The events of the past month or so have finally started to force some long-needed uncomfortable racial conversations to start happening between Christians.
While this is obviously an encouraging start, as the “racism, misinformation and global pandemic” trifecta shifts into hyperdrive approaching the November election, we need to rapidly move from dipping our toes into the waters of discomfort to instead doing a full-on cannonball, then staying submerged.
Well, to start, group discussions that err on the side of coddling the “well I’ve had it hard too” feelings of non-black church members veer dangerously close to “all lives matter” territory. Before you defensively open your mouth, ask yourself if your ancestors were enslaved by the U.S. government, then, after emancipation, found themselves the victim of a law enforcement/criminal justice system built directly atop this toxic foundation? No? Then stop. Just. Stop.
Actively listen during these discussions, and start praying for a bit of the “Godly sorrow” you felt when first studying the Bible to wash over you again.
Don’t try to change the subject. Stew in your uneasiness. If you absolutely have to run your mouth about something, funnel that urge into a) inquiring into ways that you could help amplify content from black voices and b) calling out those that are trying to dodge these hard truths. This isn’t a social club. It’s time to put on your rebuking pants.
We’ve built up a dangerously-sheltered Christian media ecosystem over many, many years, in an effort to keep “worldly” influences at bay and err on the side of surrounding yourself with fellow believers that can “build each other up.”
Unfortunately, these bubbles (especially on social media platforms, and most especially on Facebook) have become a primary source of information for many people, and their creepy fusion with conservative politics and the desire to avoid “divisiveness” has resulted in a culture of Christians blissfully slamming the “like” button on ridiculous, racist and/or dangerous misinformation, actively avoiding interaction on conversations that challenge their status quo, and tacitly endorsing policies that would make Jesus weep.
Perhaps even more disheartening are the many Christians that avoid social media entirely, for a number of reasons including laziness, lack of curiosity, the desire to avoid being made uncomfortable or an effort to avoid online sexual temptation.
These people will wear a mask (despite the discomfort/inconvenience to themselves) to protect the vulnerable from COVID-19, but won’t put forth the effort to help combat racist, patently incorrect or dangerous content that their fellow church members post online. Weak.
Then again, some are refusing to wearing a mask at all, in which case they don’t need to worry about the toilet paper shortage anymore, since they’re already wiping with the American flag.
Feeling a little bummed by all of this? Now we’re talking. Breathe it in, that’s the good stuff. Some things you can do:
- Pray for your heart to return to the open, curious state it was in when you first started studying the Bible. Dismissing marginalized voices because they don’t line up with your personal Biblical interpretations is in no way noble, but prideful and dangerous.
- If you’re “not on social media,” it’s time to fix that. At this point in history, not participating is no longer acceptable. If you’re a “Facebook and/or Instagram-only” type, it’s time to remove the training wheels and demonstrate that you still have a sense of innate curiosity by exploring some slightly wilder places like Twitter and TikTok. Even Reddit can be instructive, as long as you tread carefully. Seek out those on the margins! Don’t just consume, but participate and create!
- Don’t treat social media as a safe place for you to relax and decompress. There are many other ways to help you reduce stress and anxiety. Keep things respectful online (and irreverent whenever possible), but don’t feel the need to toe the “party” line or remain silent. That’s what got us into this unfortunate situation.
- Expose yourself to information outside of your Christian (or, barf, Fox News) bubble by paying for and reading a legitimate newspaper every day (the digital version of course, we’re not animals). Once you get your sea legs, start investing a little time into understanding where various outlets fall on the bias spectrum, along with how to determine a shared article’s validity. This will help prepare you to fight misinformation when you inevitably come across it.
Sit with your discomfort. It’s the first step in a lifelong journey of learning and striving for inclusion. ❤️
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