June 17, 2015 was just an ordinary Wednesday. When twelve people attended Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that night, not one had a clue it was their last. They kissed their families goodbye, grabbed their keys and started their engines.
The shots rang out across the nation as the nine fell, the nine to match the Little Rock Nine, nine taking a stand before nine fell. Five more than the bombing of the four little girls at 16th Street Baptist Church in Montgomery in 1963.
Those of us fortunate to have pastors who are sensitive to these things mentioned them in our prayers, said their names one by one, and prayed for strength and courage and kindness. Our country’s president spoke boldly about America and its pain, these chains of racism that still shackle our feet.
America, for the first time in nearly 50 years, is tentatively opening the door to this conversation once more.
And the majority of white churches across America remain silent.
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White church – you birthed me into my faith and gave me a foundation to stand on. This institution made me someone I could respect. These buildings provided me a safe place to grow.
It was you who taught me every person matters. It was you who taught me we are all loved equally in the eyes of God. It was you who taught me to love my enemies and serve those who some consider inferior.
And yet people of color in America are treated as inferior, and we are doing nothing about it.
Where are you, white believers? Why are we not talking openly about this? Why are we not preaching equality from our pulpits and naming prejudice in our hearts? Has our fear of rocking the boat become so great that we dare not call out truth inside of our church walls?
You are dragging your feet, church. You are putting Jesus to shame with your silence. Jesus flipped tables and drew lines in the sand and preached from mountaintops about radical love, radical courage, radical justice, and we are too afraid to follow in His footsteps.
Frankly, if this were about sexuality or politics, I would understand. Those issues are controversial enough to make anyone nervous about preaching absolutes. But racism is neither of those things. Racism is as cut and dry as it gets.
And yet we hesitate. And we call it the “liberal agenda” and “pulling the race card”. But we cannot politicize what is a matter of the heart.
How dare we call ourselves followers of Jesus and stand by as the least of these are crucified in the name of hate.
How dare we call ourselves on fire for the Lord and remain apathetic about the death and suffering of His children.
We should not merely be cooperating: we should be leading the charge.
The white church embarrassed us with its silence during the first round of the Civil Rights Movement. We can’t let it happen again.
Change is in the air, and history is being written. Which side of it do you want to be on?