We’ve had some uncertain and frustrating moments over the past few months on Facebook. We’ve been livestreaming and suddenly our camera view has gone dark. We honestly have not known if have been seen and heard or if we have just been talking to ourselves. It helps when people send comments to say “we can see and hear you.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about those who feel like that in real life. It seems that you are surrounded by darkness, no-one sees or hears you and there is no help. This is often the feeling when struggling with depression and it’s the experience of victims of false accusation and abuse.
You may well pick up on that being one of the emotions expressed by those coming out onto the streets to demonstrate following the horrific killing of George Floyd. I’ve seen people asking on facebook and twitter “Why are people in London and Birmingham demonstrating about something that has happened miles away in America?”
On Afternoon Tea today we suggested some reasons.
- First of all, we as Christians should understand better than anyone that sense of identity and belonging that crosses national boundaries. When our brothers and sisters suffered behind the Iron Curtain it was our suffering too. Nation states can be good things but they are not the be all and end all. If we insist on exclusive loyalty to a country and its flag then we create an idol. It is worth remembering at this point that suspicion about other loyalties is a favourite anti-Semitic trope too.
- Secondly, as well as an identification with those in the States, we see people here reacting because it represents unresolved injustice here. I might find this hard to understand as a white guy, for me the police have traditionally been safe, good on my side, though we’ve seen some worrying stories about Christian preachers. Yet for many, their experience of police and authority is anything but good and safe. If you’ve been subject to stop and search, if you experienced the “canteen culture” of institutionalised racism, if you remember the Stephen Lawrence case, if you live in the shadow of Grenfell tower then these are not remote and distant things.
And so here we are witnessing on our screens events that look eerily similar to the segregation and brutality of 50 years ago, of Martin Luther Kings’ assassination and of brutality in Alabama against blacks. Over 200 years after Wilberforce campaigned to abolish slavery you can still get Christian writers thinking it is just intellectually provocative to write in favour of reintroduce a form of slavery. We don’t seem to have progressed very far.
Racism is wrong, it is sin, it is evil and church leaders need to stand up and say that loudly, boldly and without qualification. We need to act to make sure that there is no hiding place for it in our churches. We as Christians need to show by speaking up and standing up that we have seen the suffering of our friends, brothers and sisters who have experienced racism and we have heard their cry.
We need to remember that the evidence of Scripture is that even when it seems that we have not been seen and heard, that God sees and hears.