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A Soul Check for White Christians

In the words of MLK, "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

If you are white, Christian, and American, and want your fellow citizens to flourish and prosper together, you should be deeply troubled right now. In fact, “troubled” is too soft a word.

2020 has brought an assault on our senses and a challenge to our very ability to live together as a people. It began with the rancor and strife of the impeachment process—which now seems like a lifetime ago. The coronavirus onslaught ravaged bodies and beat down our spirits. Then came the wave of economic devastation from the lockdown and 40 million Americans filing for unemployment. Now, in rapid-fire succession, the no-knock raid and death of Breonna Taylor, the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the execution of George Floyd, and the rioting and looting of America’s urban centers.

As Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times has pointed out, we have revisited some of the most traumatic experiences of the past century all in the space of five short months—from the Spanish flu in 1918 to the economic crash of 1929 to race-related killings and urban unrest in 1968 to impeachment in 1974. Throughout all this, our leadership, especially in the political and media worlds, has brought more heat than light. There are exceptions, but in general we don’t know whom to trust.

Given everything, we feel disoriented, and many may wonder whether we have lost our moorings about who we are as Christians and Americans. It’s not only natural but right, in response to the mistreatment of our brothers and sisters and fellow citizens, to feel angry. There is a time for righteous anger, and that time is when children of God are robbed of their humanity and denied the most basic of dignities (to freely walk or breathe). ...

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Race, Gospel, and Justice, Part 4: Esau McCaulley on Protests and Riots

There needs to be a public and robust statement that the followers of Jesus are on the side of those who are being unjustly treated.

Ed: My family is from New York City. My grandfather was the first battalion chief for lower Manhattan, and my uncle was a New York City cop. As the city deterioted in those bad times, my parents moved us to a place called Levittown. It was the 1970s, and Levittown was struggling (as was our family).

I would later learn that black people weren't allowed to live in Levittown, and then discouraged to do so after it was legal. It was one of the founding realities of the town. As I kid, I’d wonder why it was all Irish and Italians, but there were no African Americans.

The reason is that structurally it was created so they wouldn't live there. We learn these things, and they undermine the narrative we first understood.

You've helped us to understand these different narratives to gain a better perspective on life from the perspective of African Americans. Now, let's talk about a perspective on protests.

We both agree: Protests are good. Riots are not. Unpack that for us from your context.

Esau: There is a cycle of what happens. There's a racial incident. African Americans protest. Some of those protests from people inside and outside the community turn violent. People say, "Hey, look at this. Why aren't the Christians who are speaking out against the racial injustice equally strong speaking about the riots?"

There are couple of things that I want to say about that. First, there is no real question as to where Christians stand on riots. There isn't a kind of evangelical pro-riot, black riot faction. Therefore, on one level there is not a need to condemn rioting as a form of social protest, because everybody's clear about this.

The problem is that the very people who are mad at us for not ...

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