Wednesday Around Midnight.
I can’t be quiet anymore. I’ve held it in all day thinking of how just 17 days ago I preached as clearly and passionately as I knew how about the response – primarily some white Christian’s response – to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. It is beyond me to decry any louder such acts of racist anarchy. My voice is only so strong. So that day I went hard after the attitudes that make these actions possible, and to some, even permissible and palatable. I shared my great frustration – mild word – with fellow white folks whose first response to these atrocities start, and usually end, with “yeah but” and “what about.” NO! For God’s sake, NO! You cannot defend the indefensible by creating some diversionary moral shell game. No. Just no!
But God help me, within minutes of this morning’s news of George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota, I began to again see and hear those kinds of words. Not by just the evil, violent bigots out there, though there appeared to be no shortage of them. But from people I know. People I love. People who claim the mantle of Christ as imperfectly as I so often do. People I have done life with for years. Family. Friends, old and new. People who call me pastor. People who I knew had watched my Mother’s Day diatribe, clicking like and share. People who should know better.
It makes me want to leave social media. “Snooze” certain friends hoping their perspectives will be more in line with the carpenter from Nazareth in thirty days. (Not likely.) Reasoning with people who have already staked out their position (or more likely had it staked out for them by the recreationally misguided and misguiding) doesn’t work. And a pastor’s moral authority ain’t what it used to be unless it gives cover for what you want to believe and do.
So, here is what I am going to do.
I’m going to lean into these three words and post them respectfully in love. No argument. No name calling and shaming. No threatening relationships or crafting compelling words behind a combative spirit. Just posting these three words.
“No. Just No.”
Raising the volume only invites escalation it seems, so I won’t. Before long we will all be deaf if we are not already. Silent dissent is of little use either. Evil’s voice has always traveled further, faster, and louder over those still waters. (Hitler comes to mind.) So, what’s a preacher to do? In the days ahead, I may say a lot of words. But for now, I’ll let these three remain.
“No. Just no.”
I have been overwhelmed by today’s response to my poorly edited but passionately written late night lament. I am clearly not alone in my righteous indignation. So, here is what occurred to me midway through the day.
What would happen if every time someone posted something that aided and abetted racial violence, a friend would simply reply “No. Just No?” Same goes for anything hateful, demeaning, divisive, or blatantly untrue. To encouragement and celebration of the treatment of people in a way we know the real Jesus never, ever would. What if we all just hit reply and typed these ten characters.
“No. Just No.”
What if these simple, clear, strong admonishments came from friends, relatives, coaches, co-workers, and fellow Christians? If one person did it, well folks just may seem a bit confused. If two tried it, maybe people could begin to spot a trend. But what if every friend of good sense and good will typed these three simple words to the comment line of every shameful post? Well, then we might just have ourselves a movement. And we might begin to make some real progress in stemming the sickening tide that just won’t quit coming ashore.
Tell me the truth; are you as mad as I am? Are you sick of the never ending, senseless, shameless taking of minority lives? Does the cover up and shifting of blame onto the victims make you want to scream? Are you embarrassed by people you know and love who are complicit in minimizing the reality of these murderous acts? Do you catch yourself asking “But, what can I do?”
Start with this.
“No. Just No.”