Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How Should Christians Respond?

I'm going to see if I can do this right. I hesitate to say anything on this topic because the refusal of most Christians to echo the blatant racism of the conservative right is hugely important and positive. So I don't want to offer criticism harshly. That said, well, let's see what happens.

First of all, Trip Lee already has this well covered. But I do think there is more to say. What I like so much about Trip Lee's post is that he manages to be Gospel-centered and truly Christian without retreating into vague platitudes. He is up front. He is honest. He's not sweeping anything under the rug. He's confident the Gospel can deal with the world as it is, not the one we wish we had.

From where I sit, the predominant Christian response from the tradition in which I grew up, White evangelicalism, appears to be lacking in similar courage. For example, I tuned in to the first few minutes of a Christian radio show in which the host said they were going to have "a redemptive conversation" about the issue. For him, that meant that he was going to be unfailingly civil, and he was not going to take sides. My sense is that this posture describes a lot of White evangelicals. As with that radio host, there is pain and sadness, and discomfort with the passions that have been released, and there is a feeling that a studied neutrality is called for. A calm reasonableness. Don't take sides.

But there's a problem with that. We serve a God who takes sides. The controversial nature of such a statement is itself evidence of the theological rot that has pervaded the evangelical community. Our God comes through the pages of scripture as a God who is unequivocally and always for the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich, the oppressed against their oppressors, the powerless against the powerful, the impoverished against the privileged.

Many White evangelicals can grudgingly accept this, but are loath to apply it. Because in the United States all of these dualities are racialized. In our history the oppressed and their oppressors have had a certain color. The overwhelming weight of the evidence and the cry of personal testimonies like those of Tripp Lee says that they still do. So when we believe our task is simply to be civil and see the good in both sides, we adopt a neutrality that God himself doesn't abide.

In the book of Acts, when the Hellenistic Jews were being mistreated by the Hebraic Jews, the Apostles didn't say, "Gee, I really see both sides here." They unequivocally fixed the problem by appointing seven men to remove the injustice. And guess what? All seven were Hellenistic Jews. Talk about taking sides.

It would be easy to be neutral if this were merely political. And it seems that many Christians think that's what it is. Many appear to be unable to imagine how hurtful this whole episode has been. We hear mainstream respectable people openly defending Zimmerman on moral grounds. We read people blaming Blacks for America's racial problems. We see people treating this as just another partisan battle. And they can't understand that we're writing about this through our tears. They have the audacity to claim that our broken hearts are nothing more than cheap posturing.

Any time the strong are arrayed against the weak, God is not neutral. To stand back and adopt neutrality, however civilly it is done, is to lose sight of our God who is always closer to the downtrodden. And in our America of 2013, there ought not be any mystery about who the downtrodden are. An inability to see that is not just socially obtuse, it is a failure to understand the Gospel itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment