“I don’t want to get too political.”

At my church, we recently wrapped up a five-week study on how Christians interact with politics. The major take-away from the study is that we are always citizens of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the State. Navigating our dual citizenship is often tricky business. I personally have an added layer of trickiness as a pastor—one of the things I strive to do is to be apolitical—to carry out my call of proclaiming God’s law and gospel without entering into a world of Red vs. Blue. I have my own personal political opinions and I vote according to certain political convictions, but I don’t broadcast them. I don’t want political divisions to hinder my gospel proclamation. That wouldn’t be fair to my congregation or to the call which they’ve extended to me.

“I don’t want to get too political.”

When George Floyd was murdered while in police custody on May 25, I, like many others, saw the video. I, like many others, was appalled and outraged. I, like many others, reflected on the instances of this type of injustice against black people in the last decade (and since even before the very founding of this country). I wanted to speak out about it; but, you know.

“I don’t want to get too political.”

Politics is divisive—inherently so when the country is broken down into two major political factions. There are winners and losers, there are “both sides,” there are claims of moral superiority and accusations of moral bankruptcy. There are different information sources with different versions of truth or “alternative facts,” and everyone seems to flock to the outlets that will simply reinforce perspectives they’ve already agreed with. So when it comes to the complicated, multi-faceted issue of race relations, there is much to be said; but, well.

“I don’t want to get too political.”

I couldn’t quite figure it out. I struggled with how to approach this as a pastor and as a leader with a voice in the Christian community. I want to use that voice, but I wasn’t sure how, because…OK, you get the idea by now.

But over the past week I’ve seen beautiful posts and videos from brother pastors speaking up publicly—thoroughly, patiently, gracefully. And you know what? They said things that people might consider “political.” They talked about the sinfulness of racism. They talked about confronting our inner biases and exposing racist thoughts in our hearts. They spoke in support of George Floyd and his family, and they spoke against the mistreatment of black people over the years. I applauded them for their boldness and tenacity of proclaiming law and gospel even in a politically charged arena.

Thanks to their boldness and efforts, I’ve been able to articulate something that had been bothering me not just for the past week but for the past few years: Race is politicized, but it’s not necessarily political. There is a difference between being political and being perceived as being political. The former isn’t a good idea for someone in my position. The latter? Well, that’s why I’m writing this post. I want you, reader, to see that confronting racism is not a political move; it is a necessary one. And if you want to argue that race is a political issue, let me ask you…how can someone’s very existence be political?

This blog post has been far too much about me and my feelings. I want to close it by doing the thing I’ve been writing about but not actually doing: speaking against racism and the mistreatment of the underprivileged members of our society.

Make no mistake: racism is a sin. The Apostle Paul saw his fellow Apostle Peter’s racism against Gentiles and publicly called him on the carpet for it. One of the reasons God punished Miriam in Numbers 12 was because she criticized Moses’ interracial marriage (see verse 1 of that chapter). And, for a positive example, Jesus showed love and compassion to people of all races, giving them far more than just the crumbs that fell off of the Jews’ tables (Matthew 15:27). We need to confront the sins of racism lurking in our own hearts so that we can confront the sins of racism in society. This self-confrontation may mean looking inside ourselves to relearn and re-frame things.

White people, especially, I’m talking about us and to us—we need to examine our presuppositions and implicit biases when it comes to issues of race. Here’s just one example: if your response to the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is to say “All Lives Matter,” what have you just done but marginalized a race that is trying to fight against being pushed into the margins? I can respect the fact that if you have said “all lives matter,” you were doing so with good intentions; but well-intentioned actions can still be racist and wrong. I’ve seen many protest signs that say “All lives can’t matter until black lives do.” I think that sums it up well. Consider these ideas before saying things like “I don’t see color” or “black people kill more black people than cops do” or “I’m not privileged because I’ve worked hard in my life.” We need to deflect less and self-inspect more. We can ask ourselves what the real issues are and how we, personally, can promote peace and healing in society. That starts in our own hearts. It starts by listening to those who are speaking.

Jesus told his disciples in John 13, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They will know we are Christians by our love—not by our deflecting arguments, not by our belittling words, not by our silence on racial prejudice, not by our refusal to introspect, and certainly not by our racism. By our love. Love is the hallmark of Christianity, because love is what motivated Jesus Christ to come to earth and die for all of humankind, every race, to forgive all their sins. He has forgiven our sins of racism. We thank him for his saving love by loving one another.

“I don’t want to get too political.”

But honestly, I don’t think this was political at all. Black lives matter. I’m not taking a political stance with that statement—I’m encouraging you to see Christ’s love for the marginalized, to speak up for what is right, to “love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). Dear Christian: how can you be a light of Christ right now?

JWN

7 thoughts on ““I don’t want to get too political.”

  1. There are several good points to this article – important points – we have to also be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.
    BLM is much more political than you may realize. I find it increasingly reflective on ourselves and on our society that we use Marxist dialectic to argue our point. It’s the proletariat vs the bourgeois, except in this case we changed the words to black versus white.
    More to the point – this is not human error or lack of knowledge. We’ve had Marx drummed into our minds at our universities for at least the past 70 years..
    If we, as Lutherans, are to embrace Marxist dialectic as a part of our Christian faith, we should rescind anything to do with WELS and embrace Catholicism, because we are reflecting to be more followers of Pope Francis than we are of Christ.
    Are people suffering? YES
    What do they need? The love of our Savior. As well as “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
    We do not need another political movement, another riot, another protest, another lockdown. We need sack cloth, prayer and repentence – and we should call all races, all sexual orientations, all nationalities to take a knee, repent of our many,m many, many sins AND turn from our wicked ways.
    THAT is the only way to heal our land

    Like

  2. Thank you for these powerful words and making space for people of color, especially poc of the wels. We’ve been waiting for a voice to fill the void that is most common throughout our synod.
    Blessings on you, yours and your ministry.

    Like

  3. The phrase “all lives matter” is a fundamentally Christian statement. A Christian should feel free to say both black lives matter and all lives matter.

    Like

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