An Education on Vacation in Civil Rights
I was not prepared for this last week of vacation. It was an education vacation in the civil rights movement.
Our family took a vacation this week to visit my brother-in-law in Montgomery, AL. We were able to travel the road from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King, Jr. We saw the bus stop outside the Rosa Parks Museum. I even attended church Sunday morning at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where MLK was the pastor during the time of the civil rights movement. It was an incredible experience and the people in that church are the friendliest church people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Just a few short days ago, police officers were ambushed and killed in my city, Dallas, TX. At a peaceful protest of alleged police misconduct (I say “alleged” because the investigation is still going on) which the police helped organize, numerous shooters targeted police officers, killing 5 and wounding 11. This protest was in response to the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Minneapolis, MN, two black men shot by white police officers earlier this week.
I’m not trying to debate either side right now. These men may have done nothing, or there may have been a good reason for those officers to fear for their lives. You don’t know, so don’t make it up. Let those investigating these incidents do their jobs.
Many believe that we are reverting back to the days of the civil rights movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is gaining steam and sparking counter movements like Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Meanwhile, our government takes little action and the media does their part of editorializing the varying reports.
Jesus says in Mark 3:25 that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
We are divided. We are prepared for a fall.
But we don’t have to.
I was going to write about one side’s point and then the other side’s point, but I’ve decided not to do that. I’m just going to talk about what I’ve seen.
I’ve seen black men stand between protesters and white cops in Atlanta.
I’ve seen police officers in Dallas give their lives for the very people that protest them.
I’ve seen churches step up and begin the conversation about racial tension. The best one I’ve seen is at NorthPoint in Atlanta.
I’ve seen people come together to pray in public at government buildings.
I’ve seen the beginnings of unity. The start of beauty in the currently ugly world of race relations. Coming out of this. This horrific week. And it has been led by the Church. And that’s the way it should be.
Any movement but a movement of God through His Church is too small.
For the more practically-minded reader who likes steps, I can give you a list of four decisions every person should make to go forward if you like. These are my opinions, but here they are nonetheless:
- Decide that slacktivism is a non-response. Posting feelings on the internet does little to effect real change. Find some tangible way to interact with people of another race and try to get to know them.
- Decide to talk to members of other races regularly about these topics in an honest and civil way. The church is the best place to start.
- Decide to teach your children how to respect authority figures like police officers, because without them, there is no protection for anyone.
- Decide to make decisions based on facts rather than emotions before you know the whole story.
But honestly, unless we’re willing to become friends with those of other races it doesn’t matter. Only by looking at our similar sin nature and similar need for a savior do we truly start to understand one another. Only then can we begin to offer grace to one another as freely as it has been offered to us.
When we compare ourselves to others, we see differences; when we compare ourselves to Jesus, we have unity.
I have friends who are black and friends who are white. My two best friends are a Dallas police officer and the other a black man aspiring to be a writer and published poet. I care deeply for these men and love them both dearly. It is hard to understand how each of them are feeling right now. There is anger, confusion, and lots of pain. But these men know Jesus, so they know forgiveness too.
Jesus is the only hope for our country. Not the government or who’s in the white house. Not the latest law that’s passed or struck down and no matter what the Supreme Court rules on. Jesus is the High Priest, interceding daily on behalf of his people, and we all need him desperately.
He was brown. His life matters to us all.