I grew up in a family that obsessively fought for the rights of the unborn. Once I built my blog a few years ago, I found it easy to take up this familiar banner, if not because of my background, because my heart broke over the reality of unwanted children.
I saw the right of a child to be born as the social justice on which all others hinged. Even the issue of race appeared to bow to this basic right to life.
However, as the news of Eric Garner and Mike Brown’s wrongful deaths surfaced, along with the court’s responses, or lack thereof, I felt a new kind of unease pass over me, accompanied by a disturbing loss for words. While bloggers and artists I respected responded eloquently to the events, I read along silently. I had friends on both sides of the issues, and I didn’t know how to present my side in a meaningful way.
But there were reasons I didn’t know of that kept me quiet. They surfaced awkwardly, painfully after I did something I never planned to do.
As I considered the growing momentum building behind this fight for racial justice, I looked around and missed Someone:The Church. The Church should be at the front of this fight, I thought. Someone in the Church needs to organize a protest. It should be you.
I agreed with the first part. Where was the white Evangelical base who rants and raves about all forms of immorality? Where were the culture warriors? The Moral Majority? There were as quiet as me, it seemed.
But the “it should be you” part freaked me out. I’m just a mom with two kids and a full-time job. Most days, surviving domesticity pummels the radical right out of me. I made the excuses: I have no time to organize a protest, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve never done this before.
But like the Holy Spirit is prone to do, the whispers grew louder and my excuses grew lamer. Before I knew it, I was Googling “assembly permit” in my city and filling out the form.
The night of the protest, about 40 residents of both black and white ethnicities showed up at a little park in the city’s center. Armed with signs and heavy hearts, we listened to the President of the Black Student Union, whose name most appropriately is Justice, as she encouraged us in our common fight. It turned out, she told us, we encouraged her in hers. Then we quietly heard a beautiful sermon by Pastor Caela, the Reverand of the Congregational Church downtown. And then I led the white folks present in a prayer of repentance, followed by a humble request that our black brothers and sister present would accept it from us. They graciously did.
And something in the air moved that night. Something old shifted to make room for something new. I can’t explain it much better than that, but all of our hearts agreed that enough was enough. And that all it took to start a new thing.
After prayer, we spread out along the sidewalks, street corners and spilled onto the medians, children and their parents bundled and huddled together. Some of us carried candles and others signs. I regretted forgetting my gloves as my cold, dry hands clung to a sign that read simply #BlackLivesMatter.
As I packed up the candles and signs for the night, I still didn’t know what I had done. It felt so surreal. It wasn’t until Sunday morning when Josh and I joined churches around the world for #BlackLivesMatterSunday that I finally made sense of the necessity of this fight.
I sat in my car a few moments before going into church to scratch down my thoughts. It was then I finally knew: racism is the ultimate human rights issue.
Racism impacts my fight against abortion or your fight against human trafficking. Why? Because if we hold racism in our hearts, we will inevitably care more about the white babies who are killed in abortion or the white girls that are trafficked than we do about the little ones in China, Nigeria or India.
In fact, black abortions are disproportionately represented in the statistics, with recent numbers showing that black women, while making up only 13 percent of the population, will have one-third of our nation’s abortions.
Indeed there is a clear connection between racism and other human rights. Racism is a belief that some of us have more of a right to be here than others. And it undoubtedly influences our outrage over the myriad of other justice violations in our world.
So why do we, the young, Evangelical Church, consistently miss the racism issue? Here are a few of the reasons we’ve been blind.
One of the ways I’ve participated in healing and reconciliation in the past week was leading people through this prayer, which I more or less borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr. himself. Would you like to pray it with me? I’ve placed it here below for a meditation and action step for all of us. Let’s keep this conversation going.
The repentance prayer
How have we sinned, we may ask ourselves, perhaps for ignorance or confusion?
In Martin Luther King Jr’s 1965 interview with Alex Haley, he said the white person feels great guilt for what we have done to Black people: “for patronizing the black person, degrading him, brutalizing him, depersonalizing him, thingifying him; guilt for lying to themselves.”
Today we acknowledge this guilt that Martin Luther King Jr so eloquently called us on. We have hidden in our guilt and shame. We have allowed ourselves to be paralyzed. We have made excuses and turned our heads. We have assumed it was not so bad.
So tonight, let us repent with the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
For the sins of our ancestors, WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
For patronizing the black person, WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
for degrading them WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
For brutalizing them, WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
For depersonalizing him, WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
For thingifying him; WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
For lying to ourselves. WE REPENT AND ASK FORGIVENESS.
With Gods help we choose to open our eyes to the injustice that is happenings around us and to identify with the hurting as Jesus called us to do. We call our city’s citizens and leaders to act to prevent oppression and systemic injustice toward black people in our community, to stop accepting it as the status quo and to be radical in eradicating violence against black people. We promise to stand with you, our black brothers and sisters, until this work is done.