"This is America. Don't catch you slippin' up."
Donald Glover set the world on fire with his silently not-so-quiet video "This is America" which debuted on SNL a number of weeks ago. If you haven't seen it, Id encourage you to. Don't watch it with small children, but take a second and listen to what he is saying. America is more divided than ever, and we are allowing the false pretense of ignoring major issues to cover the heart wrenching truth that America is culturally and racially more divided and angry than ever. Racism, Murder, Violence, and brokenness are loudly invading our lives and we are silent to its scream.
I instantly thought of our city. Travelers Rest (and Greenville) are growing cities where there is a consistent challenge of navigating cultural fears with racial undertones to rationalize opinions that often were placed by the fearful sin of our fathers. Through decades of fear, anger, murder, hate, and sin we have watched as generations of people have moved from outright hate (read as: fear) for a person's skin has moved into a subconscious state presenting itself through jokes, hushed statements, and looks around the room before telling stories.
I went to school at Charleston Southern, which has a baseball complex named after a victim of the Emmanuel shooting which is alluded to in Glover's video. This week, Roseanne Barr's show was cancelled because of a tweet that crossed the undefined line of joke and racism, as she attributed another human being to being a blend of a monkey from planet of the apes and the muslim brotherhood. Just a few miles up the road from the city Trailside feels such a strong burden to reach and love is a store that proudly states the availability of the confederate flag in multitudes of options of display. Each time I drive by this store it twists my stomach in knots. I think of my friends and family who are African American and how they have shared with me how that place makes them feel. Unwelcome. Angry. Unsafe. My heart (and stomach) lead me to wonder: What if there was a Black Panther Party store on the same property? Would there be outrage? Would we care?
This is America.
The line was and has been absolutely clear as day since the beginning of time: "You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:21)." In addition to that, we find more truth in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." We might as well apply this to ourselves today in the following way: 'There is neither White nor Black, Rich or oppressed, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' If this is true of us today, why in the world do we allow places of distinct racism exist?
The line is very clear: Under Christ, we are all one. Equal. The line is firmly and clearly drawn that racism and the devaluing of any person due to the color of their skin is wrong, and there is no medial quality about it. Although there are defining qualities about different people, they are not qualifying qualities, and there is a huge difference. There are things that make us different that are incredibly important. Michael Scott has a hilarious quote that speaks so well to our culture today. While standing between the office workers and the warehouse, the entire audience can feel the tension brought on by the pressure of political correctness as Scott says: "You may see 2 different people; white collar, blue collar. But I don't, do you know why? I am collar-blind."
What is beautiful about this scene is that it doesn't just make us uncomfortably laugh (the art of The Office), it is actually a pretty straight forward revelation about our culture that so many are trying to work out: in an effort to be understanding and politically correct and sensitive to everyone all at once, we have allowed ourselves to create a false brotherhood united under fear of making someone feel bad instead of honestly moving toward each other in love from the depths of scriptural truth.
What Michael Scott never could have anticipated was how the political climate would mix with the church and create a distinct 'us-vs-them' mentality that has brought us further apart in some areas than we ever were before. There is no place for bigotry to exist, but there must be a place for growth and grace to exist in the midst of sin and brokenness to allow us to grow more like Jesus and less like ourselves- and my fear is that the hairpin trigger built by the us-vs-them culture we have established
Roseanne's snafu has allowed us to see is this: Our culture has allowed famous figures to speak into a truth already established by scripture for how we see each other, and because we have lost what that line is, it is now totally undefined and we are closer than every to a new everything-goes mentality that is going to destroy our culture yet again. (At the time of writing this, another show on another major network is under fire for a crude and disgusting statement made against the First Lady, Melania Trump.) The problem is that we have allowed Politics to become the vehicle for moralism instead of allowing Jesus to mold our hearts toward His and view people the way He does.
I have seen (and sometimes engaged) more believers who spend time defending their political party rather than defending Jesus. The more we make apologies for the political powers in America, the more we allow the enemy to divide and conquer people who should be hellbent on making disciples instead of creating strong proverbial fences for the sake of being able to say "its my turn to be right." This absolutely grieves and breaks my heart.
We have political powers calling people animals and the other side presenting gangs as a family. An entire denomination (well respected) has fallen apart because of a horrific and misguided statement mixing forgiveness and accountability in terms of abuse, along with fear from a big scary theological word that defines a view different than their own. Again, we live in a city where a store which has made most of their profit on a symbol which may for some scream 'heritage' as it does for others scream 'death' is able to more than survive- and the hardest part for me to understand is that we would rather plow our defense against others instead of having honest conversations and change.
Here is the reality: None of those sides are overly right and correct. We have just gotten to a point where we are so reactionary and quick triggered that we have lost the ability to listen and reason for the sake of growth and understanding. I am not saying that Roseanne's show shouldn't have been cancelled. I am not saying that stores should stay open or closed, or that we sweep evil comments under the rug, or that we don't disagree about things ever again. That is all nonsense to argue against.
Here is what I am saying: Evil exists, and evil exists everywhere, even in places that it absolutely shouldn't. My concern is two fold: That we are empowering those who use evil to have a greater platform on which to speak it; and that we are still expecting those who do not know Jesus to act as if they do. Evil is going to exist as long as the world remains unredeemed- but we know that, too, is coming to an end one day.
My hope in this post isn't to give you the answer to fix everything; it is instead to give you a clear understanding that it is already done, and our goal is to point people toward that answer.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! For I have overcome the World."
So then, what is our answer? I think its very clear, although moderately unpopular with those who have so much to gain from the agenda of evil and the divide of people:
Jesus has overcome all things, and we need to make it a point to point people toward Him, and Him alone.
As long as we allow ourselves to run toward everything else for answers, for fulfillment, for understanding, we are going to continue to allow this divide to exist. When we see everything through the lens Jesus provides, our view changes. It is as simple as that! If you want true reform, the hope cannot be in rules, regulations, and tweets: It will only come by a reform of heart.
The true reaction to evil is to be met with a call to repentance and true grace and forgiveness. Our goal as the church is to call evil out as evil and then walk with the brokenness toward the cross of grace. That call is much tougher than reacting on twitter or striking down shows; That call is to put ourselves below others and our feelings aside; That call is to look people in the eyes, disagree with them, open dialogue, and point them toward the Gospel instead of pointing them toward our respected news site.
Ben Shapiro, whom I think is a pretty brilliant guy has a saying: Facts don't care about your feelings. I agree. But Jesus does. Jesus cares about the feelings of the oppressed and marginalized. Jesus cares about the feelings of the racist filled with fear and lack of understanding. Jesus cares about the feelings of the people who have grown tired and weary of the political fight, and are willing to toss aside so many aspects of integrity for the sake to win a few fights.
And Jesus calls all of us to go into those worlds, to call out evil for the sake of repentance, and point people toward the Gospel of healing. Of hope. Of eternity changing understanding and life.
And church, it is time we start doing that very thing.