I skipped church the week Alton Sterling and Alando Castile were gunned down. I feared their names wouldn’t be mentioned from the pulpit.
I wanted to protect myself from bitterness that our all-white church could afford to not even notice the tsunami happening in the African-American community. Instead, I immersed myself in downloaded sermons from churches with people of color at the helm, finding they were not as bitter as I was. It turns out this was not a new phenomenon to them like it was to me. They had seen it all before. And they’d see it again.
I found myself gathering a similar resolve this past weekend after Charlottesville, my insides coiling and preparing to fight or flee as a response to the inevitable silence of our white church. We’ve since changed churches, but our 98 percent white church has tended to shy away from controversy in the past, so I suspected silence from the pulpit.
I was wrong.
Our pastor hit it head-on. We began our service with a congregational prayer and response for racial healing. From there, he launched into a lament and a call to us to do more, be more, learn more. He shared a time when he got it wrong in a partnership with a local black church.
The white church has so far to go. In Lisa Sharon Harper’s recent guest post on Ann Voskamp’s blog, she pointed out that race is often considered an extracurricular activity for the church. But fighting for equal justice for men and women of color is not the same as signing up to help with the monthly newcomer’s potluck. It is not the same as giving money for overseas missions or serving in the soup kitchen.
This is not just one lane of many that we can choose to advocate for—the lane of racial healing is for every single member of the body of Christ. For when one part of our body is hurting, the rest suffers.
We all know how these things go. The internet will be deafeningly loud—for a while. The buzz will quiet down for a time until the next brown teenager is shot or the next rally is broadcasted.
But what if the white church couldn’t be identified as #whitechurchquiet any longer—a Twitter hashtag coined by Andre E. Johnson as a way of calling attention to the silence of the white church? What if the white church was known as a champion of our brown and black brothers and sisters in Christ? What if the white church was the loudest cry, the longest march and the most insistent voice in the fight for equal justice for every breathing human made in the image of God on this planet?
I am tempted to tune out and turn off the noise. I feel numb to the hate, paralyzed by the need for change.
But the church does not have the luxury of scurrying away and hiding from pain.The church does not have the right to cover her eyes until this, too, has passed. No, the church needs to step into the fire.
We are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The church is fueled by the Spirit of the living God and the resurrected King of Kings. This is not the time for the church to cower. This is the time for the church to come out of hiding and love with all the love we have been given. It is the time to speak into the spheres where we live, work and worship.
These are not dark days, for God is not dead. He is piercing the darkness. He wants the white church to join Him.