Open Letter From A Black Christian

My heart is heavy today. It is pierced with pain and filled with fear. I wore a hoodie at church out of solidarity with the lost, so he may not be the forgotten. I saw glances and disapproving eyes. I felt backs stiffen. I heard only silent pews and pulpits on this issue confronting our nation. I continue to see, hear and feel all this. I must ask you, my brother, my sister, my Church—why don’t you love me?

A man follows me, as I am on my way to a loved one’s house. I don’t know him. He asks me what I’m doing here, where I’m going, who I am. To me, he looks threatening. I don’t want him to know where I live or where I’m going. If he doesn’t let me go am I not justified to defend myself? Why should I be stripped of my masculinity, expected to run and not him?  Why is his ground more lawful or worthy to stand on than mine? Why would there be no justice for me if I were to die? If you were me, wouldn’t you want justice too?

Trayvon Martin looked suspicious to George Zimmerman. He followed Trayvon and a fight broke out. Trayvon was killed with Zimmerman’s gun. Zimmerman was found not guilty. We can debate facts, how the case was or was not argued, and whether the system worked. But cases are more than facts and arguments. They communicate volumes about what we value, what we love. What I hear is that I am fair game to be tracked, pursued and shot if I look suspicious. It could happen to me. It would be that easy. For the first time in my life I am afraid to die for being Black.

We congregate the day following the verdict. We sing and smile. We listen and nod. My heart bleeds. You are silent and the hatred deafens me. Are we not to mourn with those who mourn? Why does my mourning offend you? Is it right for you to be offended because I challenge you? Why should I wallow in fear of my freedom so you may freely enjoy yours? It’s over, I hear, so move on. Get over it. You’re wrong. Forget about it. I can’t forget about it because for the first time in my life I understand how Blacks felt to see the battered face of Emmett Till. So I ask you—why won’t you love me?

Jesus loves me. In Philippians, one of our ancient hymns sings that he made himself nothing, taking a servant’s nature and human likeness. Jesus was emptied, poured out into a vessel not his own. He became man to know me, identify with me, suffer with me. Jesus became like me to love me. Why don’t you love me like that? Why do you selfishly hold on to yourself and not seek to go even one mile in my shoes, or better yet, two? If you truly loved me, you would love me like Jesus does. Why won’t you?

I know why you won’t love me. You have a problem with your eyes. They are filled with the darkness of self. You have not emptied yourselves of yourselves. Your eyes are an offense to you. Rip them out. Rip them out and take the eyes of a woman. See that she wants equality. Rip them out and take the eyes of the homeless man. See that he wants dignity and respect. Rip them out. Take the eyes of the Black boy. See that he wants and needs a deliverer. He wants those who claim to love him to stand up for him, to publicly voice his silent fear. He needs someone to say, “I see you are afraid and I am with you. I am for you. I will be your right guard.” Until you rip out your offending eyes you cannot love me.

Until that day comes I will pray for us. But I will also stand here, and my standing will mock your lack of love. I will stand here so you can see me, and all my hurt and anger. I will stand here even as you refuse to love me. I will stand doing what you refuse to—to love. I will stand here with Trayvon Martin. I will refuse to be silent. I will forever testify against
injustice.

I ask you, one last timewill you love me?

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10 comments

  1. This my friend is absolutely amazing! Amazing! For me and for my son who doesn’t understand what just transpired in a world where his president is Black … thank you! ~Talaya

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  2. Brother, I can see your heart in this and because I’m privileged to know you, myself, other men of every background I can think of, and most of all Jesus Christ, I hope to have some context of credibility in my response.

    There is an enemy who is known as a liar and a murderer. This is his world. He hates God and since we are created in the image of God, he hates us too. We are at war–his war, on his turf, on his terms, except most of us are not aware we are at war which is essential to his strategy.

    That said, it is most advantageous to him (the enemy) for us to do his hating for him because he is clearly not an omnipotent being. When Christ was raised from the dead, he gave us His life–His power over all of the power over the enemy so that we would not be enslaved to his lies any longer.

    I’m staying at high-altitude here for a reason and staying out of race because I believe God stays out of race. God made us in His image and we were scattered abroad after Babel, with divided tongues, confused language, and thus set apart for the four corners of the Earth to associate with those who were like us, who understood us, and (in my humble, Biblically-educated opinion) there formed every race, culture, ethnicity, and convention known to man.

    There is no partiality with God. He does not see us as we see one another. He commands us to love Him and love one another–as we love ourselves. On these two laws hang the entire law! There is no addendum or supplement to that. God is a gatherer … read here:

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” ~ Matthew 23:37

    Satan is a divider. We all know that the enemy wants to destroy us and to subvert God’s plan. He does so by deception. Jesus warned us not to be deceived. I have news for you my brother: we are being deceived right now!

    Now, I understand your frustration with the response you perceived from others at church–and no church is perfect, and in many ways I applaud them for staying at “high altitude” at the God-level, lest we be in reach of Satan’s flaming arrows and turn upon one another.

    Side note: The SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest, highest-flying jet aircraft ever made had the ability to overfly the Soviet Union and spy on the (Cold War) enemy all the while staying out of reach of Soviet weapons. Sure, they could track the aircraft on radar, but at that altitude and speed, no missile could reach it, nor could any interceptor get up quickly enough to counter it.

    You see, the enemy’s weapons are earthly (see James 3:15) and he uses earthly weapons to strike at us … but if we stay close to Christ, with our mind set on the things of God … we are out of range!

    My point is this: I would have been just fine to sit next to you and treat you as I do any other time, with a smile and as much conversation as time would permit (usually we’re both pretty busy in the AM), but if given the opportunity, might have challenged you on the “why” behind the decision to dress as you did. I’m not saying you can’t wear what you want … but there is more Biblical guidance to adjust ourselves for one another that I feel would have taken precedence.

    For example: Paul spends a significant amount of time in the 1 Corinthians chapters 8-11 admonishing everything from foods to clothing, hairstyles, and even makeup and jewelry, and at all times–so as not to cause offense to anyone, lest we somehow lose them for Christ. Likewise, I would also have an issue (Biblically-speaking) for anyone who treated you any less for dressing as such as James chapter 2 clearly states to not show consideration for a person based on how they are dressed.

    Staying at high altitude avoids those earthly entanglements by the way :)

    I love you bro … thanks for sharing your heart. I hope mine was communicated as effectively as I hoped it would be. There is clearly no racism in Heaven, and with the right perspective as Christ followers, there should be none on Earth either, but it will take men like us to take some bold steps and it is my prayer that all of this (what I believe to be a massive attack on America as a whole) mess will serve not to further divide, but get enough people mad enough to shut it down altogether!

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    1. Thank you Bill for your thoughtful comments as always! :) I am blessed and fortunate to know you as well, and completely respect what you said. I understand your perspective, and in some ways I agree with you. Nevertheless I must also disagree regarding the ‘God-level’ as a high-flying level and that God stays out of race.

      Firstly, the God-level to me is not high-flying but rather down in the trenches. Jesus could never have been our Savior and deliverer had he not taken on flesh. He had to become like us in order to free us so we could be like him. He did not do this reluctantly, rather joyfully. John, Peter, Paul (see Romans, Philippians, and if you’re inclined to think he authored it, Hebrews :) testify to this. God did not, and I think to his mind could not, save us by operating at a high-level, he had to come down and fight with us. To continue with your military analogy, with whom do you have more camaraderie, understanding and love? Those who command from some distant bunker or your wingman?

      God also does not stay out of race. God scattered people at Babel b/c their unity was used to exalt themselves against God, not b/c God saw scattering them as good. In the kingdom of God, people of every nation, tribe, and tongue will come *as they are* (see Revelation 7:9-10) will be gathered to God. So yes, God is a gatherer, but if we have offense against one another in our hearts, aren’t we supposed to reconcile that?

      I thank God he didn’t stay out of race, otherwise I’d still be a slave and you’d still be enslaved to racist thinking! God got involved when he mobilized American abolitionists, most of whom were Christian. God got involved when churches organized for marches, sit-ins, and freedom rides *right after church service*. Remember reading about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963? Four little girls died because racist men decided to bomb a church. How can God stay out of race then? If God does, honestly, I truly mean this, he is a God who doesn’t have anything to offer me, because he stands idly by saying “I’m not going to get involved” when I am wronged by others.

      Lastly, my point was not a concern about being judged for wearing a hoodie. Unfortunately, the reaction you said you would have had is exactly the problem I was talking about. You cited 1 Cor 8-11, which I respectfully disagree with as applicable. The hoodie was a reflection of my inner pain and fear. So the preference to paper over it rather than engage it is harmful to my soul and the soul of many.

      The point is that Jesus showed his love for us by taking on our flesh. We show love to others when we take on their flesh too, walk around in it a while, and see what’s like to be them. But any unwillingness to do so shows a lack of love. The silence and attempts to paper over this that I am getting from the Church at-large is terrible. I think we need to show more love for each other–and for the people outside the church who are hurting. This CAN and DOES includ the gospel. If we can so easily separate the gospel from something so intrinsically important and visceral, then is the gospel really good news at all?

      Thank you also for sharing your heart with me. I REALLY appreciate it. I look forward to the day we all don’t have to deal with this any longer. And I look forward to working with you to ensure that day comes to our great nation :)

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      1. Thank you as well my friend, and your words are solid. I’d love to discuss over coffee sometime because I firmly believe that each of us (the international church as a whole–every tongue, every tribe, every nation) carries with it pieces of the grand mosaic of the Body of Christ–each of them true in what they assert, although missing so much from what they deny, and NONE of us has the full counsel of God, certainly not me :)

        My only thought to share (until coffee after I get back!) is that you are right: Jesus is in the trenches, but I don’t believe He wants us to stay there. I believe He is calling all of us to something better; the abundant life–with the Universal perspective of the risen Christ, seated at the right hand of GOD. That was the ‘high-altitude- reference I was alluding to in my previous, and the perspective I was holding as I composed it.

        God bless you brother!

        “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life,appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~ Colossians 3:1-4

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  3. Amazing Regis! Simply amazing. Thank you! Cudos to you for wearing your hoodie! That takes courage (I wore mine in my line of duty….so I totally understand your plight). Your mourning, hurt and fear are just as important as anyone else’s and I assert, should not be glossed over or ignored.

    Your courage inspires me to continue the endeavor of ensuring that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness applies to every citizen of these United States. No human being should feel afraid to walk down a street simply because of the color of their skin. It is too my hope that we would all make an attempt to understand each other’s perspective. I assert that open, honest discussions are the first step towards this well overdue necessity of peaceful and whole human relations. Silence on a long-standing massively devastating issue is no longer an option. People are hurting and afraid. Does anyone care? The struggle continues.

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  4. Reblogged this on Warrior Poet and commented:

    I regret deeply that I can share this again, unchanged in its sentiments and pain, 2 years later. I have heard so much discussion this week of privilege, systemic racism, injustice, poverty – the powers that rule the American public.

    I wonder: if I could hear every sermon or homily in every American Christian gathering this Sunday, whether it would give me hope? I anticipate most churches will speak about whatever was on their schedule or in the lectionary.

    In the black churches, they likely will speak about Baltimore. But in the multicultural or mostly white churches, the places where it truly matters… I wonder if it will be silent? I wonder if the pain and anger among its congregants will be silenced by the rhetoric of the pulpit? If they do, I wonder if they will truly grapple with the issues, or take the easy, sinful road of criticism and judgement? What will the church say to millions of its congregants and parishioners who need to hear good news in the midst of so much trouble?

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