Why I Want Black Lives to Matter to Me

Another police shooting of a black man. This time in St. Paul, Minnesota. The string of these awful events is making me increasingly uncomfortable with myself.

I know, I haven’t blogged for months while building a custom kitchen for Dawn (it takes lot of time), and this post is an immediate departure from the usual Average Us theme. So, please excuse me if this post is unwelcome.

If you’re average like me, you try to keep your sanity by insulating yourself from the never ending drumbeat of violent news: shootings, bombings, beatings, rapes, enslavement, etc.  But, how can I ignore the string of high profile white-on-black killings (many by local police) being reported in the past year or so?

Whether the whole story is being told or not, whether news outlets have an agenda or not, it’s beginning to defy reason to not think that something truly awful is happening, or perhaps, has been happening for a long time.

This morning I wrote the question in my head out loud on facebook and it received a ton of debate and interaction from my facebook friends.

Another police shooting in St. Paul. Somebody please explain why we have so many questionable black deaths at the hands of local police. Something is clearly wrong in some places and it’s poisoning our broader culture.

Some friends’ comments were analytical, some compassionate, and others speculated about political agendas. I should note that most of the commenters were white. I confess that I haven’t made a Christian effort to cultivate friendships with black men and women.

For myself, the growing list of white-on-black killings makes it hard for me to cling to my idealistic imaginings of a non-racist America. Please forgive me my seeming naivity. I was raised in the north and and my earlist years were spent on an integrated Army base playing with Willie and Newt, both children of African American servicemen. Even in the ’60s, I had no idea what racism was.

But, my reason for writing about this now is that I don’t want my silence to be a de facto denial or approval of what is happening. Nor do I want the Christian Church to be a silent, compassionless witness.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus commanded us. Surely, there’s a way I can obey that command in the current situation. I’m no activist. I don’t know what action I could or should take. But at the very least, I want to say to my white friends and neighbors who may be average like me:

Let’s not pretend nothing is wrong anymore.

Here’s the concluding comment I made on my facebook post:

My closing comment on my question/post: Regardless of who may or may not be pulling strings to exploit events, it is clear to me that a string of similar, horrible events are being reported. Whether they are new–or just new to the news–is not as important to me as this: I don’t want to be a silent white Christian “minding my own business” while there is apparent injustice being done to black Americans. I want to be able to look my black neighbors, colleagues, and churchmen in the eye and honestly say: “Your life matters to me.”

Since I am a Christian, I must believe that the only true hope for black and white individuals and communities is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who gave himself as an offering to satisfy God’s justice against the sins of whites and blacks, grants eternal hope to all who trust in Him. And by doing so, He embraces His people with the unconditional love that can transform fear of the other, and hate toward the other, into love for my brother. So, since I count myself as one who through repentance and faith belongs to Christ, I now pray He will transform my indifferent heart, that I may love my black neighbor as myself. May I live as if his and her life truly matters to me.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.—Jesus, (John 13:34)

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Can Humanism Save Humanity?

Recently, I have been watching Ken Burns’ excellent 1996 documentary, The WestYou could say it’s a 9-part commentary on how the American west was won. But, it would be more accurate to say that it’s a chilling and brutal story of how human beings of any race will hate and kill each other whenever they have the power to do so.

Native Americans against Native Americans, Europeans against Native Americans or Africans, or Native Americans against Europeans—it doesn’t matter how you trace your bloodline, blood-letting seems to be in our blood. The history of the American west is a history of bloodshed in the name of a king, or a president, or God, or a tribe, or mere hatred for anyone not us.

It’s enough to make me be ashamed—not to be white, or American—but to be human. The  more I learn about history, any history, the less faith I have in humanity, including myself.

And yet, the dominant western philosophy since the Enlightenment, Humanismwould have me believe that humanity itself will create a better future for all people, that we are our own best hope.

Humanism is intellectually committed to faith in the innate nobility, goodness and wisdom of people (individually and collectively) to effect positive change in the world around us for all people. It’s the Star Trek vision of the universe in which humanity—having already solved poverty, hunger, ignorance, disease, crime and war on earth—goes boldly out into the galaxy (“…where no man has gone before…”) to do the same for non-humans.

I suppose this means that if I was watching The West as a humanist I should say, “If I had been there, I would have helped everyone behave more nobly, more kindly, and more generously. I could have helped everyone see the nobility in each other so that they could come together to achieve shared goals for the common good.”

But that would be pretty naive of me, wouldn’t it?—not to mention, self-righteous.

No, I’m afraid I don’t have that much faith in you (collectively) or myself (individually). If you and I had been there and had had the power, we may have stolen, raided, lynched, exploited, or raped or butchered just like everyone else, in the name of our family, or tribe, or race, or faith, or employer, or gold, or government. The philanthropic exceptions among us prove the tyrannical rule.

I’m sorry Humanism, but I don’t believe you’ll be able to save humanity. The broad sweep of human history and a smattering of honest self-awareness are enough to convince me of what the Bible teaches about humanity: that left to ourselves we will go on destroying one another with our will to power.

“There you go again,” says Humanism, “appealing to ancient human writings as if they were divinely breathed. How can you believe in God, when there is so much evil in the world?”

To which I reply, “How can you believe in us, when we are the self-evident cause?”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach [the crucified and risen Christ] to save those who believe.–1 Corinthians 1:20-21

Happy Thanksgiving, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving friends and readers!

I know we have all experieced the averageness of 2015. There is much to bemoan in the world, and probably in your personal life, too. I’m sure.

In the world, I am concerned about the state of race relations in America, and terrorism in the world, and the dissolution of ethics that people of many philosophies used to agree on: kindness, honestly, faithfulness, loyalty to one’s commitments, loyalty to one’s spouse.

For myself, I am not thankful for my back condition, that I’ve been out of work on disability leave for two months, and that I can’t excercise, or spend time with my running buddies, or work on my wife’s kitchen remodeling project.

WHY THANKSGIVING?

On the other hand, since giving thanks—the expression of gratitude—is so frequently accompanied by genuine joy and the motivation to serve others in need, then I sincerely wish you find reason to give thanks today and every day.

Saying Happy Thanksgiving is just another way of wishing you joy.

For myself, I’m thankful for the dozens of people who have cared for me, comforted and encouraged me during the last few months. I’m thankful for an employer that pays me even when I can’t work. I’m thankful for colleagues who send me care packages and tell me I’m still needed, as well as missed. I’m thankful for the neighbor who raked my leaves, and the church group that provided weeks of meals. I’m thankful for friends who have visited me in my home and in the hospital. I’m thankful for the friend who helped me re-hookup my television and sound system. I’m thankful for a heavenly Father who has helped me process my fears of surgery and worries about the aftermath.

I could go on, but you get the idea. We choose thanksgiving for something, or someone, and we feel the soul-warming joy of it. We choose thanksgiving and it motivates us to serve someone in their need, and more easily forgive others’ their faults.

Imagine a Black Friday with less road rage, and fewer Wal-Mart fights over the lastest video game. Imagine smiling and waving on the offending driver. Imagine gladly letting the other person have the last game.

That’s just for starters, but even just that would make this a better, just a very tiny bit better, world.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I wish you joy.

Lon