As I have discussed this issue with others, and as I have considered it more, I have become more and more convinced that I have been witnessing a subversive form of racism at work (and I'm not referring primarily to white racists), as well an indifference to pastors allowed to set aside their role as elders and teachers for that of an activist. One will ask, can I NOT be a pastor and a political activist? I suppose it’s possible. But, can you do it without compromising? As I reviewed recent conversations with a well known pastor via Twitter, I realized several things.
One, while I understand that rants can get out of hand via social media, it seems that big brand pastors are too easily allowed to say what they want without repercussion. We’ve seen it with Driscoll. Now I’ve seen it with others I’ve respected in the past. These are the dangers of Twitter for all of us, especially for those who are called as pastors and teachers. However, there are times it feels like I’m reading the Left Behind series, where an evil man performs a vicious act in front of a room of people, and then he states to everyone what actually just happened; they believe it like zombies. Every analogy has faults, and I’m obviously not comparing these ministers of the gospel to wicked men. However, if you are going to present yourself as a teacher via a blog, books, audio, and tweets--to people even outside your church--my hope would be that you would also allow yourself to listen to them as well. Sadly, as a pastor recently made clear to me, many don’t care what those reading them think.
Two, this has been of opportunity of presenting the gospel to all around us. I have likely failed in this as well. This has been a chance to give truth to a nation in uproar, to tell them of Christ and the only answer to divisions of every kind. Sadly, only a few pastors, it would seem, laid hold to that. Most took the opportunity to show how racially sensitive they are to those struggling with “white supremacy” in this culture. Sadly, Dr. Robert Jeffress, a man who may not even be as theologically solid as other pastors I look to, has been the only one I’ve seen to give a biblical response: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/08/22/what-pastors-should-be-saying-about-ferguson-and-racial-unrest/ . Others took the opportunity to rant on their walls about the brutality of police and the plight of the black man (a la Thabiti Anyabwile). Sadly, on this specific wall, a police officer was condemned before facts or a trial, protesting encouraged, and black brothers appeared on this wall to tell other Christian “white brothers” what they don’t understand. These pastors are creating racial divides in their own territory, when they should be encouraging unity in Christ.
Three, big coalitions or other names are quick to pop up on the scene, almost like a hazmat cleanup crew (sorry, like I said, I work for a trucking company), telling people what to think and what certain authors “actually” said or believe. If you read my first post about this issue, Thabiti’s position--which he subsequently denied, as I unfortunately predicted--is painfully clear. Outrage and anger fill his wall. After this, other pastors begin posting about racial divides and how we should empathize with our brothers, or they post black authors who are Christians but “cry foul” about the Michael Brown shooting. Sure, he obviously at least tried to beat up a cop; sure, he clearly at least disregarded and disobeyed an officer of the law at some point; sure, he nearly mugged a store owner; sure, he rapped about shooting people filled with various profanity, as well as using the COPS “Whatcha Gonna Do” with changed and vicious lyrics; sure, the cop hasn’t been given a fair trial, but blacks “know exactly what happened” (Thabiti said more than once on his wall that he did). But, those things don’t matter. The white guy shot the black guy! That seems to be all that matters. Have we lost our ability to think?
Four, clearly there is much hypocrisy and even pragmatism going on here. Pastor Thabiti clearly encouraged a spirit of protest, and, as I predicted, he is slowly getting quieter and acting as if he never encouraged this attitude. This is the attitude of pastors today. Say what you want. Don’t worry about saying sorry. I watch nations roar with resurgent protesting and mobs; I see anarchists on YouTube saying “f*** the police” and trying to exploit them at every turn; any time there’s a cop, there’s a camera, because someone wants the next big “mean cop” YouTube hit. And how do our pastors respond? With the exhortations of 1 Peter 2:13-20, Romans 13:1-8, or Titus 3:1-11? No. They encourage protest and cry “Justice!”, the same thing the blacks burning the streets are chanting. Clearly, this is not every black or white Christian, as I’m sure many blacks are as ashamed as I am of these kind of pastoral attitudes. Pastor Thabiti continues to do this via his wall. What I’m finding is that his wall is the most racist, maddening, and divisive thing I have read in a long time. As for pragmatism, Pastor Thabiti also posted this article from Rachel Held Evans on his wall, August 22nd: http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/08/21/not-helpless-we-think-3-ways-stand-solidarity-ferguson This would make me ask any solid theologian and shepherding pastor who supports this behavior… have you lost your grip on reality? Posting Rachel Held Evans to support your cause is sinful. Pastor Thabiti, it is sinful. Do you not recall a mother’s concern, the daughter of James White, when she wrote this open letter to Rachel? http://summerspinch.blogspot.com/2014/04/dear-rachel-held-evans.html And yet you will post this pseudo-Christian for your cause? This is not okay, and this is not a case of “differing perspectives.”
Finally, please do not fall for the liberal media bias we are watching, reading, and hearing every day. I’m not proclaiming Wilson’s innocence. But, I will say, regardless, he has already been tried and he is marked for life. If he comes out innocent, Pastor Anyabwile and others still will have marked him the guilty, racist, criminal that will cause many to seek him out for blood, even if he was just doing his job. Isn’t media psychology amazing? On the one hand, we see articles like this about Michael Brown: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/08/25/michael-browns-hip-hop-dreams-had-nothing-to-do-with-his-death/ We are told to disregard his evil hip hop lyrics about killing people and hating cops. Here is a line from this article: “This could have been a story about a boy whose artistic interests were proof that his soul was sensitive, rather than coarse, whatever words rolled off his tongue.” Then there’s the video taped robbery or, at the very least, bullying. The family and others were in a rage about this, since it was character defamation (Hint: yes, that is the idea and the suggestion; character matters in any case). But, if we look at his life, his wicked lyrics, or his “thugishness”, we are racist. Instead, we should only post pictures of happy Brown, like so many articles have done.
However, when it comes to Officer Wilson, blaming his circumstances, such as his mother’s past misdeeds or his old department, is perfectly fine: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/25/heres-what-we-know-now-about-darren-wilson-the-officer-who-shot-michael-brown/ And also here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/25/us/darren-wilsons-unremarkable-past-offers-few-clues-into-ferguson-shooting.html?_r=0
Does anyone notice the hypocrisy here? It’s okay to use Wilson’s circumstances to determine his character to determine his guilt; however, we’re not allowed to discuss Brown’s character, because that’s unrelated. Is there anything in the two articles about Wilson that are actually about Wilson? Read them. And ask yourself that question.
Pastors and Christians are supporting this liberal hypocrisy. And I find it nauseating. We are told by Pastor Thabiti via his wall, even now, that we cannot “be silent”, unless of course we’re possibly suggesting Wilson may be innocent, or that we should be encouraging support of law enforcement, even if Wilson is guilty here. Then silence is wisdom. Does anyone see the hypocrisy here, as well?
I don’t care what big name pastors will condemn this article as “divisive” and not “the mind of Christ”. I don’t care if they have a coalition or have authored fifty books. You see, I care about the truth. And, I care about pastors acting as pastors should act. I am a sinful man dying in a sinful world, and what I need are men of God to watch. If a pastor does not understand submission to his government and does not engender such a mindset, as all of Scripture does, I will not watch him. I cannot trust him. You say I’m hypocritical because I don’t understand submission to pastors? I’ve accused myself of that. However, we can choose the church and the men who are over us, men who truly teach God’s Word rightly. Our government, though to some degree chosen by Americans in our system, is ultimately given to us by the Lord. They are there. We submit to them. They rule over us and they bear the sword. If a pastor cannot respect that, I question his theological correctness.
Racism does need to stop, from blacks and whites alike. But, we don’t need pastors using this situation in Ferguson as their political launching pad from the pulpit. We need pastors to keep preaching the gospel and encouraging blacks and whites alike to not only love one another but also to submit to their governing authorities. We need pastors to show discernment in how they present injustices, with clarity, truth, and love.
A gentle answer turns away wrath. Right now, an internal civil war is brewing because pastors are saying the wrong thing, and we’re all encouraging them to do it.
This article is my final thought on Ferguson. I hope I can keep growing in my understanding of the Lord, and I pray I continue to love my black, white, yellow, or green brother (not sure if a brother can be pink, though). I pray Thabiti will lead well, and that perhaps I could learn to trust him again. I pray that I will learn to submit myself to pastors and shepherds and endear respect for them just as Pastor Thabiti should be encouraging respect to our government. I pray we all will in fact grow into the mind of Christ, loving and cherishing Him far above everything else in this life. In the end, all that matters is that. Fear God, and keep His commands. Cast your cares upon Him. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.