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