In all my years of watching Presidents speak before congress and a national television audience, I’ve never known a member of the house to shout out, “you’re a liar” to the President. In just eight short months, I’ve heard our President called a racist, unpatriotic, hitler, a socialist, and the anti-Christ. The real sad news here is that some of those using these terms to describe President Obama are Christians. Some of those who are called biblically to be, “ambassadors of reconciliation” are turning out to be, angry name-callers influenced less by Jesus and more by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
Now, there were some mainline Christians doing the same thing during the Bush presidency, which is no better. Why can’t we have ideological differences and still show some sense of intellect and maturity? Today, going to a town hall meeting can be a very dangerous place.
You might not like this next statement, but there are some who believe that the fire of anger against the President of the United States of America has been turned up for more than just ideological disagreements. Here’s the question some people don’t like, “is this about race?” Uh Oh. Why did I have to go there?
When George W. Bush was in office and he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no one yelled at him during a speech before congress, “Liar!” This was the case even though it turned out he wasn’t telling the truth. We won’t call him a liar, we’ll just say he didn’t have all the right information Fox News Commentator, Glenn Beck believes President Obama hates White people and White culture. I guess he forgot what color the President’s mother’s side of the family is. You might not want to deal with it, but the reality could be that if you’re the President and happen to be Black, you can’t expect the same level of respect.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…” (Areatha Franklin)
R-A-C-E, find out if it’s really still playing a role in our behavior (Efrem Smith)
Dr. Henry Louis Gates recently was the victim of racial profiling at his own home by the Cambridge Police Department. A woman called the police believing someone was breaking into a house in her neighborhood when it was just Dr. Gates himself entering his own home. Now, I’m not here to beat up on the Cambridge Police Department and I assume the role of a police officer is not easy. I must say that the role of being African-American in the United States may be just as, if not more dangerous than that of being a police officer though. I also want to say that unfortunately, I know exactly how Dr. Gates feels.
Just a few months ago, I was at the home of an African-American family that are members of the church where I serve as senior pastor. There was another African-American family there as well who also are members of our church. We realized right before eating dinner that we could use some more sodas and something for dessert. I and the two other African-American guys decided to go to a local grocery store. On the way to the store, I was followed for about 3 blocks by a police car. I looked to see if I was speeding, I wasn’t. The next thing I know the police lights were flashing and I was pulling over.
A White police officer came to the car door and right away I saw another police car pull up behind us. The officer asked for my ID and proof of insurance. That seemed normal, but he also asked for the ID’s of the two other African-American men in the car with me. This made no sense to me, but one of the African-American men in the car with me, cautioned me to stay calm. It was hard for me to stay calm, because I couldn’t understand why we had been pulled over in the first place or why everyone in the car had to provide ID. Nevertheless, I stayed calm. After about ten minutes the officer came back to the car, gave us back our ID’s and sent us on our way. I guess it’s a good thing I stayed calm or just like Dr. Gates, I may have been arrested that night. Do I need to say again, I was pulled over for nothing.
I need to make it clear that this was not the first time this has happened to me. The two other men in the car with me said this happens to them often. We are all college educated, working jobs, and providing for our families. Neither one of us have kids out of wedlock or have prior records of being incarcerated. None of us had a warrant out for our arrest. We all live in the suburbs. Just think what life is like for urban African-American males who don’t live at the level of Black privilege like us.
The question becomes, “how long do you stay calm before you cry out about the injustice and sin of racism and racial profiling? Dr. Gates is older than me and perhaps like Rosa Parks years ago, he decided enough is enough. In my calm opinion, all the police officer had to do was allow Dr. Gates to cry out and then he should have left. All the police officer had to do was leave the house owned by Dr. Gates, while Dr. Gates stood on his own front steps and cried not only for himself but for many African-Americans who have stayed calm too long, I being one of them. This in no way is to say that we shouldn’t respect the police. I just didn’t realize until now I guess that the police were above saying, “I’m sorry.” In the case of one White police officer saying sorry or admitting a mistake will never be an option.
It’s important that my White evangelical brothers and sisters not let Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh give the proper perspective on seeing this issue. Jesus had the ability in Scripture of seeing the world from the vantage point of the child, the woman, the Samaritan, and the poor. Why are some evangelical conservatives only willing to see this from the vantage point of the police officer? I know that Dr. Gates isn’t poor, but he does represent the historically marginalized in our nation. And please don’t down-size this social sin to victimization. I’m not a victim, I’m just an African-American male who gets pulled over by the police from time to time for no reason. This is why, I’m with Dr. Gates on this one and you should be too.
We are in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural world. This is the reality around us, it’s the soil we are growing up in. Day by day, week by week, month by month, we are becoming more and more diverse. We are not only in an ever-increasing multicultural world, we are also in a more urban world. The world around us is more multi-ethnic, multicultural, urban, and technological.
In the midst of this reality, according to author and church planting leader Dave Olson, the American church is in crisis. According to his book, the American Church in Crisis, less than 20% of Americans are in church on any given Sunday. Could it be that there is a connection between the United States of America becoming more and more diverse and the church declining? I believe there is because in the midst of growing diversity in the nation, the church for the most part remains segregated by race.
Christian sociologist Michael Emerson states that only 7% of the church in the United States is multiracial. This is based on the multiracial church being defined as one where the predominant group is no larger than 80%. In a diverse nation, the church remains a church in black and white. There is a need for more beloved children of God to join the reconciling movement of building, Post-Black, Post-White churches.