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    Race, Gospel and Justice

    Protest movements around the world are calling us to do better. July 10, 2020 By Darryn Oldford
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    We only grow to know ourselves through our relationships with others. It starts at birth, when we require not only food and warmth, but love from caregivers to survive. As we grow, we start to classify ourselves based on what we see around us and what we’re taught. “Your skin tone is like mine, so we’re the same ethnicity.” “Your skin tone is different, so you’re something else.” “You like playing sports? You’re an athlete.” “You also speak Klingon? We must be the coolest people here.” These categories of “like us” and “not like us” help everyone make sense of the world. In our desire to classify the world, however, history and culture have created artificial barriers between us and others that shouldn’t exist.

    Margaret Mead, the famous cultural anthropologist, was once asked when civilization began. You might have expected her to mention the discovery of walls, pottery shards or saddles, but instead, she said it was a broken—and healed—femur found at an archeological site. Animals do not have the time or resources to care for a wounded member of their social group; if an animal can’t hunt, it doesn’t eat. A broken femur takes a long time to mend, so a healed femur is evidence that a group continued to care for a wounded member. This act of loyalty shows when we moved from a collection of individuals to a society.

    Right now, the Black community in North America is hurting. The gauntlet has been thrown down—what are we willing to do to fix things? These are not new struggles, although recent stories have highlighted specific horrifying incidents. The rallying cry of “Black lives matter” is a simple statement, but so many of my fellow White people choke on it. Some respond with “all lives matter” which, despite being true, is a slap in the face of those who are currently suffering.

    The needless and violent deaths of African-Americans must stop.

    Saying “all lives matter” ignores wide spread societal issues affecting the Black community and avoids the responsibility to change anything in a positive way. If it were left to these folks, the injured members of our society would starve, and we would no longer be a civilization. Injustice anywhere is offensive to God as he is sovereign over all.

    Human life is both sacred and priceless. This must be at the forefront of your mind when discussing the plight of Black men and women in our society. Regardless of your personal opinions about looting, rioting or protesting, we must all agree that the needless and violent deaths of African-Americans must stop. It is also perfectly acceptable to focus on Black people, not everyone, because they are the ones whose lives are most at risk. Any attempts to stifle or ignore the pain and grief that Black people are feeling is to deny their humanity. Empathy means feeling pain alongside your neighbour, while justice is working toward a world where this pain no longer exists. Both are required for vibrant Christian faith.

    The best parts of each and every one of us are a reflection of the divine. By blurring the lines between “me” and “we,” we grow closer to who God is. Genesis 1:26 states, “Let us make mankind in our image” (emphasis mine). Even God, in all his splendour, is meant to be understood as part of a community. Similarly, Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

    Institutional racism did not end with slavery. Progress has been made to improve the lives of Black individuals, but we are far away from the kind of just and equitable world God wants to call his kingdom on earth. We need to care for one another, to feel each other’s pain and to work toward justice. Otherwise,we expect our Black brothers and sisters to hobble around on a broken femur.

    Illustration: di/stock.Adobe.com

    Comment

    On Tuesday, August 4, 2020, James Read said:

    Thank you, Darryn. Thoughtful. You have expressed ideas that definitely need to be more than just "pondered" in our day and in our place. The righting of injustice is part of the work of Christ-followers. For myself, a first act of justice is to listen to what is being said by those who are suffering the injustice, and not immediately to jump to explanations that exonerate us 'oppressors.' (And asking myself: what am I meaning to say by putting 'oppressors' in scare quotes?) As Jesus said in many contexts, "Let the one who has ears, hear."

     

    On Saturday, July 11, 2020, Dan said:

    Very well written. Speaking as a non believer though I would have to say you shouldn't define these as "Christian" values, it's basic human dignity, there should be no need for a divine creator for us to treat everyone equally. Like Gene Roddenberry said, "Diversity contains as many treasures as those waiting for us on other worlds. We will find it impossible to fear diversity and enter the future at the same time."

     

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