This morning was very unique, an experience I won't soon forget. Most Sundays we are committed to preach or at our home congregation. Since we arrived home early from our vacation, I decided to attend the massive, well known, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, an African American megachurch just minutes from where we are staying. I've tracked with and appreciated FBCG for years.
As I went to bed last night, I found myself wondering what Pastor John Jenkins would do or say about the events in Charlottesville yesterday. Would he ignore, downplay, or exaggerate the events? After all, the local news stations were already calling asking his response. The topic of his message: Racism! Clear enough? My experience this morning was awkward, but beautiful. Let me share why...
Awkward because I just "happened" to be the only white male (that I could see) in a room of thousands of black worshippers. Whether anyone else felt this way or not, I couldn't help but feel like an oddball in a place I didn't belong. It didn't matter how sweet people were (and they were!). When only one race meets in a space and you join, it creates weird emotions. But I live in Africa! I got this, even though it's very different. But it was awkward. I felt embarrassed for how white people acted yesterday. I felt ashamed that we are still in this place in history. And I felt a weightiness that's hard to describe.
Yet, somehow this experience was beautiful. It was beautiful because Pastor Jenkins called the church to act like Jesus! And they agreed. You knew they longed for the same. You could feel it and sense it all around you. He challenged the church toward a Christ-like response from Romans 12:
- Do not fight fire with fire or evil with evil.
- Recognize and confirm God's perspectives.
- We have a responsibility to cultivate and maintain relationship with those who look different from us.
There wasn't a single word about retaliation. Or payback. Just friendship and love. That's how we win!
And here's what else is beautiful and hopeful. Most people in the United States of America are not racist at all! Very few are (See addition below). It's just that the ones who are get our attention. And the attention of the news agencies.
So, this one white male sat with thousands of black brothers and sisters this morning as they dealt with racism and they committed to the way of love. We got this. We can do this. We are together. There is way more hope than the news and FB are portraying today. All is not lost. Let's keep going.
(Addendum to original post: Let me openly share my regret for the line in this post that says Racism is rare in the US. I've received personal and helpful feedback that I may be living under a rock having spent the last 7 years overseas. Fair enough. I also want to say that perhaps I actually don't have the authority to make some of these claims as a white male. I'm an open processor learning out loud and sharing my experience. Please forgive me if my sentiments were in any way dismissive of the pain you may have felt as a result of racism. I have much to learn still.)