The scene was horrific and painful to watch for 8 plus minutes, especially after the words "I cannot breathe" faded into quietness. One officer on George's neck and three more looking on as life slipped away till there was nothing.
As I watched the scene I thought to myself, "what does it take to wake up the American church to oppression and injustice? Will we wake up this time - in this case to latent racism in our nation?
Yes, the obvious signs of racism of Martin Luther King's day are gone: separate entrances, water fountains, seats and schools, zoning and voting laws that exclude, but still, invisible to many, but not to people of color, the experience of growing up in this country is very different. Often painful, and sometimes fatal.
Is the American church like the three men who looked on as injustice was done? We ask, "How can these men not rescue a dying man at the hands of another officer?" "Why did they not act?" Yet for how many years has the white evangelical church in America watched but not acted as racism existed around us and more to the point among us? Bystanders cried out to the police to let George breath but the police ignored them. Is this like the majority church in America that has largely ignored the pleas to wake up to the reality and evils of racism?
We have denied there is a problem. We have said we are colorblind and have no racist bones in our body. We have said the gospel changes everything (and it should) and all we need is Jesus all the while denying what is so obvious to so many. We have ignored the underlying causes and then cried for law and order in our streets. We have blamed it all on politics and political agendas and many other issues of which there are many. But we have not listened to our friends of color to hear their reality or their experience. Like the three officers we have stood silently by.
Will we wake up now as churches are grappling to explain the chaos of our current world? Will we call racism where it exists sin! Will we recognize that many of us are culpable by not speaking up out of fear that we will be criticized and maybe marginalized by people we know in this divided world. Divided by race, by politics, by life experience and by (may I say) our own ignorance or indifference?
This is a sin problem, not a political problem. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago: "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
None of us are exempt. Not me. Not you. We cannot raise this issue without implicating ourselves. We have not lived up to the Law of Christ that we love one another as He has loved us. That we would go so far as to die for one another as He gave His life for us. And so, too often, we stand and watch, careful not to ruffle the feathers of the powers that be - often those with influence and money - or challenge a status quo that is often driven more by political affiliation than Jesus. In fact, most discussions of racism quickly revert to political leanings and rarely to the Law of Jesus.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
When it comes to the issue of racism we have violated this command.
When it comes to the issue of life we have violated this command focusing primarily on abortion but not on all the other issues of life that affect people like poverty, racism, oppression, hunger, injustice and those who do not have the standing or power to defend themselves.
When it comes to the issue of Christian unity, we have allowed ourselves to be divided by politics, race, socio-economic status at the expense of Jesus and the Gospel He preached.
When it comes to generosity we have often chosen to fund our lifestyles and ministries but to ignore those who are in need. Like the Corinthians we have enjoyed our success and wealth (2 Corinthians 9) and have not given out generously like the Macedonians did (2 Corinthians 8).
When it comes to justice we have stood up for our rights but have often not taken up the cause of the powerless. We have ignored the command of God to care for the widow, orphan and alien - standing for all those who are without standing in society.
In these and many other ways we have stood and watched because it was dangerous to our reputation, friendships, politics or convenience to speak up and act! That would mean that we had to consider the line dividing good and evil that cuts through our very own hearts. And that would be too painful, too personal and involve genuine repentance - something that rarely happens anymore.
In the case of George Floyd there was no Good Samaritan among those who could have helped him. In the case of the American church there have been far too few Good Samaritan's. We passed by on the other side, busy with our own affairs. We saw but didn't act. Sometimes we never even saw. Yet we were certain in our theology and righteousness while we failed to act against unrighteousness.
Is God speaking to us through the prophet Isaiah when he writes: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." (Isaiah 58:6-9).
If we will say "Here am I" and show up to those things that concern God, He will say to us "Here am I."
I for one repent. I ask you to join me.