I am the mother of a white policeman. I am the mother of two white soldiers and mother in law to another. I am the mother of an Asian son. I have been the foster mom, respite provider, shelter, or temporary home to White, Black, and Asian children. I have friends that are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew… I believe that before God all lives matter.
I also believe that although we are ALL created in the image of God, Jesus modeled a special heart for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized. He went out of his way to minister to those who were culturally unacceptable, religious outcasts, and gender oppressed. He didn’t stand up for those in power, instead he rebuked them.
All lives matter – Jesus modeled that. He also modeled that until there is an all inclusive cultural and racial equality, both inside and outside the church, we are to speak for the marginalized.
Timing is everything – when black lives are snuffed out unjustly – that is not the time for “All Lives Matter.” When police are snuffed out, that is not the time for Black Lives Matter. It is a time of empathy for all people.
This is empathy training 101 – jumping down in the hole with others who are in pain instead of minimizing what they are experiencing. It’s why you don’t reply to a women who has just lost a child, “I lost a child too…” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle…” or “All lives matter.”
Imagine what empathy would like like across cultural, racial, economic, political, geographical, and religious boundaries. It would look like the hundreds of scriptures that encourage followers of Christ to care for the poor, weak, marginalized, oppressed, orphans, widows, hungry...
It would feel like Christ.
Empathy is silently saying, I don’t understand what you going through, but I know you’re hurting and I’m here.” It is doing for others what they can’t do for themselves in that moment, or that culture, or that time.
This is the time for the racial reconciliation and equality that should have happened a lifetime ago.
I was raised in a white middle class suburban neighborhood in the 1960’s and 70’s, in New Jersey, and though my sister in law is black, my parents held onto racial prejudices. Though they strongly disapproved of hate groups like the KKK and spoke about equality, they didn’t want us to “bring one home” for dinner either. My in-laws held to strong racial prejudices – to the point of seeing only differences. Big differences. That was my husband’s heritage.
When I was in grade school, both my brothers and the neighborhood boys liked to mess with my mind. They told me how a little white girl like me was going to get beat up when I went to my mixed race high school. I was a scrawny white kid and was sufficiently terrified. I had to fight the same racial prejudices of my upbringing because of ignorance.
Two years later I was dating a young black man (hiding it from my mother) and beginning to learn that there were differences in our lives that I would never fully understand because of the privilege I was born into.
I was comfortable in our own American caste system.
There was a reason Jesus modeled why we are to enter into the world of the marginalized. He understood the imbalance of power and the favor that goes with the status quo and privilege.
The first time that racial prejudiced touched my life was when my Asian son was about seven years old. He went to play nearby with some children at his brothers soccer game and after a short while he came back crying that the kids had called him “ching, chong, cho.” My mothers heart broke and I was livid. (I wanted to smack the little beasts to be honest). I can empathize with the anger that rises up from injustice.
Those of us who hold power and privilege simply because of our race, economic status, or geographical location already understand that our lives matter. This country caters to white, Judaeo-Christian mores. Fact. It was our foundation. Fact. Those mores do not always reflect the truth of the gospel of Good News or of Christ. Fact.
My Asian son is going to be a licensed driver soon – if he was black I would be anxious. I wouldn’t want to think about him getting pulled over. I have friends in mixed marriages who have told me about police stopping them to make sure they aren’t being kidnapped.
I fear for my son – he’s a good cop – a just cop – his life matters. He is on the side of right. He speaks out against injustices – especially within the church.
The political climate is creating division and hate and the church is hoodwinked into following along. We are a country torn. A people torn. A church torn.
Social media has become an Adrenalin pumped, addictive place for people to spew vile comments and push ideologies. As disciples of Jesus, we are to stand for love – to agree to disagree – to be a blessing to the nations – to others. We were not called to protect ourselves and to think only of our own rights and privileges, but to lay down our lives for our neighbor – Muslim, White, Black, Jew, Arab, Hispanic, Hindu…
Jesus didn’t “save” us for a get out jail, take care of myself, country-club Christianity, but for radical transformation that changes lives – beginning with our own.
We were called to speak out against injustice and fight for the oppressed and marginalized. Instead the American church often appears to be filled with groups of self-righteous indignant people with an attitude that says, “It’s me against the world, my own nationality, nice house, comfortable lifestyle, personal ideologies, and abundant prosperity, is more important that maintaining a posture of humility and reconciliation towards others.”
I have had a teeny, tiny, eansy, weansy, sampling of what injustice feels like as a female pastor/ chaplain. I have stood by as men were referenced by titles despite my never being called that way (and I don’t want to be, but it’s the principle), or given positions of responsibility with less qualifications, or threatened by my education, age, or experience. I haven’t always handled it as well as my Asian son has. It hurts. My strongest mentors have been women of color and minorities who are also pastors. Women of color who know what it is to pray, pray, pray, and pray some more, for the safety of their loved ones, or lean into forgiveness towards those who deem them poor or uneducated on the basis of their skin color. I aspire to be like them – to live in the love and forgiveness that Christ modeled when he turned the other cheek and said, “Forgive them Dad, they are clueless.”
I mourn for France.
I also mourn knowing that the flags will fly, the prayers will flow, and the support will be strong – as it should be – but it will be much stronger and much more present than it was for the terrorist attacks and murders in the Middle East, or Africa, or other developing nations that don’t represent our Western ideologies.
Maybe in “praying for repentance” in our nation our prayers should begin by asking that our hearts will break over the imbalance of power in races, gender, nationality, and cultural biases – that we will see humanity as Christ does.
A good place to start discovering your racial prejudices is this site below. You may find out that you are more prejudiced than you realize – or you may find out that your prejudiced attitude has been transformed by releasing your deeply rooted western ideologies as you cry out to love others more than you do your own life.
“Our Lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.
May we never be silent.