As an African-American pastor of a multi-cultural church, the topic of race and reconciliation is often brought up. I’ve found myself grappling with how to discuss this topic as I often minister to, befriend and work with people of all backgrounds. I’ve wondered how to approach the subjects brought up in the media and the outcry I’ve heard from both sides. I’ve constantly questioned how we can work to increase discussion and reconciliation with mercy and grace in our church and our city. I think I’ve finally decided where I stand.
I’m stepping off the plantation.
As usual, I have found myself in a curious predicament—I am a slave to not one, but two masters and I belong to both plantations. I’ve conveniently traveled back and forth between my plantations because they are situated opposite each other with a creek dividing them.
On one side, I work for my white slave master. This master falls under the “Evangelical—white—church” category; and to tell you the truth, his plantation kind of feels like home. My master likes me most when I shout across the water and remind black men that they need to be better fathers. He especially loves when I gaze across the divide and scream that they need to stop living off America’s welfare. He enjoys as I rattle off abortion rate statistics. I can spend hours talking about black-on-black violence; how maybe just pulling up “their” pants could solve so many problems. Sometimes, shouting across the divide makes me feel a little free. But like clockwork, the next day I find myself across the creek I formerly scrutinized, working just as hard.
My black slave master is a little different; he is more of the militant type. He has me put my toes at the edge of the creek so that the white plantation can hear every single word I say. I try to make him happy by wearing my Black Lives Matter t-shirt and shouting about how police brutality needs to be called out and pursued in court. I stand at attention and remind the white people of the unemployment rates the black community faces. My black slave master is never impressed; no matter how hard I try. He even calls me an Uncle Tom and demands that I blame it all on the other side. I like being here and I always feel wrong when I leave to go back across the creek the next day.
Why can’t I care about the condition of the black community and refrain from blaming it all on white people?
But today I have decided that despite my greatest efforts, I can’t make either side happy enough; in fact, I no longer want to. Wrapped up in the stench of anger and offense, there is the slight fragrance of truth running between each side. However, both are still wrong even when words flung across the creek of divide seem right. Both sides lack love and compassion as they shout to the other side. I can no longer be chained to the two.
Why can’t I care about the condition of the black community and refrain from blaming it all on white people? Why can’t I say that black men need to be more present in our homes as better fathers and husbands without being sent back to the other side? I am thankful for law enforcement, but I also believe that police brutality is an issue that needs to be addressed. The issues are real from either direction, but there will never be reconciliation when the messages are delivered through a bullhorn. So, I am resigning my life as a slave. I am stepping off the plantation; I am leaving both plantations. I am setting out to follow the creek to where the waters run like a river.
I understand that this causes both masters to disown me but I have to seek out my own property to nurture and grow. I want to help cultivate a culture that seeks reconciliation across all land and water, but through grace and truth. I want to help pioneer a place that raises the standards of morality in our nation, a place that can stand up for the truth and not be silent about injustice. We will write our constitution as the foundation for new rules in an effort to change the narrative. This is our time and this is our land.
“But let justice flow like water, and righteousness like an unfailing stream.” Amos 5:24
“Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city.” Revelation 22:1-2