I spit at a MLK sign.
Nope, not in Ferguson. Just down the street. Read on before you jump to conclusions. Almost daily I jog through my neighborhood in central Detroit to burn calories (I’m really good at eating!), pray for community, invest visibility currency, and meet people. As runners know, saliva and mucus build up, causing the need to spit. (I know, yuck!).
This morning, my face dripping with sweat, eyes burning, chest heaving, 45 year old knees aching, praying for two young men I had just met, I spit as I was rounding a familiar corner park at Rosa Parks and Grand Boulevard, mindlessly aiming at a wood post. As soon as I let it fly, it hit me! On top of this “post” is a sign that reads, “Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park”. I looked around, knowing how offensive this could look to people, however unintentional my act. A white guy running down the street who spit at a MLK sign. Thankfully, none of the regulars were hanging at the park. And thankfully my shot appeared to fall short!
But as I jogged along it made me think –
How often do we spit at another race without even thinking?
Now, make no mistake about it, there is a lot of spitting going on that people are totally aware of! People can coldly dismiss the reality of white privilege and systemic injustice with trite simplistic cliches like “that happened 200 years ago!” or “the ground is level at the foot of the cross”. Just read some of the responses to Matt Chandler’s recent blogpost on white privilege. Spit. Spit. Spit. And people can harshly dismiss as “not getting it” or “you are just part of the system!” a person who publicly questions whether a particular incident may have significant variables outside of race and ethnicity (such as St. Louis pastor, Terrell Carter). Spit. Spit. Spit.
There is, however, a “spitting” we do that we may be unaware of. A “spitting” that is, nonetheless, offensive to others, and does not bring justice and reconciliation. Here are a few examples:
1. Knee jerk conclusions.
We are so quick to bring judgment on an issue, and no “side” has cornered the market on this. Wanting to take a righteous stand we fail to observe Proverbs 28:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Fully convinced in our minds, we become blind to the fact we are reflecting the very monster we despise.
2. Blindness to our own racism and prejudice.
We fail to acknowledge there exists within all of us latent racism and prejudice. Lacking a healthy mistrust of self we can not see how stereotypes (through culture, media, family background) have infected our thinking about other races far more than we ever imagined. With this blindness it’s hard to “count others more significant than ourselves.” (Phil 2:3)
3. Public passion coupled with everyday inactivity.
Being passionate and public (social media) about high profile events but silent and inactive over everyday injustice all around us. Perhaps this is the ultimate indictment and reflection of where our heart really is. It reminds me of the Pharisees who made a big display of their religious practices, but weren’t so hot loving at their neighbor in everyday life.
If you are not a Christian, I am not not surprised if you would “spit” in these ways. But if you know the One who was spit on that we might be adopted by grace into God’s family, we must take time to see where we might be “spitting” without even knowing it. Maybe I am so unaware of things, that this blogpost itself is a kind of “spitting”. If so, please don’t label me from a distance, love me with dialogue.
The gospel has everything to do with race, racism, and prejudice. If you would care to hear how, specifically, this works out, I invite you to check out these two series. The ONE series I preached in 2013 – One Creator: Imago Dei dismantles the basis of racism, Wrecking Ball or Cotton Ball Gospel: The Gospel destroys the basis of racism, & The Church: The place where reconciliation should be pursued & displayed. The series from Ephesians 2:11-22 I preached this year – Blood Washed Ex-pagans, Jesus the Wall Breaker, & Sister Sledge & Ephesians 2:19-22.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)