I’m a middle-aged white man born in Mississippi, raised down South, and living in Greater Philadelphia (the one in Pennsylvania, not Mississippi) for twenty four years. Unfortunately, the racial tension I observe is higher now than at any time in my adult life. Fortunately, I have the amazing privilege of being the pastor of a very multi-ethnic church. Such a church gives me a perspective on race that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Only by the grace of God, I haven’t had the “liberty” for the last twenty years to develop my thinking in line with a monocultural view.
Recently our church had a Sunday devoted to “hot-button” issues. People in the congregation could text their questions anonymously and I would answer as many as I could get to. After the services, the most feedback I received by far was regarding my response to questions on Black Lives Matter. Here are my thoughts:
First of all, I have to admit that I know very little about the Black Lives Matter organization. In my interaction with African-Americans surrounding Black Lives Matter, the emphasis has never been on an organization, but on a statement or a concept, and that’s all that I could really address. As for the statement, “Black Lives Matter,” I must affirm that yes, Black lives do matter, and that statement needs no qualification whatsoever. I don’t need to balance it out with “all lives matter” or any other remarks that would take away from that affirmation.
I have two daughters. I love them both with all my heart and I could never value one over the other. But there were times when one was indeed more important than the other. When one had scraped her knee, or had a fever, or had been wounded in other ways, in that moment she was the most important. In her time of need for love and attention from her parents, we never dreamed of saying, “Your hurt matters, but your sister matters, too.” Our focus was on the one who was hurting. Black America (I know, there’s only one America, but you know what I mean) is hurting right now.
Let me ask: Do you think that there’s any reason Black Americans might feel that their lives are less valuable than other lives? Is there any aspect of our history that might contribute to that feeling? Are there any current circumstances or systemic issues that might raise questions concerning their value to the rest of society? Of course, there are! (I could share stories but space doesn’t allow.) That means that the statement “Black Lives Matter” is not just a statement, but a question, an opportunity for the rest of us to respond, “Yes, your lives matter!”
We really need a movement in our land to bring healing rather than foster greater hatred and animosity. I trust no other movement than a move of the Holy Spirit to provide the perspective and the peace that we need. Other movements may be fine, but we desperately need a move of God. My church experience gives me great hope for the reconciliation that only God can achieve.
When revival broke out in our church twenty years ago, we were pretty much a one-culture church with only a handful of people who weren’t white. Our approach to revival had us meeting for church services five or six nights a week for a full six months (not necessarily recommended). During that experience we did a lot of “carpet time”—that is, a lot of time in the presence of God, on our knees, on our backs, or prostrate before the Lord. I have said in the years since that we went down as a white church, and when we got back up and looked around, we had changed! We were no longer a white church!
Since then, the church I pastor has become increasingly multi-ethnic, a representation of unity around the presence and work of God that no human effort can accomplish. What if God did this on a regional or national scale? I know he can. Let’s seek him for his affirmation of the value of life. He knows just who needs what, and just when we need it.