Monday, December 15, 2014

White Pastors in the Age of "Black Lives Matter"

I worry that in some quarters the White evangelical response to Ferguson is being reduced to a barest possible minimum. We must listen. We must try to understand how African Americans are feeling. We must bear each others' burdens. We must weep with those who weep. All this is true, but when presented to a White congregation that has fundamentally false and unchristian assumptions about America and about Christianity, it doesn't upset those assumptions at all. In fact, it reinforces them.

When we reduce our job to listening and trying to understand the hurt of others, we're left in a position of superiority. It allows White evangelicals to stand back in our supposed objectivity and maturity and feel good about ourselves for deigning to listen to the overly emotional feelings of others. When we refuse to talk about injustice and White supremacy in our churches, White congregations are left to conclude that even though African Americans should be over these things by now, we should be the bigger people and patiently listen to their concerns.

It allows White congregations to continue in our unconfessed sin, all the while thinking that we are patiently bearing with the sins of others. If pastors can't bring themselves to use words like injustice and oppression in connection to recent events, I think it may be better for them to not bring these issues up at all. (I witnessed one pastor of a White congregation discuss Ferguson on a Sunday morning in a way that reinforced the prejudices of his audience).

That said, I don't envy pastors at this or any time! It's an incredibly difficult job. How do you preach about and expose the most fundamental things ordering your congregants' lives (Whiteness, materialism, individualism, etc) in a way that will draw them to Jesus rather than pushing them out of the church? On the other hand, a church that doesn't expose these things might not be worth being inside in the first place. We need to pray for our church leaders, because identifying the problems in our congregations is much easier than leading us out of them.

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