“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies…but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I grew up just outside of St. Louis in suburbs with picket fences and gardens, but seeing and interacting with African Americans was normal to me. My dad invited black preachers to speak at our church (their passion and fervor spoke to the intensity within my own soul), and Martin Luther King, Jr. became a hero of mine. When I was a kid, my mom gave me Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin and I shuttered with astonishment over how a person could be treated with disdain just because of their skin color. Racism never made any sense to me and I thought various skin tones were beautiful. Why would anyone want everyone to have the same shade of skin color? That would be like asking the colors of the rainbow to revert to all red or all blue and nothing else; we’d miss out on the unique variety God created.
Some people say, “We shouldn’t see skin color; we should be color blind,” and I get their motive and meaning, but ultimately, we should see the color and beauty of each person and acknowledge our differences as God’s gifts. I don’t want my friend to tell me, “Oh, I just see you as everyone else. You are all the same to me.” I want to be told how I am special and different I am, and fill a unique niche in someone’s life.
Sadly, many people within the church have remained silent on the issues of racism and prejudice. Over the years, we’ve made jokes about people from other denominations, states, or backgrounds being lesser than us (Catholics, Arkansas rednecks, etc.) and we laugh, but I think we miss the heart of God when we demote anyone below ourselves (even for the sake of humor).
Don’t believe the lie. Our silence is not peaceful; our quiet betrays the truth we should be defending.
Someone once said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think, and we are saturated in a culture of ignorance and imbalance. Several decades ago, our culture threw out absolute moral truth and God’s standard, so now we find ourselves toppling back and forth by the weight of emotional instability, opinion, and illogical thought. We pitch into one ditch and then the other, screaming at those who don’t feel the way we feel (whether fact supports us or not). And it’s time to say, “Enough.” This evil has gone on long enough. But be careful in finding stability.
We don’t find truth by further swinging the imbalance to the other extremes of prejudice.
- Not all blacks are gang members and criminals.
- But, not all cops are dirty and cruel. We need them and many are public servants with kind hearts.
- Minorities shouldn’t be elevated above white men any more than whites should be elevated above minorities.
- No one should get hired to a position because of their ethnic background but because of their skill and work ethic.
- Not all protesters are violent.
- Not all white people are privileged.
- Not all black people are underprivileged.
- Questioning the status quo doesn’t make you selfish or a trouble-maker. Analyzing what works and what doesn’t brings important change.
- Going with the flow doesn’t make you a peacemaker. If we ignore the war, we have not contributed to its resolution but to its perpetuation.
- We don’t find equality through inequality (no matter who it is). God hates favoritism.
Man struggles to see past the exteriors (race, social-economic background, position, religion, ethnicity, etc.), but God looks at the heart (I Sam. 16:7). We need to be filtering through His eyes and getting back to a heart of love and truth for ourselves and others.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practise the very antithesis of these principles. How often are our lives characterised by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anaemia of deeds! We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practise the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonising gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man’s earthly pilgrimage.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
We need to stop worrying about offending people who take a personal affront to different perspectives and start standing up for truth.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:17