I walk into the dimly-lit Downtown Fresno restaurant and immediately sense the sorrow. The grieving. Another black man shot and killed at the hands of a police officer (R.I.P. #terencecrutcher).
I listen intently to the owners, two friendly and intelligent Black-businessmen, expressing their pain and anger towards a justice system that seemingly doesn’t care.
“They won’t even see a court room—watch. They’ll reward them with paid administrative leave” (note: Officer Betty Shelby has, at the time of writing, been placed on paid administrative leave).
The next day I drive ten miles North of Downtown Fresno, stopping at a local Starbucks in River Park, overhearing various conversations concerning everything from the latest iPhone 7 release, to how the landscaping company didn’t “get it right the first time.”
Scattered among those conversations were socio-political rhetoric concerning Kaepernick, and how the San Francisco 49ers franchise should be boycotted altogether. How, what Kaepernick was doing (read more here), was a slap in the face to American freedom, and those who fought and died for it (a statement which, in and of itself, is self-defeating to the very ideology of “freedom”).
As I’m leaving Starbucks, I find myself acutely aware that no one in the northernmost parts of Fresno seemed to know what was happening in Tulsa. Let alone care.
In fact, I hung out around white evangelicals all day, and not a word of the atrocity that happened in Tulsa was spoken.
Not a whisper.
While the cries of pain from our Black brothers and sisters grows louder, and clearer, the silence of our people grows quieter.
Not that we are quiet. By no means. We’re just selective as to what we speak up about.
When it comes to battling against the legality of abortion, we speak up.
When it comes to denouncing same-sex marriages, we speak up.
When it comes to exposing and correcting false doctrine, we speak up.
When it comes to nationalistic fervor, and decrying the actions of Kaepernick, and others, we speak up.
But when it comes to the acts of injustices against men and women of color: we remain silent.
Hip-hop artist LeCrae Moore captures the essence of the issue when he boldly exclaims:
Take a knee… people riot.
Take a bullet… people quiet.
In Luke 10, Jesus answers the hostile questioning of a lawyer, who was attempting to trap Jesus into some sort of permissible loophole within the law of love that requires that you “love your neighbor as yourself.”
“And who is my neighbor,” the lawyer asks.
Jesus answers the lawyer’s question, despite the apparent insincerity of the man, by telling a parable.
A man gets robbed and left for dead along a road to Jericho.
Two men. A priest, and a Levite (helped police the Temple) see the man, bleeding and almost breathless, and they do not stop, and they do not ask if he is alright or in need of help.
What do they do, you ask?
They pass by.
And that’s the problem.
That’s the problem of the religious leaders that Jesus begins to address: they just pass by.
They’ll get in an uproar over a healing on the Sabbath, or they’ll uphold the letter of the Law over the spirit of the Law.
They’ll pay their tithes, and they’ll roll to the synagogue daily to “worship” God, while “[neglecting] justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42).
But true love requires more. It doesn’t just “pass by.”
True love is willing to heal on the Sabbath. True love is willing to risk being thought of as “unclean,” in order to serve the needs of someone else.
True love requires that we quit passing by the injustices of our day, and begin to stop and listen to the cries and the concerns of those around us. Our neighbors.
Love pushes us to go beyond what we perceive or presuppose, and empowers us to lay aside our preferences and our biases for the sake of others. Our neighbors.
And right now the black community is grieving. Right now, our neighbors are grieving.
Will we pass by, going about the busyness of our lives, while ignoring the burdens of others?
Or will we stop, listen, lend a hand, and learn to love beyond our own self-centeredness?
NOTE: I realize that there are some white evangelicals who are speaking to these issues, and who are leveraging their resources against the injustices of our day. However, as a white man, I’ve found, at least in the city of Fresno, that white-evangelicalism is still, by and large, very much silent.