This isn’t a post for everyone. Anyone is certainly welcome to read it, but the intended audience is me now, my younger self, people out there like us, and any white Christian who has ever thought that a political party represented their faith. This is part lament, part permission slip*, part love letter.
It’s become impossible to ignore the evidence that we are all part of a system that is structured to the advantage of a few (those with wealth and power), the comfort of some (mainly Whites), and the oppression and death of many (mainly Black people and other People of Color). I am not blaming any of us that this is the system we were born into, I am just reminding us that this is the reality. We have been told many things about the government, political figures, history, and truth that downplayed this reality, but it is no longer possible deny the system exists unless we are being purposely dishonest with ourselves.
In light of this, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and what his life and message are telling us during this time. Jesus taught us we must resist corrupt power, the way he resisted the leaders of his day who used religious law against their own people. When corrupt power uses the system to increase its own power at the expense of others, we cannot allow it. When corrupt power excludes, harms, and brutalizes, we must see it, speak up, and act for change.
We are not called to align ourselves with corrupt power and try to nudge it in the direction of our own pet moral victories. We are not called to be political party loyalists or single-issue voters. We are not called to look the other way when wrongs are being committed by those we supported. We are called to follow Jesus. And that means we see and listen to those who are being brutalized by injustice. It means that we see that the way of Jesus is not for the comfort of a few. It means we are compelled to call out injustice and work against it–even when that injustice is caused by people in power in our own institutions who we helped to gain that power.
We are called to see corrupt power for what it is and see everyone it hurts. In fact, we would do well to remember that Jesus was willing to die rather than align himself with corrupt power. There was no end-justifying-the-means in the way Jesus lived. He could have amassed enough support to claim worldly power for himself, but instead he went about talking to women and lepers and Samaritans about a love in which there was no dominance or exclusion or hierarchy. He healed the sick and taught his friends and loved so abundantly that it shocked everyone again and again. What Jesus taught us with his life was that the means are everything for those who follow him.
When we see people taking to the streets, turning over tables and burning down the halls of injustice because they cannot breathe, we should ask ourselves some very hard questions, rather than trying to impose our order on those gasping for air. We have to look at the leaders and institutions and officials we support and examine if our support of them made things worse for Black people and other minorities, even as we got some things we wanted. How do things continually get to the point that this becomes the only option left for so many? How have we allowed their pain and suffering to be ignored for so long?
I’m not attacking a side here. I am addressing every white Christian–myself included–who has turned a blind eye to the oppression, brutality, and suffering of our fellow humans, especially when it was caused by those we support and by the racist system we have refused to address. It’s on all of us who have idol-worshiped a candidate or cause, unquestioningly granting them our loyalty to get what we want, but never calling out when their decisions, words, or policies created or exacerbated conditions to the detriment of others. All of us need to look at the consequences of aligning with people who promise us political victories without ever examining how those leaders use their power against people who don’t look like us.
Fellow White Christians: this must stop. We must love better. We must examine how we have failed to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable. We must give ourselves permission to see this and to grieve and to do better. There is no shame in admitting that someone we thought deserved our support no longer does. There is courage in changing course when it is the right thing to do and we must allow ourselves to do it
Let’s not turn away and try to go back to the way things were. Let’s not push aside the doubts and questions that are bubbling up when we feel grief over what we have seen. Let’s give ourselves permission to follow the way of Jesus–not the way some other authority figure told us it had to be. Not the way that conflates our political affiliation with our faith. The way of Jesus. The way of resisting corrupt power, of a heart that breaks over injustice and lays down its very life for love of others.
This love is more wide and long and high and deep than we can even imagine. It will guide us if we open to it as we learn and change and grow. Let’s listen to those who are crying out for justice. Let’s learn from them and do our work to dismantle the unjust system–both inside our hearts and in the world. Let’s give ourselves permission to let the old be burned away like chaff and be made new.
*I love the way Brené Brown writes about writing permission slips for herself, and her work certainly inspired the thought of writing us all a permission slip. If you think you may find it helpful to write yourself some permission slips, you can find a little more about that practice here.