Christian complacency has no place in Black liberation
I dropped the Christian veil of ignorance and saw the world for what it was, even if I didn't like what I found.
by Nakia Edmond
Growing up in a Christian household, I was conditioned never to let the sun go down on my anger as it may provide an opportunity for the Devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27). Vengeance solely belonged to the Lord.
However, on June 1st, 2020, those guiding principles came under scrutiny as protesters in Dallas, Texas raged about the instances of racial terror brewing all over the country. In the span of a few months, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor triggered a global outcry for racial accountability. Organized rallies called for an end to Black death and trauma as spectacle.
With every like and share of a fleeing Ahmaud Arbery, I found myself wanting to do more than pray. As videos of George Floyd suffocating under the knee of white supremacy blurred my vision, I struggle to forgive, even now. To make spiritual amends with a racial aggressor was another way I was upholding my Christian veil of ignorance. Death and mourning regularly permeated my social life, and I was tired of it. No matter how hard I tried to cling to the scriptures of Isaiah 41:10 and John 16:33, being a Black woman facing these realities brought me no comfort.
I dropped the Christian veil of ignorance and saw the world for what it was, even if I didn’t like what I found. Amid exploding canisters of tear gas, flying fists, and broken glass, I could feel the veil dissolving and the dangers of the world coming to life, overstimulating my psyche, and leading to unsettling revelations. Black liberation and equality cannot and will not come to fruition without conflict. Black folks’ rioting in the streets with their restored anger and frustration are the first steps in reclaiming their identity and right to exist by any means necessary, with or without the Church.
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For years, the Church has served as a hospital for traumatized Blacks to seek treatment during times of hardship. However, in the era of Black Lives Matter and the Trump Administration, this is no longer the case. The House of God becomes more polarized and off-putting with congregants challenging American morals and values regarding race, class, and politics. More so in the year 2020, with increasing numbers of race-related problems trending during an election year toppled with a global pandemic forcing people into isolation.
After the George Floyd video’s mass-circulation, prominent evangelicals could no longer afford to bypass the race conversation. It demanded the attention of key political figures and social groups that claim to be for the people.
However, the Church’s strategy to tackle race has been less than fruitful.The tiresome roundtable discussions on race relations between black and white church leaders have become the Church’s be-all-end-all to address racism while maintaining their status as poster children for anti-violence and racial unity. This struggle to balance awareness and peace reveals their complacency in a world evolving in the shadow of Jim Crow.
Alongside the concept of racism, the Church’s existence has undergone a host of transformations to maintain its influence in modern times. Through desensitization and filtering, the Church gathers individuals into its hierarchical structure to be sorted into different denominations that fit specific scripture interpretations. Even with religious variation, the Church has continuously been on the receiving end of white aggression and trauma despite its similar origin story.
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From the Birmingham Church Bombing in 1963 to the Charleston Church Shooting in 2015, which led to the killing of innocent black churchgoers, history has provided enough examples to inform evangelicals of their lack of exemption from the threat of racism. And yet, we continue to preach favoritism and nepotism.
Now more than ever, the Church must have a firm stance against racial prejudice. Church leaders must also transparently engage in social activism by supporting those they claim to love and serve every Sunday. No longer can Christian leaders remain complacent and praying for tithes and offerings while their congregants battle through racial fatigue and the trauma that comes with death.
The Church must also acknowledge its role in perpetuating racism. It often strips its subjects of racial awareness and moral obligation by refusing to confront injustice personally, and grooms them to be submissive in the face of violent encounters.
As America begins to get reacquainted with its Jim Crow heritage, the Church must affirm where it stands concerning racial prejudice and black death. Once that happens, personal accountability and progressive action plans will be the next step to make amends to promote genuine aspirations of peace and racial unity.
Nakia Edmond is currently a university administrator at Texas State University and a part-time writer. She is also an avid reader of all things, fiction and philosophical.