A couple of evenings ago, I decided to zip over to Sam’s club about a half-hour before it was scheduled to close to pick up a couple of things we needed. They were closed and the parking lot was abandoned. I wasn’t sure what had happened until a couple of hours later when my wife told me about a Facebook post from a lady in our church who had been there when they suddenly made an announcement asking people to clear the building quickly. Walmart, a block away, also closed up.
Evidently, there are busloads of folks going from town to town in the Heartland, stirring things up, and the rumor was that they were coming to Sioux City (they did). There have been demonstrations that got (mildly) out of hand in downtown Sioux City the last couple of nights. Policemen have been hit with rocks and there have been a number of arrests.
Frankly, I have no respect for the traveling riot show that is going around the Heartland. One of my wife’s good friends (a reliable sort) saw a Craigslist ad enlisting demonstrators and offering to pay them for coming actions in Omaha and Lincoln. (For the geographically challenged, Sioux City is halfway between Omaha and Sioux Falls, SD, about 90 miles from each.)
It appears to me that Antifa and other radical organizations are seizing the moment and seeking to turn angry, but mostly peaceful protests of the Arbery and Floyd murders into violent riots. They are succeeding. I am hearing the same story – it was a peaceful protest for a long time, then some Antifa-types showed up and trouble started. I loved the video that I saw in which a group of Black protesters grabbed an Antifa troublemaker and turned him over to the cops. These protests have gotten out of hand, no doubt about it.
…On the Other Hand
I am discouraged at what I am seeing among many Christians.
- A (former) Facebook friend of mine posted a statement threatening to unfollow anyone who had the nerve to post anything that insinuated that either the murder of Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd were in any way racially motivated. He just couldn’t handle that! Can you imagine that? If you dared to imagine that three white Georgia guys chasing down a black jogger and shooting him was racially motivated, or that a white cop kneeling on the neck of a compliant (and handcuffed) black man long after he stopped breathing were possibly racially connected, he wanted nothing to do with you.
- Another pastor friend posted a series of rants about the evil of these terrible protesters. He stated that the protests were not genuine, they were just an excuse to destroy this nation. I did not see anything from him about the horrors of the Arbery or Floyd murders (admittedly, I haven’t read every post of his), but he definitely trained his guns on those rioters. A friend of his called them a “bunch of animals.” No one seemed to see the problem with calling minority protesters animals. He didn’t get called out, but the pastor posted an angry missive asking why anyone would “defend the rioters.” (No one was doing that.)
- I was shown a Facebook post by a man who formerly commented here often. “How do we know this was about race?” he asked. What would it take? Three white men chased and gunned down a black jogger, but how can we know that race was behind that? A white officer knelt on an unconscious black man long after he stopped breathing and didn’t even bother to check his vitals, but surely there was no racial history there.
- Various responses from Baptist networks and other self-styled “Conservatives” offered variations on “killing anyone is bad – whether Floyd or the riots” in a way that seemed to downplay racial murders and magnify the problems with rioting.
- The crown jewel of bad takes was by an AJW (anti-Justice Warrior) pastor, who wrote an article so stunningly awful it is hard to respond. He noted that we are “all one race” and by doing so, pretty much blamed all the trouble on anyone who took note of racial oppression in America or demanded justice. If we simply ignore injustice and say, “We are all one race” the 400 years of slavery, oppression, and dehumanization will magically disappear because, well…Gospel. I believe in the power of the Gospel to change lives, in fact, the power of Jesus is the ONLY solution. But the Gospel never calls us to deny the reality of human suffering or the effects of human sin. Over and over again, the Bible enjoins us to battle sin.
- I grew increasingly disturbed by Facebook friends who were silent when Arbery was murdered and silent when Floyd was murdered, but suddenly vocal when demonstrations took place and especially when radicals turned some of them into riots.
The response of many seems more intent on defending the status quo than on seeking the heart of God, on confronting protesters than on confronting racist murderers.
1. Yes, we must preach Jesus Christ, who is actively gathering ONE Worshiping People from every tribe and language on earth.
2. White Christians need to develop empathy instead of being so defensive. Our responses, too often, are about protecting our place, our culture. We have an experience in America, and it’s been a pretty good one, so it is hard to hear that minorities may not see the past with the same nostalgic eyes that we do. When we speak of “restoring America” they may hear something different. We need to listen to minorities and their suffering. My attitude on racial issues shifted when I talked at length to that Black deacon in my church – his stories moved me deeply. Dwight McKissic also opened my eyes to some facts. My theology hasn’t changed, but my outlook has.
3. We must realize that sin has consequences. “How often do we have to apologize for racism?” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that one, I’d have a LARGE jar of nickels. It isn’t about continuing to apologize for racism and that is a dodge. The fact is that 400 years of slavery, discrimination, segregation, and systemic oppression has had consequences. “You reap what you sow.” We have sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. Racism is a sin woven deeply into the fabric of this nation’s history and a few apologies are not going to free us.
- Pretending race isn’t real isn’t going to fix things.
- Acting as if the problem is “black anger” isn’t going to fix things.
- Claiming we’ve fixed things and “Black people need to get over it and move on” isn’t going to work.
4. Making everything political isn’t a solution. My suspicion is that the motive of much of what we post and say is more about winning in November than about following God’s word. Many of us (on both sides of the spectrum) are more concerned with our citizenship here than our citizenship in heaven.
5. Frankly, I don’t have a simple solution to this – you don’t either. It is going to take years, even decades of persistent effort ON OUR PART to convince our minority brethren that we truly love them and care for them – 400 years of abuse isn’t going to be fixed overnight. We have to be in it for the long haul. Listening, loving, commitment, restoration when we fail – this is all necessary.
I have much more angst than I have answers. I wish I had all the answers, but on this one, I think the solutions will take time and a lot of effort.