Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why So Silent? A post for my white, evangelical friends:

To My White Evangelical Friends:

While some of you are part of my face-to-face, real-time life, many others are cyber friends that I keep up with through the magic of Facebook.  I’m always amazed at the variety of topics you post about – everything from what you ate for dinner (including pictures), to how you spent your summer vacation, to what you think about the crisis in the Middle East. Some of you do the political thing, and some of you don’t. Some quote scriptures, post sermon notes, or flood the internet with pictures of your kids.  And of course, there are those ubiquitous cat videos that I admit I’m especially fond of. 

The one topic on which you’ve been wholly silent, though, is the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, by a white police officer, and the subsequent unrest in Ferguson, MO. Generally speaking, you’re not a quiet group, so I’ve been wondering what reasons might exist for your silence about these troubling events. 

I admit I’ve also been quiet about the shooting until now, even on this blog, for a few reasons.  First, I’ve been waiting to get the facts – what actually happened to Michael Brown? Why was he shot, and what was he doing when he was shot? Even though several eye witnesses have stated that he was standing still with his hands up, I guess I’ve been waiting for forensic information to back up that testimony.  Also, I intend my posts to add to the conversation in some unique, significant way and I don’t post until I feel that I’m able to do that.

But here’s the thing – even if we don’t know all the facts, shouldn’t our faith compel us to at least show compassion toward the grieving family? A young man died. Can we express to Michael Brown’s family how very, very sorry we are? Regardless of how events transpired that awful night, I think we can agree that we are sorry a young man died, a family is suffering, and a community is in upheaval. We are sorry for the part we have played in failing at the daunting task of racial reconciliation in this country.

Can we understand the anger of many in the African American community at the idea that their young people are the targets of racial profiling that can lead to violence and death? As a white mom of three boys who have not always behaved perfectly in or outside of our home, I’ve never had to worry that the people who are charged with their protection might be the very ones to hurt my sons.  I’ve never had to explain “the rules” to them of how to avoid police violence.  Even though I’ve never experienced these things, I can listen to those who have and feel compassion for them.

A few years ago many of you, my white, evangelical friends, stood in unity with a fast food chicken chain’s stance on a social issue. The “likes” were flying all over Facebook (no pun intended, since chickens don’t actually fly).  You lined up for hours to buy that chicken and show solidarity with their view.  I don’t fault you for that – it was your right to do so.  I’m just wondering, though, if we could muster up even a little of that same drive and passion in this situation. Can we offer our sympathy, show our compassion, and pray that truth and justice would prevail for all of us, but especially for our brothers and sisters of color whose experience so differs from our own?


  1. Thank you for this, Marianne! (signed, your friend formerly in Scranton)

  2. do you imply that white evangelicals don't care about black youths?

    Perhaps they are silent because whenever issues of race are brought up and if you don't come out on "the right side of things," or if you just raise some questions then you are labeled a racist.

  3. To begin with, I understand what you're saying about the anxiety many white people feel in talking about race. I found that in my own research. In terms of the white evangelical response to the Michael Brown shooting and similar incidents, I don't know if "care" is the word I'm thinking of. I believe that white evangelicals care about black youth, but that caring is not informed by the reality those youth face at the hands of law enforcement. They care in an abstract way (Christians are supposed to care about everyone, right?), but they spend so much time defending their position as whites when terrible stuff like this happens that they don't allow themselves to be open and try to understand the perspective of their brothers and sisters of color. They don't try to understand the history that preceded this shooting and, hence, the angry response to it. So, they are silent. They show no support for a grieving family and community, regardless of the circumstances. Some people just don't "do politics" on fb, and I understand that. My point was that lots of them had no problem standing against homosexuality in their support for a fast food chain, but did not think of supporting a family and community in crisis.

  4. I can honestly say I agree with everything you are saying. Perhaps, in worrying about "defending the truth," some Christians forget that all people- those different from us, those like us and even our enemies- are made in the Image of God and must be considered our brothers.

    I am sure you made the same point in the body of your blog post but I think I understand it more now....thanks for sharing and may we all remember we have a responsibility to show God's love to all!