My heart is sad and frustrated today. My home state of Minnesota, which is filled with extraordinary people of all colors and cultures, is in so much pain from injustice and acts of chaos. As I watched live video of protests last night I was inspired by people of all colors choosing to protest in a meaningful and safe way. I was saddened by those of all colors choosing to loot in ways that could be harmful to other people and property.
(I realize I risk sharing thoughts today as a white male who grew up in a Scandinavian MN area in which I unknowingly experienced the life of white privilege (I refer to that culturally, not politically). But fear of being misunderstood shall no longer limit our voice. I will choose to believe grace will abound in the reader as I imperfectly plead.).
Growing up in beautiful northern MN, we were somewhat isolated from the knowledge of severe injustices of racism and structures in place that did not equate to equality and opportunity for all. I certainly believed historic leaders like Abraham Lincoln and their quotes were often a moral plumb line. On July 10, 1858 at a speech in Chicago, Illinois he said, “I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal”. And even in the MN northwoods we all learned and were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King and wanting His dream to become reality. However there just was not awareness in our protected bubble of the realities of so much pain felt by others, and the structural and systemic injustices that hindered so many people from expressing and sharing their talents as a gift to this world.
When I lived in central Minneapolis I was just a naive young adult who would show up at Powderhorn Park to hoop it up not even realizing till later I was the only white dude on the court, and a redhead at that. I realize as I age that my personal naiveness was not an excuse then nor is it now. You see I wasn’t actually that naive as much as I chose not to see. Whether this was out of shame or simply paralysis in that I felt the lack of opportunity to make a difference. Yet, right in front of me every week were the teachings of a historical figure that spoke of injustice, racism, and freedom for all into a new way of living. (Hebrews 10:19-25) I understood Jesus (as I was a typical good Lutheran kid) to be the God/man that saved me, so I could live someday forever. I did not, at the time, realize his teachings and spirit-filled power were for a life that begins now/then. I did not realize he was the answer to unaware injustice and pain being experienced by our brothers and sisters of color.
I guess what I’m trying to say is Jesus taught me to stand for those who are facing injustice, and stand for the marginalized, and stand for the hurting...because he did that for me when I was lost in so much arrogance and sin. I apologize to my black brothers and sisters in the faith and in humanity for not taking more action to understand and learn the realities of this world's marginalized people groups of all kinds. I apologize to those first responders, police, etc. for not learning of the stress and tension it puts on your families. I saw the injustice and marginalization in the persons of disability, as our eyes were opened due to having a child with a significant physical disability. We experienced the marginalization of this group and have been advocates for the disabled for years. Yet, that does not mean we lose sight of other groups and their collective pain.
While in Chicago for 4 years I became a tiny bit more educated about some of the realities facing the tension between police and people of color. It’s complicated, and both groups are often misrepresented. I remember one simple short conversation in which a black friend said, “You could carry a tv down the street without being questioned. If I was carrying it down the street, it might look that I was stealing it. In fact I was approached by a police officer when moving a tv to my friends house”.
I can remember being an encourager for ‘black lives matter’ efforts but also one for ‘blue lives matter’. At one point I remember saying ‘all lives matter’. This naive statement ‘all lives matter’ is true and beautiful and is biblical in that Jesus came for Everyone. However, when part of our family is hurting, outraged and weeping, we are to weep with them.(Romans 12:15) Of course all lives matter, but we as followers of Jesus are to stand with the oppressed and marginalized. Our black families are really hurting; if we can’t see it now then we must repent for our blindness. We shall stand and make it clear that ‘black lives matter’, not in a political sense, but in the reality of human life and freedom for all. And we shall stand with ‘blue lives’, ‘disabled lives’, ‘addicted lives’, ‘brown lives’, ‘covid lives’... we stand with all, but this is a moment we lean into how our brothers and sister of color are feeling and seek to listen and actively love.
Where we live now is an 85% white, generally conservative part of Colorado with extraordinary and inclusive people. It’s a great city to live in. What can we do from here? For those growing up with different privileges, we can admit and understand privilege without shame (social privilege, ethnic, economic, etc.). We can look to understand marginalized people groups taking time to build relationships with people different than ourselves. We can pray and seek the kingdom of God to intervene in people's hearts knowing that the reconciliation of people groups will come from humility of heart and love in action through the life, teachings and empowerment of Jesus.
I am asking today that followers of Jesus take time to listen to the Holy Spirit. We repent for any blindness or naivety, and we ask for direction from Jesus as what each one of us can do to be people of peace. I wonder what one small action of peace by each of us looks like when 1,000 people are activated in a small community.
As Jesus said “there is no greater love than a man who lays down his life for another”. Lord, show us how we do that here and now ?
With brotherly Love,