This week (June 18,2015) we awoke to the news of another mass shooting. Nine African Americans killed while at prayer by one young white male. It is horrible. And if you have paid any attention to the news over the past few years, you can guess where the discussion about this event is headed. Gun control, mental health, racism. And we can guess that if a person of color had been the one doing the shooting and the victims white, the discussion would shift to terrorism and militant Islam.
We have well worn tracks in which our discussions travel. They are deep and perhaps worst of all these tracks are short. In a few days our national attention will turn somewhere else.
Over and over we travel the same short, deeply rutted tracks. We will get frustrated because we have what seems to be the same discussion over and over without any solution. Some of us will declare the problem unsolvable. Many of us will search for the one solution and become disillusioned when we cannot find it. Some of us will give up when we cannot reach a consensus on what to do.
Is there an answer? Is there a solution?
I can only speak as a white Christian woman, but I think there is an answer. But I also think there is not one single solution and it will not be an easy solution because this is not a simple problem. We will need the courage to wrestle with difficult questions and to be uncomfortable and to stay uncomfortable and wrestling for a long time.
There are big uncomfortable, distressing realities we must face. Those of us who are white, middle class people are going to need to hear, really hear, some hard truths. I’m sure I have no idea how hard and distressing those truths will be. There will be no progress if we become defensive or walk way when the discussion gets intense. There will be no progress if we, as white people, come to any discussion with answers and solutions. Progress, I think, will involve significant changes in white culture and attitudes. We must be willing to listen and learn and accept what people of color tell us needs to change. It will take more humility and grace than most of us typically have. It will be difficult.
But as Christians we know, Jesus is found in these difficult, painful places. Jesus is already there and has been there for a long time. Jesus calls us to join him where there is suffering and pain and anger and tears. That is what people of faith must bring to this- our determination to follow Jesus into difficult and painful places. Our determination to follow Jesus into places we cannot fix. Because we believe Jesus is Lord, not sometime in the future but Lord now, there is a way forward- even if we can’t see it. And that belief needs to keep us talking and praying. That belief needs to keep us engaged in uncomfortable dialog. That belief will require us to sacrifice privilege and perhaps what some of us may consider our rights. That, of course, is what Jesus did. And what Jesus calls us to.