To My Fellow Evangelicals: They Will Remember What We Do Right Now

Dr. Shawn Bawulski

I’ve seen a few encouraging signs among my fellow white evangelicals on social media and in private conversations regarding racial justice.  I think the events of the past week might be serving as a splash of cold water to the face for some.  Good.  Better late than never.

We need to acknowledge that this isn’t new.  Remember these police shooting victims?  Philando Castile.  Alton Sterling.  Sandra Bland.  Eric Garner.  Tamir Rice.  Walter Scott.  Ezell Ford.  Michael Brown.  Trayvon Martin.  That’s just in the last few years.  And that’s not even to begin to talk about discrimination and oppression in economics, culture, employment, housing, medical care... ...white supremacy is a contemporary caste reality with a long history.  And it runs deep.

Your silence speaks volumes.

I’ve repeatedly heard, “I just don’t know what to do.”  I’d like to suggest that you do some things that make you uncomfortable.  Sharing articles on social media is not bad.  Prayer is always necessary.  Being upset should be a natural reaction.  Do those things.  But also, do these things:

1. Educate yourself.  For evangelicals, especially those new to all this, here’s a good place to start: Jim Wallis’ book, “America’s Original Sin.” 

2. Call your friends of color and just listen (if you don’t have any friends of color, well, that might tell you something important…).  Say that you’re sorry.  Apologize for anything you’ve done or said that might have hurt them.  Apologize for your silence on racial justice.  Apologize that things are this way.  AND THEN JUST LISTEN TO THEM.  DON’T TALK.  JUST LISTEN.

3. Protest peacefully.  Show up and stand arm-in-arm with people of color.  FOLLOW.  DO NOT TRY TO LEAD.  You’re going to hear things shouted you disagree with.  That’s OK.  You’ll read some signs that might offend you.  It’s OK.  It’s not about you.  It’s about putting your voice and your body between the oppressed and those who would do them harm.  You’re going to feel awkward.  It will be uncomfortable.  Get over it.  Get out there.

4. Call your elected officials.  Don’t email, call.  Broaden your political and moral vision beyond the issues you’ve been groomed to think are the ones that really matter.  Get informed, especially about what’s going on at the local level.  Google “How to call your elected official”.  Call.  Do it.  Rinse, repeat as necessary (a lot).

5. Talk to your pastorRepeatedly.  Doggedly.  Persistently.  Lovingly but forcefully.  Question any silence from the pulpit done in the name of “peace” or “unity.”  Challenge any reduction of this corporate sin to the individual level.  Request a sermon or sermon series on racial justice and the gospel.  Ask how your church can connect with and support congregations of color.

No one is going to take our gospel proclamation seriously if our gospel only gives lip service to justice.  Isaiah 1:17 reads, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Everyone will remember what we do right now.  Jesus included.