George Floyd and the Way Forward


This guest post is by Bryan Loritts, author of the book, Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All (Zondervan, 2018).

Bryan LorittsGuest Post by Bryan Loritts

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” These words written by James Baldwin, the pen of the civil rights movement, hit a little too close to home. It has been my experience as a black man in America, that just about all of my ethnic kin run a low-grade fever in matters of race relations. On May 25th, 2020, that fever spiked when George Floyd was pinned prostrate on a Minneapolis street, hands shackled behind his back, with a white knee leading to his slow, eight-minute-and-46-second demise.

In the aftermath of this tragedy my phone and direct messages lit up by our well-intentioned white siblings asking me how can they help? What books should they be reading? As a pastor what should they say to their people? I don’t do well assigning homework when I’m grieving. Even more so, the dilemma of systemic racism in America is not black people’s problem to fix. That’s like the close friends of the battered wife’s husband asking what should they be reading when it comes to solving her abuse? A jolting analogy I know, but black people in America have been in an abusive relationship with whites for four hundred years. And like Farrah Fawcett in, The Burning Bed, there comes a moment when Baldwin’s prophetic words manifest in an immoral eruption of rage, as we have tragically seen in far too many of our cities.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, White Evangelicalism and Racial Bias: An Interview with Bryan Loritts]

We are tired of the abuse. We are hurting. And before we rush to solutions let us first stop and “bear one another’s burden’s” (Galatians 6:2). We must be careful that in our haste for quick resolutions we don’t settle for a cheap reconciliation. Solutions can often times become a hand sanitizer of sorts for a guilty conscience. Let us first stop and feel before we try to fix. Now is the time for what my colleague Soong-Chan Rah calls, Prophetic Lament.

And yet we do need solutions. In the Bible, God creates three institutions that exist for human flourishing: Family. Government. Church. These three institutions must work in tandem if we are going to pronounce the eulogy of racism in all of its forms.

All roads lead back to the family. In Deuteronomy six, as the nation of Israel is on the precipice of entering a godless society, God calls the parents to be the tenured professors of their home, incessantly teaching their children in such a way that they release into the world well discipled children who will advance the purposes of God in their generation. In Psalm 127, this truth is affirmed as the psalmist makes a connection between the well-being of society and the training of the children. All roads lead back to home.

As parents we are responsible to not just hand our children a robust soteriology (doctrine of salvation) where we introduce them to God and train them spiritually, but we must also grant them a robust anthropology (doctrine of humanity) where we teach them the dignity of all people. What this means is we train our children in matters of ethnicity. As Angela Davis once said, it’s not good enough to not be racist, we must be anti-racist. So when Uncle Bob puts his feet under your Thanksgiving table, and makes ethnically insensitive remarks, we must seize the opportunity to create a biblically inspired awkward moment, cutting racism off at the pass. And while sociologist’s continue to debate as to whether the powerless can be racist, we do know that prejudice and discrimination have been wielded by all ethnicities. So the challenge for me as a black man raising three young men of color is making them aware of these unfortunate realities, calling them to walk wisely (don’t walk too close to white people, no wearing hoodies in our white neighborhood, what to do when the police pull you over), without instilling bitterness in their souls. That is hard.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Hard Reality of Exclusivity in White Evangelicalism and What Can Be Done]

There is also the government, instituted by God for the good of not just a segment of society, but all of society. As followers of Jesus we understand that the kingdom of heaven can never nestle neatly into any political party. And, if you will permit me to put all of my cards on the table, it’s important that you understand I am vehemently against abortion. But, the Bible does not allow us to ala carte our justice issues. Show me anyone who is passionate about life inside the womb, and apathetic about those same lives outside the womb, and I will show you someone who is pro-birth, and not really pro-life. I feel the tension when I go to the voting booth. On one hand I love how one party has fought for certain agendas, and how the other party has for others. Just listen to Jesus and you will leave some of his sermons wondering if he watches MSNBC, and others if he has been bingeing on Fox News. However, we can no longer be like the other three passive cops who stood by as George died. It’s time to face his lying body in the street, as the Good Samaritan did in Luke 10. And when we truly see George, I believe this will propel us to demand of candidates that they do something to overhaul a system which has allowed for the hunting of black bodies for far too long. Reading books is fine, but the long list of black hashtags leads us to the conclusion that we really don’t need more information. It’s time for legislative change.

Finally, there’s the church. When God promises the new covenant in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he says that he will replace our hearts of stones with hearts of flesh. In other words, God’s system for transformation does not just begin and end with behaviors, but works from the inside out, from the heart to the hands. Racism is fundamentally a problem of the heart. While I am forever indebted to Dr. King, John Lewis and the leaders of the civil right’s movement and the governmental gains made, I am keenly aware that while government can change laws it can never change laws. This is the Spirit of God at work through his church.

But there’s more. I have given my life to see the multiethnic church become the new normal in our world. Imagine the power of George Floyd worshiping next to Derek Chauvin (his killer). See them sharing lives in their weekly small group, and in the process the stereotypes and assumptions they’ve nurtured about one another begins to fade, and in its place seeps in a rising affection and love. Proximity really does breed empathy. The very nature of the church from the beginning was to transgress cultural, gender and ethnic lines. When these three institutions operate the way God intended, the cycle of black bodies lying in streets will dissipate significantly.

Family, government and church done God’s way creates an ecosystem hostile to racism.

Some years ago there was a species of whales on the brink of extinction, so a group of concerned advocates began to rightly demand that we, “Save the whales.” Imagine if someone retorted, “Yeah, but we should save all animals”? The response would be a poignant, “But all animals aren’t endangered, these whales are.” Do all lives matter? Of course they do. But I need you to hear me when I say without any sense of political or ideological innuendo, that black lives matter, because black bodies are on the endangered list, and it’s time that we save them. May we not be like the religious leaders in Jesus’ parable on the Good Samaritan, who simply walk on by. Let us stop in lament, and medicate the wounds of our people through God’s three institutions.

This guest post is by Bryan Loritts, author of the book, Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All (Zondervan, 2018).

Insider Outsider is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Buy your copy of Insider Outsider in the FaithGateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Bio: Bryan Loritts (@bcloritts) is a pastor, and award winning author. He’s also the founder and president of the Kainos Movement—an organization committed to seeing the multiethnic church becoming the new normal in our country. He’s the husband of Korie and the proud father of Quentin, Myles, and Jaden. Bryan has been a featured speaker at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, Catalyst, and a host of other events. His books include Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All, Saving the Saved, Right Color, Wrong Culture and The Dad Difference.

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