I Can’t Breathe – Why We Can’t Go Back to Normal

CGGC Executive Director Lance Finley

This coming Monday will mark three weeks since George Floyd was killed by a police officer on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s been three long weeks. We’ve seen this before. Again! I’ve had several black friends reflect upon their initial response to the news of Floyd’s death: Again. It’s happened again. It’s almost expected or anticipated. Again.

We know the rhythms of our culture. We’ve seen tragedies like this before. Those tragedies have been followed by lots attention by the press, lots of conversations about race and justice, lots of emotional responses and then time passes on and the news cycle moves on to the next major focus and we all get back to normal. Then it happens again. And we repeat the cycle, but very little changes.

We live in a place in time where we all want to get “back to normal.” We want to go back to life as we knew before COVID-19 and all the disruption it has caused. I know that even in this incredibly tense cultural moment, there are those who want life to get back to normal: life without protests, life without riots and looting, life without such sensitivity around matters of race and justice. Here’s the problem, going back to “normal” just isn’t acceptable, it’s not in line with the truth of the Gospel. For my friends with black or brown skin, going back to normal is not a good thing. “Normal” looks nothing like the kingdom of God. “Normal” falls far short of God’s shalom.

God has given us the ministry and message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we can be reconciled to God and to one another. This means that for the follower of Jesus, there is no place for hatred, prejudice or racism. When we find it in our own hearts, lives, and ministries, then we must repent. Where we find it the systems of our world, we must join God in His work of reconciling all things through Christ.

I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled to respond for fear that anything that I offer to this conversation will be less than helpful. I certainly don’t bring anything new to the conversation as there has been so much said over recent weeks. I would like to offer a glimpse of two conversations I’ve recently had with African American friends.

The first surprised me with his hopefulness in what he’s witnessed in recent weeks. He offered, “Lance, I think God is moving in new ways right now. I’ve never seen police march with protesters or kneel with us.” The second broke my heart with his vulnerability in sharing how difficult it has been to see so many hurtful social media posts by friends within the CGGC. While this may be a hopeful moment, there is much that needs to be called out, mourned and called to repentance.

In the CGGC, I fear that we might tend to ride on our abolitionist roots a bit too much, as if we were on the right side of the Civil War and therefore don’t need to address this in our present day. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have much work to do.

So where do we go from here?

  1. Listen – We need to listen right now! Our brothers and sisters who are minorities have much to share with us that will be hard to hear and at times and difficult to understand because we have no common history with which to relate.

    Who are you listening to right now? Are you listening to people of color? Are you seeking to understand? Are you listen to those who are different from you?

    We need to listen.

  2. Learn – This is closely aligned with listening. There are a host of resources that can help those of us who are white learn about the experience of what it’s like to not be white in our culture. Thanks to Dr. Andrew Draper for the following list of resources to help us learn.

    “Trouble I’ve Seen” by Drew G. I. Hart
    “The Color of Compromise” by Jemar Tisby
    “I’m Still Here” by Austin Channing Brown
    “Reconstructing the Gospel” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
    “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi
    “Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?” edited by Yong, Sechrest, and Ramirez-Johnson with a chapter by me (Andrew) explaining 5 concrete practices for white folks in resisting whiteness
    “Five Non-Negotiables for White Folks in Pursuing Reconciliation” by Andrew T. Draper (This blog gives a brief outline of my chapter in “Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?”): https://sparks.fuller.edu/…/five-non-negotiables-for-white…/
    “Roadmap to Reconciliation” by Brenda Salter-McNeil
    “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander
    “Rethinking Incarceration” by Dominique Gilliard
    “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  3. Action – we’re going to have to act. Right now, the best action probably is to listen and learn, but it’s going to have to lead to other steps of action. One of the things I’ve learned in this conversation is that my first inclination to act is usually more hurtful than helpful. We want to act in helpful ways and redemptive ways.

    If things “go back to normal” and we don’t act differently, nothing will change.

I fully believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His reconciling work on the cross are the answer to the challenges we face at this moment, I’m equally convinced that we have much to learn to understand what we cannot see or understand because of our own blindness and ignorance to matters of race.

Let’s not miss what the Spirit of God is doing in this moment.

Christ’s Peace,

CGGC eNews—Vol. 14, No. 25

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