Editor’s Note: This article was written within a week of several high-profile killings of African Americans; horrible video. It remains sadly relevant. The names change, but the story stays sadly and horribly familiar. We keep this up and re-post it in hopes that it will be of some help as you pray and mourn.
I remember the first black man I watched die on Twitter. His name was Eric Garner. I remember the last black man I watched die on Twitter. His name was Philando Castile. I don’t watch anymore, a decision Isaac and I discussed recently.
Now there is another terrible video.
If you’re anything like me, your reaction to this horrible scene includes wet eyes and a face hot with a mixture of rage and despair.
And that’s just the videos in which we watch someone die. There are also the videos depicting flagrant acts of racism–excessive force, calling the police on children, or threatening a black man with a false accusation when he asks for compliance with posted leash-laws. Not to mention the fact that we know there’s not always a video.
Christian, despite what I see on social media, I’m going to step out on a limb and assume a few things of you. I’m going to assume you believe racism is evil. I’m going to assume watching these videos makes you sick. I’m going to assume you want to do something with the feelings these videos evoke. What follows is a short list of things Christians, especially white Christians, can do:
Pray. Pray, pray, pray. Then pray some more. The pixelated body in the video is a person made in God’s image. He or she leaves behind loved ones who desperately need the comfort of our God in these dark days (Psalm 34:18). Pray for them, and pray that what happened to their loved ones would stop happening. And, yes, pray for the killers as well.
Lament. According to Mark Vroegop, “lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.” These videos and the events they depict are examples of the worst of this broken world. It is right to feel horrible about them. Don’t make light, and don’t run from the darkness of it too quickly, lest you harden your conscience against this evil.
Act. As I’ve written previously, feeling badly about racism, whether in ourselves or our society, is not enough. I fear some people might even watch videos like these as an act of some kind of emotional penance. We need to remember that godly grief produces repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Speak out. White Christian, these videos might make you feel as badly as you’ve felt in a long time. Remember that your black brothers and sisters don’t need videos like this to remind them of racism in America. Black mothers of black men think about this every day, for example. Your black brothers and sisters need to know that you care about them, and that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Shut up. You won’t have to look far on social media to see examples of Christians callously trying to explain this death away. There are a million unhelpful things one can say that can make light of the life lost or deepen the pain felt by those already hurting. Don’t be like one of Job’s friends. Consider your words and timing, lest you increase sorrow and sin (Proverbs 10:19).
Examine yourself. Sin always starts small. Many of us can not picture ourselves pointing a shotgun or threatening someone with a false accusation. But what about your instinctive fear of a black man you see on the street? What about laughing at a racist joke? What about ignoring racist comments by someone you could confront? We may excuse such smaller sins, but King Jesus doesn’t (Matthew 5:22).
Think about what you can change. These videos force us to confront the brutal reality that our country is not what it must be. It did not get this way accidentally. It will not change without corrective action. White Christian, when did matters of racial justice inform a major decision you made? The neighborhood you live in, the friends you make, the candidates you vote for are all opportunities to affect change as an act of faithfulness to God and love of neighbor. I’m not saying that race has to be your main consideration in every decision, but these videos scream that it cannot be ignored (James 2).
This list is by no means exhaustive. But I hope it helps get you started. I offer it not to shame anyone but to invite us all to consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrew 10:24). I hope this is helpful as you process.
- Pray for the families of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor.
- Pray that these horrible situations would stop happening.
- Pray that God would show you any specs of hidden racism in your own heart.
- Pray that God would give you wisdom for how to act in light of existing injustice.