6 steps to take in the wake of George Floyd’s death
Sunday, May 31 – 11:55am
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthains 5:18-20
Like you, I woke up this morning in the wake of much hurting and worry, quickly trying to catch up on the news of what happened last night in Raleigh and across the country. The grief and frustration over George Floyd’s death has only been compounded by the eruption of violent protests, but to be quite clear, in the storm of sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent protests, there has been a steady cry of lament and demand for change coming from our neighbors of color. As we’re quite literally picking up the pieces this morning this is simply not a time to turn away, ignore, or refuse to engage. If we believe what Paul says above, that because we have been reconciled to God we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation, then we need to not turn away but to engage.
Here are 6 steps you can take in the wake of last night. You’ll notice most of these are geared towards a white audience and written from a white perspective (my own); hopefully that comes not as an offense to anyone reading but as an attempt to help our white brothers and sisters stay in step with the rest of our family.
1. Stop and lament
Really, do this. We are predisposed towards being quick to generate something to do, some action to take, and just the other day on Instagram Pastor Bryan Loritts urged against starting with solutions. Specifically he said, “I don’t want to use solutions as hand sanitizer for a guilty conscience.”
If you don’t know where to start in this, start at George Floyd’s death. Imagine this from the point of view of your neighbors of color, what it was like to see video footage of yet another Black man, one who maybe even looks like your brother or father or son, gasping for air on the pavement. Start with employing empathy to “grieve with those who grieve.” (Rom.12:15) Work your way outward in circles, praying for George Floyd’s family and friends, the people who knew him in his community, the people who saw him on the news and wept at the thought of something similar happening to those they love.
Lament over the countless deaths like George Floyd. Lament over the lack of change that has occurred since tear gas was fired on protestors in Selma, Alabama in March of 1965. Lament over persistent inequality, injustice, and insensitivity. Be willing to take this next step of reflection: would you lament over any ways you’ve contributed, knowingly or unknowingly, to the problem? For whatever reason, one thing I’ve been thinking about this morning is the jokes about Black people I laughed at in high school, all of which I wish I would’ve outright condemned. I realize that doesn’t fix the broken windows in downtown Raleigh right now, but to ignore the connection is to miss how big the problem is.
Feel this lament. Historically, white Western Protestant Christianity has been suspicious of emotion, quick to put away grief and sadness because those feelings don’t feel very Christian to us. But that’s not how Jesus carried himself in the world—see him weep over Lazarus in the grave (John 11:35). Before we start trying to fix things, let’s grieve with those who grieve.
2. Gather people to pray.
Absolutely you should pray on your own. Pray right now. But in the wake of last night, we should gather people to pray so that we can intercede for our community as a community. You can do so however you’re comfortable, either in person with safe social distancing measures in place, or over Zoom or the phone. Cultivate what unites us in the gospel of Jesus, what breaks down dividing walls of hostility, and the ultimate act of peacemaking on the cross. Pray for restoration and for justice, that God would bring healing and reconciliation out of hurt and strife, and that he would use us as ministers of reconciliation.
3. Put your money where your mouth is.
I realize in the time of COVID-19 many people are in financially difficult places, but everyone reading this post most likely has at least $1 they can put towards helping your neighbors right now. We’ll add resources here as they come to light in the coming days:
Carroll’s Kitchen had a window smashed in during last night’s protest. Any donation would be helpful for them right now.
Also, consider taking this opportunity to donate to one of Vintage’s other ministry partners that specifically focus on ministering to marginalized men and women in our area:
Corral Riding Academy
Raleigh Rescue Mission
Refugee Hope Partners
4. Make a plan to educate yourself.
Here are a list of helpful resources to educate yourself on the issues at hand. They’re most helpful for identifying ways to empathize with our neighbors of color and their experiences, to see the systems and structures that work against them and in favor of their white counterparts, and to prepare to take action in legitimately helpful (rather than just well-meaning) ways. Note that this means putting yourself in a position of humility as a learner; this requires acknowledging that you and I don’t understand everything going on and that we could use insight. But this is also a position of passivity, of taking in information. If all we do is read and yet the way we talk to our neighbor, act on social media, spend our money, and even vote remains unchanged, then reading a book isn’t good enough (on this point I personally feel the most conviction). Consider getting folks together to read one of these with you; if the book has questions for discussion in it, take that as a cue that you should find someone to discuss it with. This is just a quick list of helpful resources:
5. Prepare for the next time you’ll need to confront someone over racially insensitive remarks, racial bias, or ignorance over current events.
This is from another pastor, Pastor Jerome Gay, who on social media this morning said, “There cannot be reconciliation without confrontation.” Think of a world confronted with God on a cross; the moral issues of racism and inequality can’t go away by well-wishing or ignoring, and ministers of reconciliation can’t do their work without getting involved.
Many of us, myself included, have seen these moments for confrontation breeze by, when someone says something shocking or unsettling and we stay mute in stunned silence. Our silence in these moments does nothing but give room for injustice. This maybe makes you think of a relative you know is predisposed to insensitive remarks or bad jokes, a neighbor who is excited about their rising home value which has come only at the cost of pricing out longtime Black residents of the neighborhood, a boss who isn’t leading your company in fair practices, a friend who repeatedly talks of current events without any sign of empathy for those involved. I don’t mean to toss around quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., but this one hits home with me: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Prepare to not let these moments fly by in your family, friends, and social networks. Prepare to advocate for those who likely aren’t represented in these circles, or who don’t have a voice in them.
6. Make a plan to act (and of course, do it)
Pastor Bryan Loritts pointed out on Instagram yesterday the three God-given institutions we can work within to see gospel change happen: the family, the government, and the church. There is much that can be said about how to take action in these three arenas, but I’ll list one idea for each.
Family: plan to have a conversation with your family about race. This is perhaps with your children on the value of the Image of God in all people, with your parents who are reading the news differently than you right now, with your spouse who is maybe at a different point in this discussion than you. Have the conversation with an eye towards areas for growth to “count others as more significant than yourself.” (Phil 2:3) Don’t pull back—engage.
Government: Perhaps this very moment isn’t a time for peaceful protest, but there will be one. In addition, leverage the representative government God gave us for other people’s benefit. Write to your congressperson, go to town hall meetings and ask what leaders are doing to benefit marginalized members of the community, research who you vote for and ask if they serve all members of their constituency or just ones that look like you. Don’t pull back—engage.
Church: Help us. Partner with our ministry partners, ask for more diverse representation in leadership, worship settings, teaching, etc., come to member’s nights and ask thoughtful questions, be agents in our city that work to the benefit of all members of the city. Don’t pull back—engage.