On George Floyd’s Death, Racism In America, And Following Jesus

The following is a transcript of what I shared to my congregation on Sunday, June 7, 2020…

Over the past few weeks, I – like many of you, and many people around the world – have struggled to come to grips with the evil and senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the hands of police officers. As I’ve searched my own heart, as I’ve pondered this tragic event, and as I’ve meditated on God’s Word, I have become more and more convicted to share my thoughts with you.  I believe that to not say anything is to say something markedly different from what I actually believe and wish to say.

First, I want to tell you what my heart is feeling.  As a white Christian pastor, I have to confess that it is impossible for me to fully understand or fully appreciate what black Americans and other people of color must be feeling and going through.  I also have to acknowledge that this is not a single, isolated tragedy that has occurred in a vacuum.  It’s not some unprecedented outlier which can be quietly swept away, shamefully blamed on one “bad apple,” or dismissed as an overhyped, politically motivated half-truth.

I feel that I must acknowledge that the death of George Floyd is simply the latest in a long history of violence committed against people of color by white people in positions of authority who feel little or no sense of wrongdoing or accountability for their actions.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, this reality sickens my stomach and hurts my heart.  The past few years have shown me that we as a society have not come nearly as far as I had believed we had with regards to racial equality.  It also hurts my heart to realize that I have played a role in perpetuating racial inequality within my own sphere of influence, despite my desire to not do so.

In his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr, wrote on April 16, 1963: “Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

At 51 years of age, I have come to realize that I have allowed myself to have a “shallow understanding” of the reality of life in America for black people and other people of color.  I have simply assumed that the same opportunities, the same choices, the same economic realities, and the same protections that I have enjoyed my entire life have also been available to everyone else, regardless of skin color.  I have allowed myself to believe that because I wanted to believe that.  To believe any differently – to believe that perhaps the color of my skin afforded me any bias, however slight, in any area of life – would mean that I am complicit to that bias.  I know now that I was wrong.

Please hear me when I tell you that this – for me – is not a political issue.  I reject the labels that some might place upon me for daring to speak out against racism.  This is not a political issue.  This is a humanity issue. 

I have two sons and a daughter, and like any good and caring parent I have worried over them at various times and for various reasons.  I have worried about how they would be treated by other people.  I have worried about their health.  I have worried about their choices.  But I have never, ever, worried that they would be pulled over while driving because of their skin color, or worried that they might be shot while out for a run, or worried that an officer might kneel on their neck while they suffocated and died.  It is not right that other people, because of their skin color, should have these worries.

When the slogan “Black Lives Matter” became prominent, I – like many people I know – took exception and asked, “Don’t All Lives Matter?”  I didn’t understand.  If I’m honest, I felt a little threatened – or at least a bit defensive.  A good friend of mine recently shared an explanation with me.  She said:

When I said “Black Lives Matter”, I didn’t say “Only Black Lives Matter.”I know “All Lives Matter.”  I shared “Black Lives Matter” because Black Lives are in Danger.

And I got it.  Now I understand.

Another friend told me:

It really should be, “Black Lives Matter Just As Much As Every Other Life”, because that’s what it means.

And that makes sense to me.  And I agree.  Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter

Scripture affirms the equality of all races in Christ…

Galatians 3:26-28 says, “…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Scripture also affirms that all races are included in God’s plan and God’s future for humanity…

John wrote in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We, followers of Jesus, are part of God’s plan for ushering in His Kingdom.  We are to help His Kingdom grow, and that means we have to work for justice and equality for all people, regardless of race.

I have never considered myself to be racist.  I’ve seen racist people, even within the church, and I know that I am not one of them.  I try my best to not allow someone’s race or skin color affect my perception and value of them. However, I recently read a statement that said, “It is not enough to be non-racist. We need to use our voices and take action to stand against racism.”

“It is not enough to be non-racist.
We need to use our voices and take action to stand against racism.”

I agree with that statement, and I want to take action to stand against racism.  But I’m just one white guy – and this is such a large problem, how can I make any impact or difference?  What can I do?  I have a daughter who is Chinese.  My son is dating a young woman who was born in Mexico.  I have friends who have African American children.  What can I do to make this world a better place for them?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and I’d like to share with you four things that I am doing to make sure I am becoming more of a part of the solution and less of a part of the problem.  I share these with you because I want your accountability, and because I know some of you have the same question – “What can I do?”  So maybe these will serve as a starting point for you as well…

First, I am committing to personally reaching out to Black Pastors and Christian Leaders to build relationships and to hear them and listen to what they think and believe.  I want them to tell me what they think I need to hear from their stories.  I want them to tell me how I can help to stand against racism in our community.  I am committed to humbling myself, to listening, and to learning from them.

Second, I am putting together a reading list of books and articles on racism, race relations, and the experiences of people of color in order to correct my “shallow understanding.”  I will share this list with you, and I will welcome conversations with those of you who would like to read some of them together with me.

Third, I am putting together a viewing list of movies and documentaries that will complement the aforementioned reading list.  I will share this list as well.

And fourth, I am committing to calling out racist acts and comments for what they are when I encounter them, and to stop turning a blind eye towards them or dismissing them as harmless.  This does not mean I will be on a social media crusade or anything like that – but it does mean I am preparing myself to initiate some potentially awkward conversations if and when I personally encounter such comments or actions.

That is all I know to do for now.  I am sure this list will grow as I move forward and as God stretches me as a person.  I trust that as He does, He will be molding me into a better person.  I extend my hand to anyone that wants to join me on this walk.

I believe it is important for you to hear my heart, and to hear how God is leading me in this moment as our nation struggles to find its way forward.  I covet your prayers, and I have been and will continue to pray for each of you, for our church, and for our community as we walk this path together.

5 comments

  1. Your words are an inspiration to the folks in Carteret County and all over Eastern North Carolina! You are opening a door for conversation and that is the first step to healing.

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  2. As I continue to pray on this I want to thank you for always being an inspiration to grow and learn in my relationship with Christ.

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  3. God Bless you Pastor Charlie for doing the work and allowing the Holy Spirit to give you insight. God bless you for your tender heart and thank you for pouring your heart and taking the steps to become more aware of we feel. You are changing lives and I pray God covers you and your congregation and family with protection

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