I’ve toyed around with the idea of starting a blog called “Coming (Back) to America.” I daydreamed about writing lots of posts full of Bill Bryson-style insight and humor about what America is like (or I’m like) after eight years in another culture. Alas… I’m not that creative or observant. So rather than a blog, I’ll try my hand at a couple of posts sprinkled here and there.
The post are helpful in giving an outsiders look into our culture (for those of us in America):
- Coming (Back) to America: Coming Back to Commercials [6 min. readout]
- Coming (Back) to America: Accents [7 min. readout]
In his most recent post in this series he explains his one fear, which is related to the situation in Ferguson:
When my wife and I announced we would be moving back to the States to plant a church in Southeast DC, we met three reactions. People who loved us over these past eight years and appreciated our ministry expressed their love and sadness that we were leaving Cayman. Those same people and many others then quickly sent us tremendous amounts of encouragement, prayer and practical help. Then there were those who had a question. They asked, “Are you afraid?” or “Do you have any fears?”
My elders in Cayman asked that question. The elders here at CHBC asked that question. A few individuals asked that question. And some people have worn their concern on their faces.
When asked the question, I’d usually pause. Not because I didn’t have an answer, but because some fears feel too real when you give them words. So I’d pause. Then I’d say two things: “Truthfully, the Lord has kept us from any fears that we can discern about planting the church or living in Southeast. If I have a fear it would be one thing: bringing my son Titus to the United States. He’s so tender and innocent and the States can be very hard on Black boys.”
That’s my one fear. This country destroying my boy. Ferguson is my fear. I could be the black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son’s blood. I could be the husband holding his wife, rocking in anguish, terrorized by the ‘what happeneds’ and the ‘how could theys,’ unable to console his wife, his wife who works so hard to make her son a “momma’s boy” with too many hugs, bedtime stories, presents for nothing, and an overflowing delight in everything he does. How do you comfort a woman who feels like a part of her soul was ripped out her chest?
I’m not alone..
Yesterday, he went on to continue the above post with a call to action:
…you don’t answer oppression, violence, poverty, sexism, corporate theft and a host of other problems with theology alone. Theology alone is not an answer. Nor are vague appeals to the gospel, however true it is that the gospel is our first, only and greatest hope. Action and policy guided by sound theology are answers. When Paul wrote to Philemon on behalf of the enslaved Onesimus, he reminded Philemon of the gospel and the duty of Christian love. Then in love he told Philemon to take an action consistent with that theology: release Onesimus and receive him as a brother. Evangelicalism is long on theology (gospel) and short on ethics (loving action)…
As I’ve watched the situation in Ferguson unfold, I’ve waited to gather my own thoughts and to see what other theologically like-minded persons might say. I waited. And I waited. I thought I’d wait in vain. But several brothers have joined the discussion with perspectives and appeals. I respect Trevin Wax for being among the first to say that our racial wounds are not yet healed. I respect Russ Moore for joining with his always thoughtful reflections on these issues. I respect Matt Chandler for trying to help some understand the difference privilege makes in situations like Ferguson. I respect Ray Ortlund for his gracious, quiet way of reminding us that being nice isn’t always required. I respect Josh Waulk, the former police officer now pastor, who provided a different perspective than my own. And I’m grateful for the many encouraging tweets and retweets following my post yesterday. I know I’m not alone and others are prepared to make shows of support for marginalized people.
Nevertheless, most of what’s been said by evangelical leaders thus far (including my post yesterday) has been a general lament. It’s been the expressing of sentiment. There were similar reactions to a similar post I wrote following the Zimmerman verdict. However, there’s not yet been anything that looks like a groundswell of evangelical call for action, for theology applied to injustice. It’s possible that I’ve missed a call for action from my colleagues and peers in the evangelical world. But I don’t think I’ve missed our most influential leaders with the widest reach. They’ve been silent en masse. Today I think we need to be pushed a couple steps ahead.
Update 10:30 AM: Responding to pushback:
Predictably, I’ve received a bit of pushback on my post yesterday calling for leaders of the evangelical movement to organize themselves to provide theological and practical leadership on issues that affect the marginalized and oppressed. Why such a call should ever receive pushback is itself worth pondering, but I want to focus on the chief reason stated for the pushback.
It’s essentially this: “We should not pass judgment on Wilson until we have all the facts.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that in the last couple of days, I’d at least be able to satisfy someone’s Starbucks habit for a week.