The anger is obvious. The protests are overflowing with both controlled resentment and out-of-control rage as if they are competing for the headlines. We applaud the peaceful protests and scorn the violent and fruitless ones. One race, for the most part, understands and shares in the disappointment, frustration and anger. The other race(s), in general, do not really understand the outrage while mocking and chastising those that disagree with what seemed to be a fair judgment to not indict those officers. Though I can’t say that I should expect someone to fully understand who hasn’t walked in those shoes. Social media has given everyone a bullhorn to voice opinions (like this one) and emotions. And in the midst of it all there doesn’t seem to be a solution.
It seems that law enforcement, the judicial system, and even Jesus is not working for black people. And sadly, these sentiments are even shared by many Christians. From my vantage point though, the NFL football player Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints said it best on Facebook, “It is a SIN problem.” Most people do not want to hear that. His interview was coincidentally cut off on CNN as he was literally in the middle of sharing the Gospel, the SOUL-ution to all our ills in society.
A young brother was sharing with me how he brought Jesus into the conversation on the Ferguson events and even his family and friends were a bit condescending towards his assertion as if to say he was being naïve and irrelevant for daring to insert God in this at all. I tried to encourage him to never stop speaking that truth, to not be afraid to share what he believes and knows to be true.
See, we aren’t talking about some empty religion we practice on Sunday mornings. We’re trying to interject THE relationship that is SUPPOSED to transform the heart. We believe in a relationship that is SUPPOSED to inject a spirit of love in the hearts of the oppressed and the oppressor, the offended and the offender. We boldly proclaim a relationship that is SUPPOSED to take the racism, abuse of authority, or fear that may be the fuel for police officers who provoke or use poor judgment leading to the death of black men, and soften their hearts toward them. But this relationship is also SUPPOSED to take tired, resistant, cynical and at times fearful black men and give them words and attitudes that disarm rather than threaten the police officers that are sworn to protect them. This is why we reintroduce Jesus into the equation for resolution. It’s what MLK did during the Civil Rights movement. It’s what Harriett Tubman clung to as she forged hope for slaves in the South. It’s what Sojourner Truth preached to a generation of children who would listen to her, “My children, there is a God who hears and sees you…and when you are beaten and cruelly treated, or fall into any trouble, you must ask help of him and he will hear and help you,” her words echoing to all who are receptive today.
Suffering in seasons of our lives are inevitable for us all (no matter the race). God never guarantees there will be no suffering, but much like a bodybuilder under the heaviness of barbells and dumbbells, he manipulates the suffering to strengthen us. As a nation we are suffering under the weight of still strained race relations. The tragedies between police officers and particularly black men and the ensuing violence from what may seem like injustice is similar to a teenager who is cutting themselves. We hurt, so we want to see and feel the pain and we want others to recognize it as well. It becomes necessary. The soul of a nation has been slow to heal from its past. So what is the most relevant soul-ution?
Jesus is only relevant when he is in the hearts of men and not just in the empty rhetoric of the hypocrite or the ignorant that merely enter and exit a church building once or twice a week. Jesus is only relevant when we realize that behavior modification and its national dialogue in the aftermath of such tragedy is insufficient.
After all these decades we still haven’t written enough laws to change this perpetual nightmare in our communities. After all the news coverage, documentaries and specials on television regarding race relations we are still marching, protesting, and angry.
I speak as a black man racially profiled, harassed, and followed in my own neighborhoods on three occasions in three different states. I speak as a man in those situations, staring in the eyes of “hate with a badge” as he tries to provoke me into the stupidity of an impulsive and belligerent reaction. I speak as a man who also knows the voice of a God in my heart that speaks and quiets my soul so that I don’t contribute to any escalation leading to my mother’s grief. I speak as a man who still gets nervous when a police officer passes by, looking in the rear view mirror wondering when he will make that U-turn and position himself behind me until he decides I “fit the description,” or a convenient description of some sort. I speak as a best friend and brother of a police officer who risks his life to protect and serve. And I speak as a man whose heart has been transformed and kept by the grace of God unmoved and unwilling to stop living up to my greatest potential while representing my family, my race, and most importantly, my God.
Some will vehemently disagree with me and that’s ok. Know that I too vehemently disagree with them. It’s not a question of whether Jesus is relevant in these times. It’s a question of whether or not I want him to be…to be the SOUL-ution we need.