This weekend I traveled to New York City to march with faith leaders. I’m an unlikely protestor and in the past, I’d be far more likely to be in NYC to catch a show on Broadway than to march down Broadway chanting “Black lives matter, brown lives matter, all lives matter.”
Several friends wondered why I would participate in a peaceful protest, and here is my simple response:
1. Martin Luther King once commented that one day, he would remember “not the words of his enemies, but the silence of his friends”. I stand in solidarity with friends. Even if I do not understand every intricate detail of each individual case, the one thing that I clearly understand is that my brothers and sisters are deeply hurting. I have heard friends in immense sorrow and tears, and know I am invited to “mourn with those who mourn.”
2. The issue of race is intimately personal to me. As a dad of both black and white children, I ache at the knowledge that my children will be treated differently. I long for the day when my children “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This dream is not yet a reality.
3. I want to publically acknowledge that there is a serious problem. Growing up in the suburbs and working internationally, I’ve been largely insulated from the tangled issues of race in my own backyard. Today in America, men and women with darker skin are forced to play by a different set of rules. “Liberty and justice for all” simply isn’t delivering on its lofty promise. Bonhoeffer once commented that “The church’s responsibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” I want to be a part of putting a spoke in the wheel.
4. I want to learn. Traveling to NYC allowed me time to engage in hard conversations about complex issues. The tangled roots to these issues run deep into our nation’s history, and there are no easy answers. I want to listen well, ask thoughtful questions, and try and understand what we can do. The world is broken our role is to bring healing and restoration —to enact God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven”. God has given each of us has a role to play in the healing of our wounded nation, and I desperately want to understand what mine is.
5. I passionately believe in the power of prayer. Walking from City Hall to the NYPD headquarters, we prayed for our nation. We interceded for the families impacted. We asked the Prince of Peace to reign in our hearts and in our world.
Some of my friends expressed concern that participating in a march would undermine the majority of police who are honest and hard-working. Unexpectedly, I had the immense privilege of walking side by side with several dozen police officers in uniform. Whether they were there to keep an eye on us, to offer protection, or to walk in solidarity was unclear. However, spending time with them afforded me the honor of being able to personally thank them for their service, and acknowledge the importance and difficulty of their jobs. Several responded with gracious words of thanks for our presence.
The march is over, and frankly a two hour walk down Broadway was the easy part. It is time to roll up our sleeves and begin the hard work of continuing to thoughtfully engage in a painful, hard conversation, and actively pursuing healing. If you are unsure of where to start, allow me to offer three simple suggestions:
1. Develop friendships. Many of us have carefully constructed walls around lives that are lived far too safely surrounded by people that look just like us. Jesus intends for the Gospel to tear down each of our walls. If you do not have deep and significant friendships with people of different races or colors, it’s time to make that happen.
2. Listen actively. Temporarily suspend judgment and be “swift to hear and slow to speak”– not in an attempt to form your counterpoint, but with an earnest desire to truly understand.
3. Be creative in your personal response. As one simple action, I’ve altered my “speaker request form” to include a question of whether or not the organization has intentionally had a diverse set of speakers. If the past, present, and future speaking lineup is all white males, then I will politely decline and make more room for other voices.
If you have other ideas of specific ways to meaningfully work for change, please let me know. We are in this together.