The words from blogger friend Deidra Riggs the day after the Charleston murders hurt just a little. Sometimes, the truth hurts.
“Yesterday, my phone kept buzzing with email messages, voxes, texts, and FB messages — all of them about the nine people murdered in a church in Charleston, SC. I have to believe three years [since Trayvon Martin’s death] of many people working to raise awareness of racism in America helped make it easier for people to reach out, this time. Sadly, I also believe the fact that these people were killed in a church broke the empathy barrier for a lot of Christians in the world. Suddenly (and, I dare say, finally), the people who were murdered are people with whom we feel we have something in common.”
In case you are wondering, it is especially the line, “the fact that these people were killed in a church broke the empathy barrier…” Unfortunately, she has a point.
Why does it come to this, for us to respond to a racially motivated crime now that it happens in a church? Why is our empathy missing when someone we consider a common criminal dies, instead?
Were these human beings, whose demise we’ve watched on the screens in our living room courtrooms, really only worth a pack of cigarettes or a bag of chips? Apparently many felt that justice had been served because they had been in the wrong, even if for petty issues.
What we understand from the Black community, if we are listening, is that this is nothing new. What did Jesus say?
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. (Matt.10:26)
Many things these days are being made known. And we would really rather not know, thank you very much.
It is for our benefit to know, because without understanding, racism will always have a place at our societal table. And we need to understand the difference between a personal accusation of being a racist and the reality that the kind of racism we are blind to and therefore participate in is systemic and embedded within our culture and history. Not one of us is going to kill people in a church or anywhere else. But we have no problem withholding our empathy for only those who deserve it.
Surreptitiously, grace has become only for “good” people. It feels right to extend to those sitting in a church having a Bible study. And we should relate with them, lament for them and their families; we are part of the same Body. But there is no grace for the man who was behind on his child support. Or the one who ran away at a traffic stop. Because, obviously they had done something wrong, those sinners.
Friends, this changes the very meaning of grace.
Isn’t grace for sinners?
“Yeah, but they have to repent.” might be the response.
True. But if I understand correctly, one must be alive to repent.
At what point is grace available and offered to the one who needs it, the one stuck in sin and tragedy? Why do we think we have the right to withhold it?
Qualifying the circumstances of the last moments of these individuals’ lives puts us in the chair of the morally supreme, the ones who can distinguish and judge between fairness and injustice.
Understanding that God is a God of justice is something we like to believe that we understand. We see eye-to-eye, us and God. However, God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways.
Friends, not one of us possesses the bird’s eye view of each valuable life like God does.
My own opinion, history and perspective are always secondary to Truth as God embodies it, as real as my own experience is to me. He is adjusting my attitude and perspective and I’m thankful for the ones who have not given up talking about the hard issues until heart change happens.
Here are some more thoughts I appreciate from Sara Groves’ facebook page. Much to think about…
I have been taking a voyeuristic approach to learning about African-American life. Reading, listening, I feel unqualified to speak.
This morning I was flooded with memory. My grandfather, a deeply faithful man, in prison ministry for 40 years, lamenting mass incarceration
He saw the inequity of the war on drugs. We have the second highest incarceration rate in the world, only second to N Korea.
07 I was in NYC doing an interview with @harryallen He challenged me to talk about race. He asked me what CCM was doing with it?
I said I felt unable to address it. @harryallen said do it anyway. Don’t wait to feel comfortable. It will be hard, you will stumble.
In ’09 I was singing at a fundraiser for a Chicago inner-city ministry. They had a breakout session on red-lining. I had never heard of it.
Red-lining is when the city leaders would basically decide in what areas Af-Ams could live. A woman shared that her father, a Doctor…
…could not get a mortgage for a home until the mid 70s. A man in tears to my right said that was his family experience too….
His dad was a successful businessman, but could not get a mortgage, and they lived 2-3 families to a house. Without a mortgage…
…they had to rent. The inequity in that situation is to big to unpack in 140. Prices were high, care for facilities low.
Look it up. Read about it. I know there is no monolithic black experience, but there is something *we need to understand.
I appreciate the #CharlestonSyllabus I love the way it was sourced, but I worry that it is too long of a list. We need to read, listen…
No moral high ground here. I have always been bothered by people who would go on a missions trip and come back with stories of how content
..people are with so little. I get that there is a lesson in there, but people are people. In every community there are people who are…
selfish, people who hate their neighbor, people with a chip on their shoulder, people who love well, people who sacrifice, people who open..
..their hearts to good news transformation. We are all in the same soup. We made this soup. We cannot sit back and act like we don’t have
..BLIND SPOTS. I was just at a small gathering with @prophiphop … listen to his new record with your kids. Follow @joshuadubois on twitter
…listen to @RevDocBrenda Don’t take a ‘side’ just listen.
I have more thoughts. I am a peacemaker. I am hoping all things. I believe that we cannot move forward as a church in America without…
.. having this conversation. It isn’t for *them, it is for *us. In No Future Without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu named our sin. Eyes open.