Last week a post on World Magazine denouncing Michael and Lisa Gungor for not reading the Bible the way the World Magazine Editors know is the only way God ever intended it to be read went viral. People responded. Relevant Magazine responded. The evangelical and post-evangelical world went crazy. Blog posts were written and tweets were fired.
Then Mark Driscoll got removed from the Acts 29 Network that he started. Lifeway Stores pulled his books. Blog posts were written and tweets were fired.
And then Ohio police shot and killed a young black man named John Crawford because he was holding a toy gun in Walmart. White Christian twitter was silent. No blog posts were written.
Another young black man, Michael Brown, got into an altercation with police on Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. A shot was fired inside the car. They both got out, and the police officer gunned down Michael Brown. Some sources say the cop put 8 bullets into the boy – a boy who was due to start college today. This happened Saturday. I didn’t find out until Sunday, and that through a friend of a Twitter follower’s retweet of an Anonymous tweet. White Christian twitter was silent. No blog posts were written.
Yesterday a riot broke out in Ferguson. Looting happened. A community sick of the stop and frisk culture and the systemic racism in American culture got out of control. Black people think the police exist to protect and serve – to serve whites, and to protect whites from black people.
While the white Christian world debates who’s going to hell, the African-American community is already there, and nobody seems to give a damn.
While the evangelical twittersphere was debating whether Mark Driscoll should step down from his pastorship, members of the black twittersphere were guessing which picture of them the media would show if a white person or a cop gunned them down. This is the world we live in. As my wife Kristen said, “We’d rather focus on who’s going to heaven or hell than the social injustice.”
Check the hashtags #Ferguson and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. Watch #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, though. Some images are inappropriate – but none more inappropriate than the racism that led to the tweets.
I’m done talking. Look at these. Click the hashtags. Read the news stories. Give a damn.
#IfTheyGunnedMeDown would I be labeled an honor grad or a blunt smokah pic.twitter.com/BCaRqMCMn8
— (@TopFlightRod) August 11, 2014
#IfTheyGunnedMeDown what picture would they use pic.twitter.com/lJ3k3tT63n
— King Ghidorah (@__TrillClinton) August 11, 2014
#IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which photo would be used? Left or right? pic.twitter.com/KwimvvI921
— Brotha II the Night (@t_ythesportsguy) August 10, 2014
#iftheygunnedmedown which picture would they use? pic.twitter.com/YgSAUC1R8u
— Name Ring BELLS (@Heartbreak_Rell) August 10, 2014
#IfTheyGunnedMeDown would they use my pic on the left or the right? pic.twitter.com/W3W1EUMXvz
— Not A Walking Target (@_bennythejet) August 10, 2014
#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Which pic would they use pic.twitter.com/a4behx0e1G
— Run Tre (@UnoDos_TRE) August 10, 2014
EDIT: Right after I finished blogging about systemic racism, Christena Cleveland called me on my own. The fact that I hadn’t seen this is evidence of the fact that I
don’t didn’t follow any black Christians.
@rachelheldevans @DavidMSchell “Christian twitter” wasn’t silent; white Christian twitter was silent. Stop ignoring POC voices.
— Christena Cleveland (@CSCleve) August 11, 2014
Christena Cleveland blogs at http://www.christenacleveland.com and has a list of recommended Bloggers of Color. Start following some of them.
David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.
14 thoughts on “While You Were Talking About Gungor”
“We’d rather focus on who’s going to heaven or hell than the social injustice.”
This is one of the saddest truths.
Thank you for this post, as a christian, wife, and mother! As a black women in america and most importantly as a mother of two amazing black sons I thank you for writing this post. The struggle is real. It is everyday. We used to live in Ohio. I was born and raised there and my oldest son graduated high school in Ohio. You never want any mother/parent to lose a child in a senseless act of violence regardless of the race but something about when it happens in your community that tugs a little bit harder at your heart strings. I love Jesus but we have to learn to take it out the church four walls it isn’t about the building we all show up to on Sunday pretending like everything is ok. We have to take it into the community and to our streets and show people LOVE and stand up for what is RIGHT in hopes to stop the violence. I too am saddened for these families and your right I didn’t hear a word about this until I read your post. God help us all!
The shooting of blacks is an epidemic. The policy is called “broken windows” and law enforcement uses it as a tool to come down hard on petty crimes in order to prevent the person from committing more serious crime. But let me know when a young white man gets killed while selling single cigarettes or when demanding what the charges are against him. I know people in law enforcement and the answer I always get from them or their families is that the law wants to make sure they come home alive after their shift. The question I can’t bring myself to ask my beloved officers is “who made you so afraid of your neighbors?”. For the record, I’m a retired white grandma. I don’t understand the hate that has infiltrated this earth. This is not how it is supposed to be.
(reposted from FB) Just
because someone cares about evangelical culture’s response to Gungor or
the repercussions of what’s happening with Driscoll’s ministry of abuse
doesn’t mean they “don’t give a damn” about what’s going on in Ferguson
or were ignoring #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.
I’ve seen countless tweets and several posts like this from Third-Way
dudes over the past few days and it’s really starting to piss me off.
You don’t have to prove the importance of your words by shitting on the
things other people care about.
Additional note: the Oppression Olympics are a thing. Super problematic especially in the hands of white folks. Something to be aware of.
(from Facebook) “I’m
sorry. I hadn’t seen any of those posts. I didn’t mean to “shit on the
things other people care about.” I care about the Driscoll thing too. I
just thought it was strange that nobody I followed was saying anything..
How can I make it better?”
How did you know #ifiwasgunneddown
was happening? my whole feed was filled up with it last night. And the
reason people like me don’t add our own commentary doesn’t mean we’re
unaware it’s going on. It is because it isn’t our place to interject
our opinions into other people’s spaces — we listen, signal-boost.
Maybe that’s what you were trying to do here, but it comes really close
to “listen to me! I’m white and well-informed!” It’s something we all
need to be careful about — making sure our activism isn’t just another
expression of our privilege.
A gentle point of correction: Travon Martin’s family lawyer didn’t “lose”; Florida state prosecutors lost that case. As far as I know their lawyer never represented them in the trial. From where I stand Benjamin Crump has been an amazing advocate for the Fulton-Martin families and many other Black families whose children have been brutalized or killed simply for being Black. It was Crump’s advocacy that kept the pressure up to have Zimmerman even charged and arrested in the first place.
My ignorance is showing. Thank you for this correction. I deleted that paragraph. Thank you for making me aware.
David, I agree with you in some respects on this post – that while we’re sitting around in our ivory-towers talking about theology in the theoretical, minorities are living with the real consequences of it. We DO need to care about this stuff far more than we do. (And when I say we, I mean white Christians.)
However, the mistakes in this post that Alyssa, Christena, Suey & others have already brought to your attention (and which you have been quick to correct, thank you), are exactly why some of us choose not to take to our blogs as soon as something like Ferguson happens. Our white privilege can get in the way, even in our activism. Reading and sharing the work of POC is our best mode of action because our number one priority should be to center their voices – and frankly their expertise – in this matter. In some instances, choosing NOT to weigh in, and instead allow others to speak, IS activism.
I agree with much of what you and others have said, but I really want to push back on this comment. I don’t think that silence in the face of injustice should ever be confused with activism. I do want to amplify the voices I hear that are speaking out, which is why the main thrust of this post was to say, “Look, evangelicals, this is a conversation we’re not having. Read the hashtags. Look at this.” I felt that the real content of the post was the twitter content that I embedded after my introduction.
Of course I want to amplify these voices. And I did amplify those voices, right and left as soon as the post came out. But as much as so many people of color may dislike the fact, I have white male privilege. That’s a fact that’s not going to change, and like it or not, there are some people who read my blog but don’t read Alyssa’s, Christena’s, or Suey’s. Sure I wish everyone read their stuff. But I can point out injustice to people who may never read those blogs, or may never read them otherwise. Could I share on facebook and twitter? Perhaps. But my blog will have a longer reach than my facebook or twitter, and I don’t think I should have to apologize for bringing attention to this. More people read this post today than I have friends or followers. Yes, I made mistakes in the post, and I accept responsibility for them, but I’m bothered by the argument that for white people to speak out against injustice they should not speak at all, and let the white people who are speaking out for injustice speak in a vacuum without any voices that are loud enough to compete.
I saw injustice. I weighed in on it with such weight as I have. While I’m not experiencing oppression, I live in the country that’s causing it too. I have the right – the obligation, even – to speak out against oppression even if I’m not the one experiencing it. I remembered the advice I was given to use my platform to let others speak, so I embedded what I felt were the most powerful tweets.
This conversation is happening, and it’s a conversation that would not be happening had I not weighed in. I’m willing to let others speak. I’m willing to amplify their voices. But God gave me a voice too, and even though I’m a white man, I think God wants me to use it to speak against injustice in my own words as well.
I’m new to this whole thing, but so much of the reaction to this post from the African-American community has been negative. Now I think I know why the [white] evangelical people I generally follow don’t speak out against racism and oppression: because the African-American community has told us that it’s not our place to speak out against injustice that’s happening to them. I thought that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.
I may have misinterpreted that message, and I look forward to being proven wrong. I’m new to this whole “Speaking out against racial injustice” thing. Maybe I should never do it again. I’ve definitely considered it after the backlash I experienced from the African-American Christian community today.
Hi David, thanks for responding. I think I need to make clear what I *didn’t* say in my comment. I didn’t say don’t speak out against injustice. I didn’t say remain silence in the face of injustice. What I said was, sometimes the choice to not weigh in is a form of activism, and to clarify what I meant: white people like you and me need to be wary of speaking over, above, for, and AT minorities about their own lived experiences. We need to be wary of speaking out of turn. It’s really easy to do despite our best intentions, especially having grown up in evangelicalism, because many of the ministering methods common in evangelicalism look like shoving our version of the truth and our lived experience down people’s throats, rather than letting them tell us what kind of help they needed. Evangelicalism has made us terrible at allyship, I’m afraid.
And this, right here? > “because the African-American community has told us that it’s not our place to speak out against injustice that’s happening to them” < This is a false dichotomy. African-Americans are not telling you *not* to speak out against injustice. They're telling you to listen and center their voices, because they've been invested in this way longer than you have. In the context of white supremacy and racialized violence, listening to minorities and letting them lead IS a radical act of justice. It doesn't mean we can never speak up, it just means that if we do, we ought to be following their lead – sharing and citing their work, being mindful not to erase them and their work (like you did in the original draft of this post when you used "Christians" ignoring the Ferguson situation as a blanket statement without acknowledging the work people like Christena, Suey and several others were already doing.)
So if you want to blog about it, that's fine, but if the rest of us aren't, it's not because we don't care or we're not paying attention or we think the Gungor "heresy" issue is more important than racialized violence in Ferguson. Some of us are choosing to listen and center the voices of other racial reconciliation leaders before we make ourselves an expert on the issue. And yes, that IS activism.
Thank you for clarifying that. It’s true that it’s a false dichotomy, but that’s what I felt like I was getting: “let Black people talk about Black people.”
I’m no expert. I didn’t even pretend to be an expert. I just linked to hashtags and embedded images and tweets. I don’t understand why people are acting like I’m claiming to speak for black people.
I think I understand where you’re coming from, though. Still, I’m fairly confident that the majority of white Christian bloggers weren’t saying anything because they didn’t know. Which is why I wrote this post: I fear that many / most white Christians, like or no, are more interested in reading about Gungor than about a black man getting gunned down by police. I wrote this post because there was nothing else like it sitting out there.
Tragically, an article by a POC about a POC being shot won’t get as much traffic from the white twittersphere as an article calling out white people on their complacency about a POC being shot.
If a POC writes a post calling white people out on this stuff, I’ll gladly share it.
Thank you for taking the time to get back to me on this. I know we’re still not eye to eye, but I’m hoping we can get there and I can get educated and do better and stuff.