Editor's Note: This is the second half of Foreknown's interview with friend Sean Myers (pictured above), pastor of Redemption Church in Peoria, AZ, about his experience with issues of racial justice. If you missed the first half of the interview, you can read it here.
F: Did your upbringing [Editor's Note: Sean covers this in Part 1] cause you to feel conflict about where to land when you see a constant volley between #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and #AllLivesMatter?
S: How did the world ever get along without hashtags?
I’m sure my upbringing has affected the way I feel about these things. Being born into a family that hated cops, and then being adopted into a family with a son who is a cop, has changed the way I see things.
I can definitely say that I am more frustrated than I am confused. I'm more frustrated with how we are getting our points across than I am with the stances themselves. It's crazy to watch sometimes. If I could generalize, this is how I would see it: Side A builds a straw man of side B. Side A spouts off so-called "facts" about side B, followed by so-called "facts" that apparently disprove Side B's position. In response, Side B uses Side A's straw man against them, creating their own straw man of Side A and their accompanying position. It's a confusing, viscous cycle!
Placing that analogy in context, #alllivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter were created as reactionary responses to the #blacklivesmatter movement, which exists as a call for justice and equality for black lives. Their point is: Of course all lives matter, which means that we need to recognize the cultural inequality of black lives. Do you see the irony in #alllivesmatter? The problem is, people can only understand the other side's position if they build a relationship with the other side and listen.
This is where it gets crazy. If you are friends with, related to, go to church with, and live next to the "other side", you realize that nothing that the polar extremes scream at one another applies. You would no longer say things like, "All cops are bigots! Well...except for Peter, from church. He's one of the good ones." Thats insane! The cops with which you are in a relationship become good cops. In a relationship, you are able to see see that, though people are broken and make mistakes, they aren't malicious. The world is broken, and that affects everyone. We are, however, more likely to overlook their brokenness as we live in relationship with them.
F: Thank you so much for being transparent about your own experiences, as well as your willingness to discuss a topic that many work tirelessly to avoid. A couple of questions before I let you go: Does the Bible provide any type of map to navigate through the rough waters of racial tension? Also, as Christians, how do those negatively affected by these injustices speak out, while remaining within the parameters of the Gospel?
S: There have been better men than I who have written on this topic. I can help provide some of the books and articles that I have read on the subject, but the reality is, some are helpful and some are not. With that said, I do believe that the Bible provides some ways to think though the issue. I would say there are two things that come to mind when thinking biblically about the issue, and both of them are not necessarily what the Bible says, as much as how we read it:
1. The entire Bible is written from the perspective of the lowly and the poor. The people of God are constantly in a position of subjection and migration. Both in the Old and New Testament, the people of God are the minority. (This is where an article by a man named Brian Zahnd was extremely helpful for me. Its called "The Problem with the Bible" and can be found here.)
It's helpful to know this about the Bible because it can help us "decode" the approach the Bible takes in how we deal with people who are not like us. When you view yourself as someone who is in the minority, you are forced to listen more and demand less. This is not how we view ourselves as Christians in America. Because Christianity is the major religion in America (at least in proclamation), we have the luxury to share our preferences (which aren't always biblical) and listen less. The American ethos has seeped into our Christian brothers’ and sisters’ hearts, and screams, "My way or the highway." In turn, we don't hear each other.
2. The second thing has to do with the Bible knowledge we have. It may be a bit much, but there are three parts to my answer:
A) Let's take the fact that one of the two greatest commandments is to love your neighbor, as you love yourself. There is no controversy over how Christians should treat each other. We can also look to Phil 2:3-4:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Its simple: Be humble, think of yourself less, others more, and look to others’ interests.
B) Here's the thing about the Bible; it never once tells you to “read” it. There is no imperative in all of scripture that demands that you “read” your bible. Even looking at the largest chapter in all the bible, Psalm 119, which is completely devoted to our approach to the Bible, it never once uses the word “read.” What it does tell us to do is to meditate on it, study it, memorize it, etc...
C) Putting A & B together to help answer the race issue: If we actually sat down and meditated on what it means to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” we as Christians could provide a lot more answers to the questions. We don't need to complicate this thing. Quit solely reading your Bible, and instead, think through its implications. This of course is not just about race, but can be applied specifically to racial issues.
I can't tell you exactly how to navigate the waters of injustice, and it may not be helpful to hear, but the Bible let's us know where our hearts should be in our approach. I think the issue is that we want simple “how to” guides in doing this. That’s not right. You need to think though this, you need to study, you need to pray, you need to seek out wisdom in community. God will guide you.