It is easy to be a keyboard warrior at times like this, but a # and a post in a world of noise do extraordinarily little if my actions do not reflect what I post.
Usually by now I would have written something about all that happened last week. Whether on my Facebook page or here, but I have become aware of some thoughts and attitudes that still existed in me in response to this most recent inexcusable death and I felt I had to be silent and listen before I could speak. For one, I realized that my attitude towards protest of any kind was that they were ineffective. I also realized that I had bought into some either/or binaries on issues that are not and should not be either/or. I realized that even though the Holy Spirit has done much to root out sinful attitudes towards my brothers and sisters of color, bringing me face to face with my own families history of racism and slaveholding, I still have to get better at some things, I still have a lot to learn. I know this may not make sense to many in my congregation or to many of my WASP readers, but I pray you will stick with me and maybe even take a journey with me.
Because in this instance, I have decided to listen, not speak, but listen to those who are speaking, to my Black brothers and sisters, to their pain, their sorrow and their solutions to these problems. I have been rereading works from Seminary like Bryan Lorrits “Insider/Outsider” and Tony Evans “Oneness Embraced.” I have been watching the interviews with the various protestors and listening to the nations faith leaders who have spent more years thinking on these matters than I. But I have also listened to my friends who are police officers and heard their concerns and frustrations with everything that is going on. I have also watched the hatred and vitriol spreading like wildfires from both sides of this issue and have been saddened by it all.
The fact is, George Floyd’s death should never have happened. It was murder and there is not defense of Darren Chauvin’s actions based on the video. Floyd himself was a believer, a faithful minister of the Gospel who had labored for the kingdom of God in Houston for many years. It is also true that, whether we want to admit it or not, some lives in our country have not mattered as much as others. Having studied the debate over the Civil War I can tell you that was true in both the north and the south and remains true today in both the north and the south. That if you say that All Lives Matter you had better act and treat people of color as if their lives matter as well because we have a well-documented history of black and brown lives mattering less than white or light skin. We have also now seen that the highest subgroup who exhibit “Racial Resentment” is White Evangelicals. Racial Resentment is adjacent to Racism but tracks the factors behind racism rather than racism itself. In other words, it perplexes me that this chart even exists:
But here is the other reality I have become aware of, there is an extreme lack of mental health care available for Police or training in Anger or situational management. That this idea of Qualified Immunity means that there is now legal precedence for people who are social servants to work outside the or act as though they are above the law without fear of major repercussions. I know this does not apply to Police per say, but what message are we sending to the next generation when those who serve them seem to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. How are we able to justify these videos of police tear-gassing children in a park as one of my Facebook friends witnessed yesterday. I am not anti-police; I know some amazing cops who do their job well and seek help when they need it. I see the police as necessary public servants, who, when trained properly do a lot of good in this world. But when one oversteps his authority or uses deadly force when it is not necessary or overreacts at a traffic stop, or shoots a women sleeping in her own bed or….well you get the point…these things are unjustifiable and need to be corrected internally and externally.
This is one of those binaries I used to accept, it was either Black lives or Police lives. But this is a false binary. Because if I really believe that life matters in general than I cannot go too far the other way and elevate one group over the other, that only continues or reverses the patterns of oppression. The oppressed becomes the oppressor and true justice, biblical justice, God’s justice is denied. So I can work alongside my Black brothers and sisters to see them gain equal treatment where they do not have to worry about being followed or profiled or killed because of the color of their skin. And also advocate for justice system reforms that will better protect the mental health and well-being of men and women in uniform doing an extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous job. As a Christian I am supposed to be a bridge builder, a peacemaker and reconciler through Christ (Matthew 5:1-12, Ephesians 2:11-17). God reconciled me to Himself through Christ and now works through me to reconcile others to Himself and us to one another. My job is to participate in that work and sometimes that work requires me listen, just listen and not speak.
I am starting to understand what I have heard many times from my Black Brothers and Sisters about what is needed, for people to not just acknowledge racism, but to be totally and completely against it (Anti-racist) because it is contrary to the Kingdom of God. Jesus broken down ethnic barriers during his time on Earth (see the Story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 16) and the Early Church continued to knock down those barriers (see Acts 8-11) and create multi-ethnic churches where multi-ethnic worship may have previously been impossible and in most cases, was. It was from the words of Bryan Lorrits I first learned this, in the same week that I heard the same thing from the CCCC leadership at our annual gathering. That if we are to be reconcilers, we need to be against the very things that hinder that work of reconciliation.
These tensions are not easy to live in, I struggled to articulate these thoughts on Sunday in my pastoral prayer. But I want to learn to live in them, and right now, that requires me to listen. But for my brothers and sisters in the WASP community I do not want to heap guilt and shame on you, but teach you how to walk better, to be mature believers. One of the ways I want to do that is by looking at examples within our own history of those who stood up for the ethnic other, be they black, white or Native American. Heaping shame and guilt on you do nothing but force you further into an echo chamber, that is counterproductive.
So will you join me on this journey? Will you listen with me? Will you learn with me? Can we make it true that all lives really do matter, from the unborn to the old? Can we truly learn to become pro-life in all its shades and sizes and stages? Can we learn that this is not a liberal or conservative issue, but one of human life which is made in the image of God.
Join me, please? I promise it is worth your time.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.