Tag: #BlackLivesMatter

Not Posting, listening deeper, learning better ways.

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.

Jonathan Faulkner

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.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oJonathan 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.

Why Conservative Evangelicals Should Support Social Justice.

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By Jonathan David Faulkner

In the news this week has been the Urbana 2015 Missions Conference. I had many friends who attended as well as a sibling and have heard many good things about the conference. Alongside those good things have been the coverage of Michelle Higgins comments declaring the Pro-Life Movement to be a “Spectacle.” Higgins is a worship leader, #Blacklivesmatter Activist and director of “Faith for Justice.” In her comments she also took shots at conservative evangelicals who she accuses of bowing to the “Idolatry of white supremacy.” Which she says evangelicals have made their “Sidepiece.”

InterVarsity, who runs the Urbanna Conference, released a statement affirming their support of the Pro-Life Movement. Joe Ho, InterVarsity’s National Director of Asian-American Ministries supported Higgins initial comments and InterVarsity’s embrace of this new Social Justice Movement mentioning the fact that Evangelicals largely failed to support the initial Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King and others, stating that “I (Joe) do not think our neutrality in those years honored God.”

(Read InterVarsity’s response to Higgins Here)

As a student of Urban Ministry, having served in an Urban setting with Global Expeditions, World Vision and Mile High Ministries. As well as holding a bachelors in Urban Ministry I am not afraid to admit that I identify very strongly with the Social Justice Movement. I have seen, and lived in the conditions that are often being protested against. I have sat out on the street with the homeless, seen the shame on the face of the father who cannot find work. Talked with street kids and worked in impoverished neighborhoods. I love the goal of social justice, it is good.

But Higgins comments reveal several problems with the Modern Social Justice Movement. The first is that it stands deeply divided. Higgin’s attack on the Pro-Life movement, another social justice movement, reveal this to be true. Despite the fact that 60% of abortions are African or Middle American, sparking a #BlackLivesMatter movement within itself. Secondly is the fact that social justice activists are quick to condemn conservative evangelicals who they see as “Unsupportive of their cause.” For instance a mem on Facebook that proclaims “Instead of building mega-churches, we build mega-homeless shelters instead.” Failing to realize that Mega-Churches tend to be the largest supporters of Homeless Shelters and Orphanages and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The Day Shelter I worked at in Denver, was funded, for the most part, by Grace Chapel, a Mega-Church. The pastor, was a Conservative Evangelical, like myself, who cared for those men and women who came through his door everyday. Third is the push towards Cultural Absolutism, which is reflected in the attitude of condemnation towards Evangelicals and final is the lack of strong doctrine and good theology behind the movement. Take the Progressive Presby’s or the Chicago Protestors from Black Friday, who operate from an extremely liberal interpretation of Jesus that has been modified to justify their actions.

All of this has brought the Social Justice Movement to an all-time low. A point where it is doing little more than clanging like a gong. Leaving Higgins words sounding as hollow as an empty coffee thermos. Not that Conservative Evangelicals are any better, we are just as divided, moreso in fact, due to having much more time to do so. We can have bad theology, we are far from perfect, but largely the evangelical church has sought to live quietly, sometimes to our detriment.

With all the issues given above you might be questioning the title of this article. Wondering why you should become involved with such a mess of a movement and how I could possibly support the kind of “Movement” described above. I gave the reason, because the goal is good, it is, in most cases, a noble goal. Racial Reconciliation is a good thing, one I pray is one day realized. The issue becomes the methodology chosen to carry out the desired “Justice.”

This is where Conservative Evangelicals can have the greatest impact, by bringing in a strong biblically centered, theologically sound and spiritually effective backbone to the Social Justice Movement. See, we have the study, we have the knowledge and the sense of the Holy Spirit that Liberals admittedly lack. We have the moral and ethical background and teaching and have the ability to put that into practice on the individual level. Often times Conservative Evangelicals are very good at this, not all the time, but often times.

Instead of using this study and biblical insight to work to better the earthly kingdom in the hopes of leading people toward the heavenly one most Conservative Evangelicals have chosen  isolationism and some have even chosen anger and hatred. Some have even taken the Conservative Evangelical equivalent to Higgins position and attacked their like-minded brethren. Yet again furthering the division within all Evangelical circles.

So why should Conservative Evangelicals support the Social Justice Movement? For the sake of unity amongst the people of OOD and for the sake of effective spread of the Gospel in its purest and most attractive form, guided by the Holy Spirit, with us as vessels. To marry spirit led sound theology with what I believe to spirit driven zealousness for those in need.

This is a hard road, it will require both sides to lay down presuppositions about the other and acknowledge the good points of both sides. It will require reconciliation and sincerity in attempts to renewal, acceptance of and forgiveness for past mistakes and most importantly an ever deepening devotion to being led by the power for the Holy Spirit by all within the Kingdom of Heaven.

In closing I think that Joe Ho is right, after reading Dr. King Jr’s. Letters and various speeches, Conservative Evangelicals should have supported the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps if we had, we would not be in our present predicament. We are still here though, we can reconcile, we can be united again.

Authors Note: These are the thoughts of a conservative evangelical pastor and you are free and welcome to disagree with the above comments. 

Jonathan Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a pastor. He has served in the projects in Dallas, Wichita and Denver, he is also a musician and writer.