Today, Keith Boykin, my new crush, said something on national TV I'd never thought I'd hear. Let me point out that it was on CNN and I don't watch CNN that much, so he might have said it before. Though, I didn't hear him say it on MSNBC.
He said basically that white Americans and their enablers-of-color, my words, are out-of-line to judge the black church when the overwhelming majority of them have never been to a black church. Our preachers don't speak in the same style as most white preachers, and that can be new and different for folks who aren't used to it. And we all know the human propensity for deciding that what's different is also wrong. Moreover, black church deal with issues of justice and racism all the time. Just because it seems "different" to people unfamiliar with the Black church doesn't make it wrong.
I'm not surprised that white churches don't confront white supremacy and racism more. You shouldn't be, either. White people, by and large, don't suffer the disadvantages of color or minority status. And from several anecdotal accounts, when they finally face being the only white face in a crowd of black people, they often feel uncomfortable. I've even heard "unwelcomed." For my experience, I have high school classmates who've only been to a black church once in their lives. It was when I was able to schedule my high school chamber choir to sing during a youth revival at my former church. We sang two gospel songs and one "classical" Christian song, which, by the way, the audience enjoyed very much. But, on the last gospel song, what black people call "the Holy Ghost" broke out and people started dancing, including not a few of the black members of the chamber choir. The white girls, a number with whom I was friends with from having been a minority in classes with them since middle school, confessed that the experience scared them to death and they would never go to a black church again.
So, black people and white people have different church experiences. We also have different life experiences. White people can afford not to notice racism. Black people cannot. White preachers by and large don't have to address the issue of racism because their congregants don't face it and swear they're not supporters of it, which, of course, can't be true. When black people go to church, we're hoping for encouragement and spiritual relief from our daily lives. A pastor who speaks out against injustice is a balm in Gilead. That doesn't make the pastor or the church anti-white. It makes both realists.
A lot of people argue that Jesus never got involved in politics. "Give Caesar what's Caesar's and God what's God's," they quote (Matthew 22:21). But folks who make that argument neglect the fact that Jesus dealt with people's practical everyday concerns. It's important to remember the Beatitudes. In what many scholars believe is a reference to the way Roman soldiers, often tired themselves, would force Jews to carry their equipment for a mile, Jesus tells the Jews to carry the soldier's load for two miles, instead. Now, you have to understand. Jesus wasn't suggesting they submit to the injustice but overcome the justice with love. We saw that born out in the nonviolent Black Freedom Movement. But, the action was a way of challenging injustice nonetheless. It was a way of recognizing the humanity in everyone, that perhaps the soldier was as much a slave to the system as were the Jews.
And perhaps, that's the case with white Americans. In fact, many argue that it is. Few white Americans can bear the psychological trauma of acknowledging many of their luxuries are ill gotten.
But Jesus didn't just say to make nice. Jesus also made trouble. Mostly, he challenged the Jewish religious leaders who had begun conspiring with the Roman officials and using their religious authority to tie up heavy loads and put them on people's shoulders even though they didn't help the people carry them (Matthew 23:4). And lets be clear. "Loving your enemies" while your enemies denies you loans you qualify for, don't give you equal pay, or equal protection under the law is a load to bare. The pastor who condemns discrimination in financing, pay, and criminal justice is helping his/her parishioners carry that load.
But that's not all Jesus did. He healed the sick during the sabbath. He opened conversation with a woman of a "lower" race. He even healed the daughter of a Roman army commander. He let an "unclean" woman touch him and healed her "issue of blood."
So, yes, in our Black churches, we will speak against anti-black racism and any other injustice. And if a few white Americans' feelings get hurt because they deem what's said and done "inappropriate," so be it. White Americans and their enablers-of-color do not have the moral high ground on this issue. Revs. Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger were both correct. As is, my new crush, Keith Boykin.