Last night saw protestors marching in the streets of Atlanta. As I watched the various livestreams, the people I saw marching gave me hope for humanity. As I read the comments streaming in on the feed, that hope for humanity faded pretty quickly. I just want to take a second to unpack a few of the comments that stood out to me.
1) “Monkey see, monkey do”
Actually, I don’t need to talk about this one. I’m sure it was just a completely innocent usage of a figure of speech. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the commenter appeared white (based on their prof pic) and the group that was marching was predominantly black. Racism’s dead, so, yeah, ok, moving on…
2) “GO TO WORK! This is what happens when people don’t have jobs”
Yes, clearly if you’re protesting at 10:30 pm on a Friday night, you don’t have a job. I guess this guy’s boss is just cool with him sitting on facebook commenting on a live feed at 10:30 on a Friday night while at work. Seriously though, why is it that every time we see a protest there’s an assumption that the people don’t have a job? Why is there this inherent need to assume that they are the lowest of the low? It’s this “what do you have to lose?” mentality that assumes that the only reason to protest is that you have nothing at all. You can’t be mad at injustice unless you’re unemployed and on welfare (See also: All the anger at Colin Kaepernick because we don’t perceived him as oppressed enough). Is it that we’re actually aware of institutionalized forms of racism (and our own complicity in them) that prevent many black Americans from having the same opportunities we have? Whatever it is, I can say with some certainty that many of these people have jobs. I can point to one for certain. One of those folks was Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church. You know, Dr. King’s church. But, feel free to continue to disrespect this movement as a bunch of unruly troublemakers with nothing better to do.
3) “They need to pray to ALMIGHTY GOD, because only HE can fix this!!”
Putting aside the projection of masculinity onto God for a sec, let’s just think for a minute. This is more or a less a different form of the “it’s not a skin problem, it’s a sin problem” argument. Somehow the admission that racism might exist leads us to just pass the buck up the road to God. “It’s not our fault, it’s sin, God will fix it!” But another element of this is the assumption that God isn’t a part of this movement. (To counter, I would point out one of the most powerful moments of last night, when the group stood outside the prison singing Lift Every Voice and Sing)
Somehow, we decide that if someone is protesting, then they aren’t praying.
Can you not walk and pray? Are you worried you’d trip and fall or something? Like trying to text and walk and winding up in a fountain?
“Little children, how bout let’s not just love with pie-in-the-sky ideals or just more talk, but in action and truth.” (1 Jn 3.18, my trans.)
We aren’t expected to just talk and pray and expect that to fix everything all of the time. Christian life is not one-dimensional. We’re expected to get out and do, too. Sometimes, we can even do both at the same time. You can have faith in God to answer your prayers, you can believe that faith can move mountains, while also taking action. You can pray all you want for rain to make your crops grow, but you’d better pick up a hoe every now and again, too.
“So, faith, if it’s all by itself and has no action, is as good as dead!” (Jas 2.17, my trans.)
So, keep on praying, but get up and walk a bit, too. Jesus didn’t just sit in the synagogue lecturing for the entirety of his ministry. That man got up, he gathered a crowd, and he marched, raising awareness of the injustice of this world everywhere he went.
I mentioned that Dr. Warnock of Ebeneezer Baptist Church was present last night. A friend and classmate at Candler who attends Ebeneezer was streaming Warnock’s address to the protestors, and I had the fortune to turn on the sound just in time to hear the following quote. I leave you with this:
“We win, when we stand together! We win, when we march together! We win, when we fight together! We win, when we pray together!
Whether you’re a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, we win when we pray together! We win, when we stand together!”