For the past five or so days I've been struggling to come to grips with how I feel about the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As a 61 year old white guy, I am culturally isolated from being able to fully empathize with the black community. But it's a horrific event. I'm not going to repeat what happened because it's all over the news. Yesterday, May 31st saw protests all across the country and in my home town of Spokane, Washington too. All of the protests started peacefully and for the organizer's intent, ended peacefully. But others with violent intentions took over after the peaceful protesters left (for the most part) and proceeded to riot, loot, and harm others. I hate that this happens because it demeans the purpose of the protests. Martin Luther King, Jr. deplored the same thing happening during his battle against racism back in the 1960's.
My writing today isn't about rioting though. It's about reaching a personal tipping point about race relations in the USA. I like to think I'm a pretty unprejudiced guy. I grew up in lily-white Spokane and have had no events in my life to make me think ill of people different from me. I spent my senior year at Lewis and Clark High School which has always had a pretty diverse population, being on the lower south hill bordering downtown. But it's not like I was living in the Bronx though. So I've gone through my life with a few Black, Asian, and Hispanic friends here and there. Fast forward to the past two years. My church, Shiloh Hills Fellowship, about as white a Baptist church as you could find anywhere, invited a young black pastor to lead our church on our Pastoral staff. I was personally tickled by this because he is a dynamite preacher. Super challenging, biblically on top of things, young - all the things I was praying for. The fact that he's black is just dessert. The reason for that last opinion is that at my ripe old age of 60-ish I realize how isolated I am. I've become self-aware enough to realize there's a lot I have to learn. So not only am I growing spiritually (let me remind you of the challenging part), I have the opportunity to see my church become more diverse. That can only be to our benefit, sharing Christ and showing that His Love has no barriers. It has been wonderful. Not only am I getting to know Pastor Thomas, but he has helped attract others to our church that I get the privilege of serving with. What a terrific opportunity to grow!
But then last week happened. And suddenly I feel the distance. Not because of anything said or intimated, but rather I feel in myself the inability to really put myself in their shoes. I don't know what to say, to do, but I feel probably for the first time, fear for my friends. These are people I love in my life. Though Thomas is nearly half my age, I have learned so much from him and he is gracefully challenging me out of my comfort zone. Then there's Charles, another young man who is heading toward a life serving God in ministry. Denise and Angie who I have sung with on our Worship Team. And there are others. Paraphrasing Francis Schaeffer a bit, how do I now live? For the first time in my life I actually fear for these brothers and sisters in Christ. I feel helpless and angry that they have to live with this. And I realize that "white privilege" is real. I want to hang my head in shame for coming so late to the game, as it were. But I'm here now.
So count me among those who believe that we have a problem in our country. I want to believe that the vast majority of our country cherishes all life and that what we see on the news is the noisy minority. But I don't know that I can do that any longer. I thought people I count as friends would be level-headed in a crisis but I've seen too many losing their minds about being in quarantine for two months. Two Months! How can I believe that racists are in the minority? Indifference is a luxury I can no longer live with. So I will probably do this badly and hope for grace from my black friends. Hopefully they'll see my heart and help me grow. They can teach me how to be helpful, empathetic, and loving. Because that's where the bar is that Christ set. Loving God. Loving others. There's no distinction in the Bible about that. I look forward to the growth.