Before I start I think it’s necessary to name that I am a white, evangelical Christian male. I may have spent the last 10+ years in Latino spaces but I have grown up in white Churches and I hold to many evangelical beliefs and doctrines.
I say that because an aspect of still being connected to a number of white, Christian spaces is that I get to hear the hearts of many white Christians and believe it or not, many white Christians are outraged at the white supremacy that has plagued the empire of American … and yet our voices remain silent … Why?
It took me a few days to get this written… But as I started to write this a couple days ago, earlier that first morning I was scrolling through social media when I saw a headline, “man is choked to death by Minneapolis police” with the hashtag #icantbreathe.
I clicked on the headline like many of you did with a hope that “choked to death” was hyperbole at best … only to find an undeniable video of a man being murdered in another modern lynching of a black person and this time again by law enforcement. The headlines were conclusive: George Floyd was murdered. And yet most of Christian, white America continues to stand by and watch (even if it is in distress).
My heart sank into my chest and my stomach turned as I realized I had never publicly said what I felt I needed to and wanted to say in response to Ahmad Arbury or Breonna Taylor, 2 other modern lynchings exposed in America in the last month.
Now for some of you I’ve just lost you. Why do I need to say something publicly? Ernesto, why are you upset that you didn’t post something on social media?
It’s not that I think my voice is especially helpful in fact what I’ve read, heard and seen from folks like Veronica DeGuillard, D.A. Horton, Lisa Sharon Harper, Soong Chan Rah and Mark Charles have been far more helpful than the words I wished I had spoken … It’s also not because I want to appear as as if I’m standing in #solidarity with my black family for more on that, check out this blog by Veronica.
But it’s because black men and women are being murdered for the color of their skin and although I claim to live and stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters, my public voice seems to only care about sharing the cute things my kids do or my latest experiment on the BBQ smoker. It’s not that posting videos of making bacon or pictures of my kids latest adventures is wrong … but too many friends of mine simultaneously see those posts while they live in fear that their sons and daughters will become the next hashtag.
So why … Why do I sometimes stutter to speak? Why isn’t speaking against injustice second nature? I’m literally staring at my computer as I type, cup of coffee in hand and a pain in my chest as I write these words and ask myself this question, Why do you sometimes remain silent?
I’m still in process, I could be wrong … but here’s where I’m at –
The tribe of (culturally) white evangelicalism will feel and act betrayed – And we all know what that means.
Before we move on, let me provide a sweeping definition of what I mean by (culturally) white evangelicalism because not every white evangelical Christian fits into this category.
(Culturally) white evangelicalism refers to the tribe of professed Christ-followers who propagate their own culture as “normative” and “right” and demand and even legislate that everyone else fall in suit. I could go on, but that’s not the main point of this post.
So let me break it down for you …
Those who know me know that it’s not like I have been completely silent … yet in the past when I have posted, written, or spoken up – it’s rarely if ever that my black brothers and sisters who take issue with what I have to say; it’s my white, evangelical friends who have issues with my speaking up.
And the beauty and curse of social media is that I can repost something that my black brother or sister posts and although I can see that we have the same white friend in common, I’ll get torn apart on my social media whereas my black brother or sister won’t (as much) by the same white, christian friend. For the longest time I welcomed this and to be honest, I still prefer it. What’s happening today is not a problem that black men and women need to solve, so bring it on, white friends – this is our issue to hash out.
But I started to think, why is there more traffic from white evangelicals when I speak then when my black sister speaks? From my perspective there exists within white evangelicalism an unspoken white exceptionalism that has at its core the sin of white supremacy or in biblical terms, the sin of partiality.
White evangelicals expect black brothers and sisters to have (what they would consider) slightly off, emotionally driven, skewed viewpoints about today’s ethnically charged events like the lynchings made public that took place over the last couple of months … or the reason for the riots the last couple of nights.
But when a white Christian speaks out – the tribe feels betrayed. Unspoken accusations like, “Hey, you’re supposed to be on our side” … “Common, you’ve really started to believe them, you’re so driven by emotion” … “you were raised better than this” … are thrown behind comments like “all lives matter” … and … “if he/she didn’t resist” … and … “let’s wait to see the video” … and … “Romans 13” …
Do you see the inherent Racism? The posture that assumes the “white” voice should be the “right” voice and when a white voice stands alongside the black voice the white tribe expels all that looks and sounds “too black.” This is the posture that needs proof from a white man’s account … unless of course it’s not the proof they were looking for.
I think what I’ve realized is that I enjoy the comfort of being accepted in the tribe of white evangelicalism and, if I’m honest, much of my unspoken identity has been formed by the tribe of white evangelicalism. So a fear of rejection at times fuels my silence and I imagine it fuels many of yours. But this needs to stop now because it’s already too late.
And I know it’s a scary thought, fear of rejection from your tribe is not easy … but the time that this should have happened is already long passed.
So why do we remain silent?
I believe that the primary reason we remain silent is from a fear of losing the identity, the cultural currency and the power that our association with white evangelicalism has provided for us over the years. This may not be a conscious choice but if you’ve even started to push the envelope in the past, you know all too well the consequences of being exiled from the empire.
But to cower in fear and silence is to stand on the side of the oppressor. Silence is not an option; silence supports the oppressor.
As white Christians, we need to remember that we serve a dark-skinned, palestinian man we call Jesus who announced his Kingdom by proclaiming to “set free those who are oppressed” (Lk. 4:18b).
Jesus, a man whose curiosity of a construction site could get him gunned down today in our backyards … because of the color of his skin.
Jesus, a man whose mistaken identity could get him murdered in his sleep … because of the color of his skin.
Jesus, a man who was murdered by those within his government that were supposed to represent his best interests, the peace and flourishing of the people.
This is the Jesus we serve and follow.
White brothers and sisters … until we are ready to denounce our (often unspoken) allegiance to the white evangelical powers and the United States of America, to the flag and the powers for which they all stand and pledge our allegiance to the the one true King who stands with the oppressed, who refused to join the tribe of the elite who suffered extreme violence so that violence would be no more …
We’re not actually following Jesus. We’re following a white, evangelical Jesus … or some may say, in biblical terms, an antichrist.
This is no passive matter. We do not have time to sit and think.
To whom do we give our allegiance? Who is our King? Stand up, and speak up with our King … he’s on the streets getting tear gas thrown in his face, fire hoses blasted in his chest. He sits and weeps with mothers whose sons have become hashtags, he holds the children whose fathers will not come home.
Where are you?