking around the racial realities that your church is already involved with. You have homelessness ministries, food pantries, prison ministries, after school programming and more. Some of them you have had for decades. You consume books on how to improve the ministry, how to be better, how to stretch those dollars further, how to be of help to those who partake of the services. And yet you cannot recite one statistic on the racial injustice therein. What is the connection between urban renewal, the displacement of African Americans and their overrepresentation in shelters? You should know that. Why are there food desserts in black and brown neighborhoods that force folks to come to your food pantry? You should know that. How are laws constructed and enforced that allow for the gross overrepresentation of black and latino people in the criminal justice system? You should know that. What accounts for the lack of after school programming in under resourced communities? You should know that.  Become an expert. Trace how these institutions, policies, and laws have changed over time, how they effect the lives of the people you serve. Its time to stop patting ourselves on the back for having these services; we need to start figuring out what injustice has occurred that makes them necessary in the first place. 

3. Racial reconciliation can't be talked about once a year during MLK. Your church is committed to teaching the Word of God, right? Do you only do that once a year? Your church is committed to prayer, right? Do you only pray when a tragedy happens in the congregation? Your church is committed to families, right? Do you only talk about families once at Christmas time? If you are only talking about racial reconciliation during MLK and perhaps if a national tragedy takes place, your church may be interested in racial reconciliation, but it is not committed. Racial reconciliation must become a consistent part of your conversation as a Church; otherwise its not going to happen. If you need some examples for how churches are making this a sustained conversation check out: Quest Church, Church of All Nations, Willow Chicago, River City Community Church, and Bridgeway Church. I'm sure there are others I am forgetting; find the ones in your area for inspiration. But don't be afraid to carve your own way. Your steps may be different based on your responses to #1 and #2. What I can assure you, is none of these churches sacrifice prayer or Scripture, or family picnics to give space to racial justice and reconciliation. Its just a part of who they are.  

Again, this is not a complete list by any means. Its only three suggestions. But I hope my point is clear. If you are tired of injustice (not tired of your feelings when injustice occurs), your Church can choose to be different. Your Church body is absolutely capable of making the world better. But you must decide whether or not you get a small high from reciting all your service projects. You must decide whether or not you enjoy being the savior for families or if you want them to never have to come back your pantry ever again. You have to decide if you're ready for confession and the repentance that confession will require. You have to decide if discussing reconciliation will be your church's hobby or if practicing reconciliation will be your legacy.