Hot tears rolled down my face as I contemplated what I had to do.
Once again, I had to shatter the idyllic image my 10-year-old had of the world. He sees the best in people and looks out at life with an optimistic spirit and an open heart.
Choking back those irrepressible tears, I told him that a man had killed nine people in a church last night. He sat in silence. “Just because they were a different skin color than him,” I forced out. He just stared ahead.
I thought back to when I was his age and growing up in a church that proclaimed a gospel for everyone, but fought (and split) over whether a black person could join as a member.
No one saw the contradiction in screaming on Friday night during a football game over the greatness of a high school player and screaming on Sunday night during a business meeting about the same person not being worthy to join the church.
I remember singing, “Jesus loves the little children.” But before we would belt out “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,” we would all sing Dixie Land—and stand because it was the “anthem of our home land.”
Thankfully, I had godly pastors and family who better understood how the gospel impacts the way we view others. But that was my childhood and I wanted something different for my sons.
I hated having to tell them about the evil perpetrated on those nine people made in God’s image. I didn’t want this to be the world I was leaving to them. I wanted to shield them just a little longer.
But I told them anyway. Because they need to know. Because fathers in Charleston had no choice. Because my sons need to be part of the difference.
White Christians need to be part of the difference. This is not an issue for our African American brothers and sisters to figure out alone.
This is a problem we have to address because we have allowed much of it to go on unhindered.
A classmate said the Charleston shooter “made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that.” That’s the problem. We don’t take them seriously.
We engage in passive racism. We let them slide. Brush them off. Dismiss them. Anything but confront them.
I regret not being forceful enough in combating racism in my own life and in the words of those around me.
I’ve had to continually repent of my own sinful heart and my own tendency to view with distrust anyone who is “other.”
But this has to end and the beginning of that end must come from the church. Those who will gather from every nation, tribe and language and worship as one around the throne of our Savior, must work to destroy the satanic evil that is racism—in all its forms.
Passive racism is not violent, murderous racism, but the former grants respectability and space for the latter. It allows the most evil forms of racism to grow and fester in angry hearts.
Many have grown up with passive racism so inherent to their thinking, it’s hard for them to even recognize it. They can simultaneously love an African American individual, while seeing other African Americans as different and dangerous.
It’s a blind spot and it’s one that we should work to lovingly remove from our own eyes and the eyes of our loved ones.
A practical example, the shooting has reopened the discussion of the proper place for the Confederate flag in SC. A friend tweeted that removing the flag will not end racism, but it’s a good place to start.
I agree, as I see it as an opportunity to confront passive racism. Here’s why.
There are many believers who love Jesus and love others regardless of their skin who legitimately see the Confederate flag as nothing more than a symbol of their heritage or an expression of a political ideal of states rights.
However, we have to understand the viewpoint of those who feel the flag is a symbol of hatred and oppression. Because, if we are all honest, it has been used that way.
South Carolina, my home state, did not feel the need to fly the Confederate flag above the South Carolina statehouse until 1962. Somehow they recognized their history for 100 years without the flag.
But in the midst of the Civl Rights Movement, the all-white South Carolina legislature decided the Confederate flag should be given a place of honor on the capitol grounds in 1962.
The killer in Charleston viewed the Confederate flag, along with flags of previously white-ruled African nations, as representative of his views.
We can argue he has misappropriated the symbols for his own hate, but the same can be said of the swastika. It existed for thousands of years before Adolf Hitler used it.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the swastika became a good luck symbol across Europe. But then Nazi Germany took it up to represent “Aryan identity” and Germany nationalistic pride.
No reasonable person in Europe or America uses the swastika for good luck or tries to reclaim it from its Nazi connection.
I don’t say that to necessarily equate the two flags, but to perhaps give some perspective on how others can see the Confederate flag as hateful even if you don’t.
And above anything else, that’s the point of all of this—submitting to the potential pain of others. Paul said he would give up eating meat if it caused a fellow Christian to stumble. Should we not do the same?
Outside of the cross of Christ, we should seek to place no other stumbling block in the way of others.
Even if we grant that someone’s offense over the Confederate flag or a racial comment is based on ignorance, it is the responsibility of the Christian to see the other person is given preference.
As a believer, I have given away my rights to Christ. So when a brother or sister says something is an offense to them, I can lay aside any preference I have. Their honor is more important than my heritage.
Growing up, my church taught me that I should abstain from alcohol because it could cause someone to stumble. Some never quite understood how that concept could extend to attitudes on race.
Thankfully, my children will not be shaped by singing Dixie Land in children’s choir at church, but they will still see the scars of hatred stretching across our country.
My prayer is that they would grow up as part of a Church in America that confronts racism of all types, granting no room for hatred, and continually sacrificing for the sake of the bond of love.
For now, we as believers take comfort in worshiping a God who knows the sting of loss. When we weep, we know we have a God who has felt tears fall from His eyes.
We rest in Him and we long for the day when He will set all things right. But until that day, we work for reconciliation. We sacrifice for love. We confront for healing. We fight for justice. We pray for peace. We live for hope.