Drugged Dream (Awakening #1)

And all of a sudden, my eyes were open. Like coming to from a drug-induced dream. I saw it there, plain as day.

The white church in America is still deep in denial about the hardships of black neighbors — if not actively contributing to it. It could even be argued it’s a blissful ignorance.

Before you write me off and click away, listen to my story. It’s probably very similar to yours.

I grew up in Great Bridge, VA, upper middle class, lacking for nothing. I feel very fortunate for the life and access afforded to me by my parents. I’ve always leaned Republican, and never voted Democrat. I went to a Bible College, and most importantly, I love Jesus Christ. Sound familiar? I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Evangelical Christian.

Problem is, I love Jesus so much that I will follow Him to wherever that takes me. That brings us to the present, and my waking from a very comfortable dream to a terrible reality. [1] It’s strange, uncomfortable, but most importantly: true.

Throughout my youth and early adulthood, I held the view that all have equal opportunity in America. I had no reason to believe otherwise. Land of the Free. I loved that the Civil Rights Movement happened, and that black people’s lives now have equal protection in our country. The horrible injustices of the past have been fixed, and we’ve passed that dark chapter. I knew there is disproportionate poverty in the black community, but there are plenty of success stories of poor people from every race rising above and succeeding. If anyone remained in poverty, they were not taking advantage of resources available to everyone in our country. These views I used to hold.

Here is what Jesus has taught me, and is teaching throughout the ages. God has a special place for the broken-hearted, the oppressed, the marginalized. Our assessment of what got them into that situation should not be considered in our reaction to their plight. Many times what I see is people diagnosing poverty or calamity in others’ lives as a personal excuse. A friend reminded me that in John 9, the Disciples are concerned about the cause of a man’s blindness. Who sinned, him or his parents? Jesus doesn’t even validate their criteria, but simply enters into the suffering and heals the man.

In that situation, the cause of the man’s suffering was left to the mystery of God. Yet in other places the Bible is very clear about why the poor struggle. It is because people with power and wealth hold them down and keep them underfoot. Jesus calls out and condemns these actions.

It is also clear enough — if we listen — why our black neighbors face hardships here in America today. The facts and testimonies of black America say this: “We are viewed as lesser than our white neighbors.” White America, and the church, has consistently denied that claim and experience. Why is it so hard to believe that the people group we were hosing down and lynching half a century ago and had enslaved for 300 years are still in the throes of a system that suppresses them? This is one of the many sins of our nation, and it is being passed down, from generation to generation.

In these past years when these issues of violence towards black people has been center stage (Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, etc.), the white church has been deafeningly silent. After just sitting and watching, I’ve come to see how that silence is perceived by our neighbors of color: affirmation, compliance, and an implicit blessing of this violence through inaction and muteness.

In the weeks after Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop, Alton Sterling was shot point-blank while on his back, and five police officers were slain on duty, one thing I know is clear. Jesus is weeping. He is holding their dead bodies on the ground, weeping. He calls us to join Him. This post is just a start. We’ll have a few other voices join us to speak about Race in America and following Jesus. We are starting a conversation. If you follow Jesus Christ, this is worth your time, and an issue that I firmly believe is your Christian duty to think, pray, and act on. Let’s start with the thinking and talking part. Join us, especially if this makes you uncomfortable. I promise and truly believe God will do a work through it.


[1] The image of “the dream” is borrowed from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book, Between the World and Me.

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8 thoughts on “Drugged Dream (Awakening #1)

  1. Colin, thank you for the time you took to compose this entry and for your dedication to creating a space for the church to engage in conversations about race relations in America. This piece is thoughtful and well written. I truly believe that it will beget constructive dialogue among the Christian community in the months to come.

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    1. Lord willing, Brother. I truly believe this is gospel work for all times and people, but especially for our time and culture. We can no longer ignore it.

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  2. I had a professor in college once, a white Wisconsin native with the accent to prove it. His discipline was Koine Greek, and he had grown up very much inside the evangelical church and subculture. He was and is one of the wisest and godliest men I know. When he lived in SC, he and his family attended a small community church that was overwhelmingly black in both constituency and style. I once asked him about his rationale for that decision and he said, “There is a racial divide in our culture and in our church. Regardless of the past — and our people e was the malefactors there, too– we find ourselves in the dominant position in the present. As such, it is our responsibility to be intentional about healing it. Going to a church where we are less comfortable is a small step in that.”

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  3. Well said, brother. This has pained my heart and more so burdened it in ways I can’t explain. I have been told not to worry or get myself caught up in the mess. Ok. Fine. If I don’t, who will? You know? I believe you’re right about the church being silent. Change is going to happen when love starts walking the talk.

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    1. It’s funny, I was talking with a friend who is a person of color, and a Christian, and she told me “don’t get too wrapped up in that. It’s bad, but don’t let it consume you or ruin your day.” I didn’t know what to say. I essentially said that something that affects and even rules the daily life of black and brown people, even to the point of life or death, that I have complicity in, is allowed to consume my mind, and “ruin” my day. May it continue to “ruin my day” until I act against injustice that I see.

      Keep up the good fight. Speak out in love and authority. It’s so needed now.

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  4. Thanks for taking the time to write this Colin… This world is such a broken place. I feel that many of the principles motivating this discussion also apply to Muslims. They are a people with whom many Americans have never really interacted… a lot of prejudice, a lot of stereotypes, a lot of unjustifiable fear. They are a people dearly loved by God. Can I suggest we not limit the application of this discussion to Black People, but apply it to all minorities and people who don´t look or think like us?

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    1. Brother, I feel you on this one and agree. The scope of this platform has not been limited, and I am sure we will touch on this issue eventually. It’s getting to be really bad in that arena too. How about you write up a slamming blog post and submit it to us on this?!

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