The Christian Century initiates a conversation for pastors of predominately “white” congregations to talk about racial violence in general and Ferguson specifically in an article titled “How pastors talk about Ferguson.” C. Browning Helsel offers “A Word to the Whites: Preaching about Racism in White Congregations,” challenging those who identify as socially colored white to consider their racial identity development and to create a “nonracist White racial white identity.” The website http://www.preaching.com offers a sermon illustration that encourages persons to become “gracists,” outlining the points of David Anderson’s book Gracism: The Art of Inclusion.
In light of the ruling of no indictment in the choking death of Mister Eric Garner at the hands of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, we need a word from the Lord regarding our belief in race and the implications of this social faith. The video of Eric Garner has gone viral and the hash tag #crimingwhilewhite is trending. In the video, Eric Garner is being choked, an illegal form of restraint banned by the NYPD and his death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. Eric Garner even says several times in the video, “I can’t breathe.” The decision of the grand jury not to indict the officer has led to more peaceful protests and rightly so.
No badge, no uniform should get in the way of common sense and our common humanity. We do not have the right to take the life of another person; there is no law that is above this, no matter the land or the people. With that being said, we must consider what is not. Are we saying what is necessary to encourage a change in our cross- cultural relationships and communication, in the ways in which law enforcement officials “protect and serve,” in enforcing “equal protection under the law” for African Americans? How is your church assisting in this dialogue in order to create and/or increase the effects of this change? What are your leaders singing about, praying for, preaching about? Because we cannot depend on a video, a medical examiner’s report or a grand jury of our peers. But, I digress.
Do you have resources or ideas as to how persons can preach about the effects of race on our faith and our fellowship so that we might transform this nation and our world? Can you offer training opportunities for police officers that would sensitize them to other cultures and communities? Are there prayers that you can offer for the police departments in America and those citizens who have historically been unlawfully stopped, detained, arrested, injured and murdered? Are there scripture passages that might assist us in bridging the cultural gaps, in eradicating stereotypes and prejudices?
And we need to do more than shake our heads from the comfort of our homes, hand down family verdicts or pronounce community judgment on social media. We need to do more than hold a sign and chant. Each of us need to protest against our own prejudices, to call for a change in the way we view persons from other cultures, to get the hatred out of our hearts before we attempt to remove it from some one else’s. It’s easy to talk about the sins of these police officers but how have our faith communities aided and abetted in this kind of lawlessness?
Yes, these will be hard words but we have to say them because we need to practice before we preach.
6 thoughts on “Hard Words: Preaching about Racial Violence and Police Brutality”
Question? How can you be free of something God made. He might not have given the term race but he has allowed there to be cultures and multiple expressions of humanity that are different in both shade and other physiological characteristics. In my experience, if I’m understanding “raceless”, a color-blind context usually ends up being white by default.
Pastor White, thank you so much for your question and for reading the blog. It’s a great question. Yes, God created cultures and the differences in human appearance. I do not suggest that this is a problem, that we should look away and I am certainly not suggesting that race-lessness is synonymous with color- blindness. I don’t believe that we should lose our sight in order to treat people as they should be treated and have written about this in earlier posts.
What I am asking is that we discredit the theory of race, that we stop believing that there are physically colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people, that we accept the true definitions of humanity that God provides us, that we accept that “we are but dust” and it is not color- coded, that God’s view of us and love for us is not determined by our flesh and its attributes.
I also think that “white” is a color. 🙂 Thanks again and keep the questions coming. You’re helping me.
No, I meant hard words and it is not color- coded. These are hard words for anyone to say. We all have to confront our endorsement of race, especially on Sunday morning. It was a directive to preachers, all preachers.
Starlette, does your advice remain the same to doctors who are trying to find bone marrow donors based on similar race?
I used to think collecting race data is a bad thing until I realized it’s not the race data that is bad – it’s the racists who are bad.
Wait… what’s hard about the words? Do you mean painful?
Are we talking about White pain? Or pain from talking to White people and calling them out on their racism?
Is one pain that White is synonymous with being ignorant about racism even though it’s mostly Whites who are causing the oppression?
Or is the pain that White people are ashamed that they are not able to control their own White community from stopping their racist behaviors?