DHD: Six suggestions to help racial reconciliation
I am of the mindset that, if I am going to offer a criticism, I also should suggest an alternative with the criticism. For example, if I’m editing a story, I won’t just say “Change this sentence.” I would provide corrections that I think would help make it sound better or grammatically correct.
Along with this personal divulgence, I would like to point out that I’m not a fan of making rash decisions, especially if I know they would affect other people. Even in good intentions, I favor looking for the best possible result that would lead to the least amount of opposition. I understand opposition cannot always be avoided, but I desire to practice objectivity and humility and avoid being obstinate and arrogant.
What happened in Charlottesville last week is on everybody’s mind. Everybody has an opinion about that horrible display of hatred. It saddens me deeply.
I, too, am against any group that promotes white supremacy and divisive intentions based on race. I do not support anybody who marches along with Alt-Right groups, white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan or any of these group that are identified as “extreme right.”
As many Christian leaders I respect have come out against these groups and actions promoting hate and racism, I feel inclined to offer six responses, complementing my respected leaders and veering away from rash, divisive actions.
For this week’s DHD, here are some focal points that I believe will encourage racial healing and reconciliation.
- Study Jesus’ example and teachings
It is a horrible display to see racist groups carrying crosses or other symbols that are associated with Christianity. Their behavior is contrary to anything Jesus taught or demonstrated.
I offer two passages that prove my point. First, read John 4:1-30, 39-42. Jesus has a discussion with a Samaritan woman at a well, asking her for a drink of water.
I know it may be hard to believe, but Jewish-Samaritan racial hatred was much deeper than what we experience in America. Jesus speaking in public to this woman broke so many barriers, and what this woman did as a result of her encountering the Messiah impacted the whole village.
The second is the popular parable that Jesus taught, “The Good Samaritan.” And just to help make the story even more relevant, here’s a paraphrase of Luke 10:25-37 from the Cotton Patch Bible, which was written by a southern pastor in the late ‘60s-early ’70, providing Scripture with a Southern vernacular and a modern twist:
One day a teacher of an adult Bible class got up and tested him with this question: “Doctor, what does one do to be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What does the Bible say? How do you interpret it?”
The teacher answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your physical strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“That is correct,” answered Jesus. “Make a habit of this and you’ll be saved.”
But the Sunday school teacher, trying to save face, asked, “But … er … but … just who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus laid into him and said, “A man was going from Atlanta to Albany and some gangsters held him up. When they had robbed him of his wallet and brand-new suit, they beat him up and drove off in his car, leaving him unconscious on the shoulder of the highway.
“Now it just so happened that a white preacher was going down that same highway. ‘When he saw the fellow, he stepped on the gas and went scooting by.
“Shortly afterwards a white Gospel song leader came down the road, and when he saw what had happened, he too stepped on the gas.
“Then a black man traveling that way came upon the fellow, and what he saw moved him to tears. He stopped and bound up his wounds as best he could, drew some water from his water-jug to wipe away the blood and then laid him on the back seat.
He drove on into Albany and took him to the hospital and said to the nurse, ‘You all take good care of this white man I found on the highway. Here’s the only two dollars I got, but you all keep account of what he owes, and if he can’t pay it, I’ll settle up with you when I make a pay-day.’
“Now if you had been the man held up by the gangsters, which of these three-the white preacher, the white song leader, or the black man – would you consider to have been your neighbor?”
The teacher of the adult Bible class said, “Why, of course, the nig – I mean, er … well, er … the one who treated me kindly.”
Jesus said, “Well, then, you get going and start living like that!”
- My friend Jimmy
I first met Jimmy Jackson in college my freshman year. He, his roommate Brian Scharp and I hung out together quite a bit, which was a big help for me getting adjusted to college life.
Jimmy has had a fond interest in American history, even Civil War history, and an admiration for General “Stonewall” Jackson. I suppose it could be because they both have the same last name.
Earlier this week, Jimmy shared on Facebook a confession, which came as a result from the national reaction to the Charlottesville ordeal. He gave me permission to share his Facebook comment:
I’ve had a small and unobtrusive framed picture of Stonewall Jackson on my wall at work for many years now . . . I’ve honestly always admired this confederate civil war general who was famously resolute and hugely determined (“there’s Jackson standing like a ‘stone wall'”), as some of the qualities he displayed in spades are some of the key qualities I’ve tried to cultivate and emulate. With that said, I’ve felt slightly squeamish over the years as friends and colleagues of color have entered my office and perhaps observed this portrait, very small and unassuming as it is. I took this picture off my wall today – I don’t think I had to (if you are in a similar situation, I don’t think you have to) but it seemed like I should. I don’t have any interest in trying to erase history – the lives and psyches of civil war soldiers, really all soldiers, are complicated and filled with paradoxes, contractions, nuances and their stories need to be remembered. Similarly, I don’t have any particular interest in telling people what they have to do. . . good people can disagree before God on issues related to how to navigate the lingering stain of racism. Still, for me, in this particular time and place, in this contentious culture we find ourselves in, I feel strongly that all of us who know Christ and who are in a majority culture should step out of our comfort zones, should look at ourselves and our biases with courage and boldness, should examine our hearts and our own behaviors with a focus on how they may impact our brothers and sisters of color and if we decide these behaviors inflict pain or reflect callous insensitivity, we should stop them, big or small. This is my prayer for me, this is my prayer for you.
I appreciate Jimmy’s objectiveness and humility. His response isn’t rash, yet it was personal and demonstrated a willingness to do what he could to be supportive. I believe his action is much stronger than any controversial public display.
- Read Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail
I’ve shared quite a bit in my first two points, so I will be much briefer in the remainder.
Two years ago, I did a DHD reflecting on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” You can read it here, and use my thoughts, as well as your own reading of this powerful letter, as an encouragement to do more in promoting healing and reconciliation.
- Watch ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest performances in modern film. Finch is considered the greatest movie hero, according to the American Film Institute.
To Kill a Mockingbird also speaks to the great challenges of racial divisions. If you haven’t seen it, you should do yourself a favor and watch it soon. I share this scene of Finch talking to his daughter Scout and ask you to pay attention to his words beginning at the 1:15 mark
- Other movies to watch
There are many other movies to consider that would encourage racial reconciliation. I watched one last night, The Green Mile with Tom Hanks.
Since football is starting up, three movies that are powerful are Brian’s Song, Remember the Titans and Woodlawn. In fact, I wrote a movie review on Woodlawn. Read it here.
There are others: In the Heat of the Night, The Defiant Ones, Places in the Heart, 42, Driving Miss Daisy and many more. But the ones I would encourage to watch are those showing people of different race working together to overcome obstacles relating to racism.
- Have a meal with someone of another race
I remember Sen. James Lankford suggested to have a meal with someone of another race about a year ago. As I was planning to make this one of my DHD topics, this morning Sen. Lankford shared this video on his Facebook page:
It’s been a divisive week for America. The events in Charlottesville are a reminder that we still have a lot of unresolved racial issues in America. The way we move forward is by engaging each other, building respectful unity together, and honoring the human dignity of all people. I want to encourage all Americans to consider a challenge Senator Tim Scott and I have been working on for over a year that we like to call "Solution Sundays"–invite someone of a different race into your home for a meal. I think you'll learn that we all have a lot more in common than you think.
Posted by Senator James Lankford on Friday, August 18, 2017