bluelikejazzminds asked: Hate is a common theme towards young black and brown men of this nation. Justice for these young men (and women) has not been served, and if anything are glossed over by celebrity news or other stories to distract the nation. As a Christian, I want to look to the church for help, but it seems that there is silence on these types of issues. As a leader, what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters, who were/are affected by these issues? [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: As you may know, I’ve been involved in ministering to ex-cons, addicts, and gangbangers for the past quarter century or so. As such, I can speak first-hand about the kind of urban environment from which news stories emerge, involving young men like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin.
So much of what we read in the news is exaggerated and hyped-up, but in this case, these stories barely scratch the surface. A Trayvon Martin or a Mike Brown incident may capture the headlines for a few days, but speaking as someone who has looked directly at police misconduct reports kept by the police themselves, it needs to be understood that living in many inner city communities in America, is to live in a third-world military dictatorship.
What would I say to those who’ve been through this? What can you say? But perhaps, more to the heart of your question, what should we all do? And I think I can give us some concrete ideas on that.
The Bible talks about putting the ax to the root of a problem, so in this case, what’s the real root of the problem? Racism immediately comes to mind, and it’s undeniably a factor, but I think it’s a symptom of the real root problem: fear. Or, if I can be allowed to use some fancy vocabulary, I’d say root problem is people acting as fear mongers.
Fear mongering is the attempt to make people afraid, so that they’ll make a decision that works to the advantage of the one making them afraid. That sounds like this:
“Aren’t you tired of living in fear of who might mug you or rape you? Aren’t you tired of locking your doors at night, and hoping that it’s enough? Vote for me, and I’ll lock all these people up, I’ll be tough on crime, I’ll get rid of these people who don’t care about our traditional values!”
It’s a simple formula, I make you afraid by blaming everything on someone who can’t speak for themselves, and then you vote for me, and then you won’t be afraid anymore. Of course, once this scoundrel is voted in, he needs to actually create the police state he said he’d create, and what do we expect when leaders tell the police that nobody with power cares about civil liberties, we only care about meeting violence with violence?
And of course the news media has figured out that fear mongering and scary news reports will sell lots of advertisement space. Everything is a crisis. Financial crisis, crisis in the Middle East, health scare crisis. That’s how you get very detailed footage of a riot, and nothing at all about the forces that provoked the riot.
As Christians, we’re meant to arrest the very thought of fear itself, let alone making decisions based on fear, for Heaven’s sake. We’re meant to make decisions based on love. We’re meant to fulfill the instructions of almighty God who commands us to not be afraid, and to seek justice for the poor.
And make no mistake, if white middle class churches stood with African American churches on this issue, it would go away in a heartbeat. Once someone starts losing votes for creating a mess like this, they’ll quickly campaign on smart ideas instead of fear mongering. As Proverbs 29:7 says, “a righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge”.
One or two other verses that seem to point in the same direction on this issue:
Isaiah 1:17b …plead the widow’s cause.
Romans 12:16b …associate with the lowly.
Proverbs 31:9b…defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 22:22-23 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor…for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.
Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Leviticus 19:10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
Ezekiel 16:49-50 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did an abomination before me. So I removed them…
1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions, and sees a brother or sister in need, but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words, or speech, but with actions, and in truth.