A Letter to Other White, American Christians

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What have we become? Would Jesus recognize us as His own if He came back to earth today?

Have we learned nothing from MLK’s scathing rebuke of “the white moderate” written to white evangelical leaders nearly 55 years ago? Are we, the Christians of 2018, in danger of being the next generation of evangelicals to find themselves on the wrong side of history?

Shame on us. Shame on the millions upon millions of people just like me who are content with pursuing “a negative peace which is the absence of tension rather than a positive peace which is the presence of justice“.

Shame on us for being content with walking into our churches Sunday after Sunday, brushing shoulders with people who look just like us, filling ourselves up with positive messages and a sense of goodwill… only to go back into a dark, unjust world full of people who are desperate for help, and when we see them, choosing to look the other way.

Shame on us for spending so much of our money, time and energy to make sure that we are secure, safe and insulated from the problems that affect poorer communities. For willingly and publicly flying across the world for a week at a time to serve kids in other countries, but choosing to look the other way at the same problems and injustices that affect other children in our community just a few miles down the road.

Shame on us for hiding in our nice cars, our nice homes, our nice schools and our nice neighborhoods, patting ourselves on the back for how skillfully we managed our resources and networks in order to create positive outcomes for ourselves and our families… conveniently forgetting the help we got along the way from our parents, grandparents, family members, friends and our government who all played a part in subsidizing our educations, our down payments, our lifestyles and our retirement accounts.

Shame on us for hiding behind our political parties and ideologies, claiming that they don’t value education or hard work. That they should be fine with being separated from their kids at our own border while trying to flee violence and seek refuge in a safer place… after all, they “are not our kids”. That their reasons for immigrating to our country are somehow different and less virtuous than the reasons of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents… somehow conveniently forgetting that roughly 2% of people in America are truly native to America. Have we forgotten that we were once foreigners in our own country as well?

Shame on us for cleverly absolving ourselves of responsibility to do anything about the harsher living conditions of our brothers and sisters. How clever of us to bundle every single “controversial” issue related to social justice, educational equality, housing reform, immigration and racial equality into a “liberal issue” package that is socially acceptable to discard, ignore or demonize when we’re with other people like us.

Shame on us for trying to use to our religion to justify these behaviors. For implying (but not directly saying) that following Jesus the right way means being a “good American”. For putting our faith and our pride in our patriotism rather than the cross.

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We have sinned. We have become like the Pharisees, turning our noses up at injustice and the poor. We are content to blame their condition on their own faults rather than choosing to take a hard look inward and ask how we might have contributed to their present state. We look down on the urban community, insisting they “fix themselves” before we entertain the thought of welcoming them in as part of our “safe”, gated communities of privilege and power. Is it any wonder that people are hesitant to listen to us when we try to share the gospel with them?

To other white, Christian Americans: do we look like Jesus? Do we burn for justice like Jesus did? Do we stop our busy routines for one minute to listen to the stories of those who are suffering and then help them like Jesus did? Do we listen to his teaching to “sell our possessions and give to the needy”? Do we ignore God’s command to love the foreigner, the immigrant, the migrant and the refugee? Do we somehow forget the vivid, clear, foreboding and harrowing warnings from our own Bible about what God will do to anyone who deprives justice from the poor and the oppressed? Are we blind to the fact that “the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow and the orphan” includes immigrants and people whose skin doesn’t look like ours?

We can’t sit on the sidelines anymore. Either we repent of our shared sin as it relates to how we’ve idolized “American” values at the expense of helping our neighbor… or we become even more unrecognizable from the creator of our own faith.

Oh, how we’ve drifted from what’s really important—that we were all dead, poor, without hope and without life before Jesus worked some amazing act of grace in our lives. Have we forgotten that Jesus loves us independent of our social standing, our yearly earnings, the value of our cars and homes, and the perceived “quality” of our neighborhoods and schools? Or do we follow a Christianity that is more American than Christian — one that is more concerned with security, status and individual (or family) success than sharing the grace and love of our Lord with those who are in desperate need of hearing and receiving it?

We must repent. I fear that if we don’t change and repent of our shared ignorance and refusal to pursue and support and fight for justice for everyone in America, we might find ourselves on the wrong side of a harsh lesson about God’s justice and judgment.

Oh, Lord, help us. We need you and desperately want to look more like you. Forgive us and show us how to use our resources and privilege to lift others up, and not just those who look like us. Give us courage to speak up for those whose voices aren’t being heard. Make us look more like you.

Help us, Jesus.

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