The Only Way I Know How To Save the World

So I wrote a blog post about race relations and Ferguson.

Was it a helpful post? I don't know. Will it make a difference? I don't know.

I'm glad I wrote it to express solidarity. That's never a bad thing. But I struggle with writing such posts.


For one thing, I find my motivations obscure and hard to penetrate.

Why did I write the post?

People were looking for, calling for responses from White Christians. Did I respond out of guilt? Was I shamed into it?

Did I write because I wanted to help, to add my voice, or because I was signaling, managing a social media image? Showing that I was one of the "good Christians" who got a post out there?

I don't think I did it for any of those reasons, but I never fully trust my self-assessments. I can't say for sure that my motives weren't mixed.

I want to do good, but I also want to be perceived, perhaps more than I'd like to admit, as being a good person.

Beyond these neurotic motivational ruminations, I also struggle with writing those sorts of posts because I wonder if they make any difference.

Does a passionate, in-your-face blog post, Tweet, or Facebook note actually improve race relations? Surely it gives the impression that you've done something, but does it make a difference?

I wonder.

We demand that people write things about race relations--Show up on social media!--but do all those posts and Tweets add up to anything tangible and lasting? Are we actually changing the world as we sit at our computers? Or is it all just going down a digital drain?

And if we are not effecting concrete and lasting change, why are we demanding more words on screens?

These are the sorts of things that roll around in my mind when any controversial subject hits social media. I'm always eager to express solidarity. We need more of it. So I want to add my voice. But my lingering skepticism about motivations and efficacy makes my head hurt.

And then I went to church.

Last night was the monthly meal, praise and communion service at Freedom Fellowship, the church plant I've written so much about.

The events in Ferguson were on Paul's heart tonight. So Paul called Henry, Ray, and Christiana up to the front, to stand with him as we prayed for Ferguson, each of them representing all the races in our fellowship.

And so we prayed. All of us together. Praying for Ferguson. And pledging to love each other as members of the body of Christ.

During the meal beforehand, Jana and I sat with Anthony. Anthony is Black.

Passing by the nursery I held the hand of one of our newest members, three month old Richard, bouncing on his mother's lap. Baby Richard is Hispanic.

During services Jana and I sat with Moses. Moses is Black.

And I drove Henry home after church. We listened to Tejano music. Henry is Hispanic.

I am White.

This is the body of Christ.

Each of us in that church, despite our race and everything else that divides us, from gender to education to socioeconomic status, showing up to eat together, worship together and pray together.

I don't know how to fix America's race relations problem. Does writing a blog post help? I really don't know, though I'm glad I wrote it. A blog post is what it is, and that may be much or very little.

Does walking in a march help? Sitting with a candle in a vigil? Signing a petition?

I don't know.

But what I do know is this. And it dawned on me during Paul's prayer. And listening to Ray give us a little spontaneous prophetic exhortation afterwards.

It dawned on me as baby Richard, with his dark chocolate eyes, squeezed my finger. It dawned on me when I asked Henry to translate Spanish lyrics.

Yes, social media and Internet activism are wonderful things. Tweet and blog away my brothers and sisters.

But for my part, the only way I know how to save the world is by going to church.

My Brothers and Sisters at Freedom Praying for Ferguson

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10 thoughts on “The Only Way I Know How To Save the World”

  1. I like this a lot, Richard, and I think it offers the only real and workable solution to an increasingly intellectually complex problem.

    I read and re-read the comments on the previous post and the only thing that kept popping into my mind was Ecclesiastes 12:11-14. I think there are a lot of white people that want to find a solution to the race problem, but they don't have the energy to give to an admittedly difficult discussion of topics that help find a path to reconciliation. The dialogue between you and Christena in the comments was very helpful to me in understanding and being able to accept a difficult way forward, but it's a discussion that would be tough to grasp and implement for many people, I think. That's where going to church, sharing our naked humanity and the Holy Spirit, can do much more than we could imagine.

    I was also thinking there's some room in your ideas to examine theodicy and moral luck in relation to the problem of institutional racism in America, too.

    I want to thank you for starting a discussion on your blog that has been more helpful than anything else I've read this week in understanding myself and others. I was outraged at Michael Brown's murder, as were many white people. But, my natural response is to throw rocks at the centurions, and not to carry their pack an extra mile. I'm looking forward to taking communion with a different frame of reference this morning.

  2. Also, Richard, what are some ideas you have to help our tribe to increase connection across the ecumenical/sectarian and black/white divides? I started attending an ecumenical congregation a year ago after attending a Disciples congregation for over a decade, and never realized there was a black CoC church in this area. It's been there a long time, but I never heard about it in the sectarian congregations I used to attend years ago. I'm thinking my congregation could try a plant like Freedom Fellowship outside of our suburban white enclave. Perhaps we can discuss how Highlands did this outside of the comments section someday soon.

  3. Yes, I think that's the big catch to the post. What if my church doesn't look like that? But that's one of the reasons I posted this. Lots of people are asking, What can I do about these issues? And I think the answer is right in front of us, especially here on the Lord's Day: think about how you do church.

    The church is God's plan to save the world. So let's work on doing church as it was intended.

  4. Very good questions; very honest and difficult questions.

    Indeed, we all must find that place where we save the world. Mine is on my sofa at 3:30 AM when I feast on scripture and the writings of those who are much wiser than I; when my prayer to God is, "Help me be your child; help me be humanity's child". I am truly convicted that this time puts power in my "Good mornings" and conversations when I walk into my job, meeting co-workers and families of multiple races, neighborhoods and back grounds.

    You asked, "Does walking in a march help? Sitting with a candle in a vigil? Signing a petition?" I most certainly believe they do. After all, there are very, very few "Road to Damascus" moments out there. What I mean is that practically all changes in people are long, arduous journeys within; we just don't see them until they make the first, outward visible step. And these changes within are stirred and pushed by witnessing the first and continued steps of tens, of hundreds, of thousands, until we cannot do anything but surrender.

    This is why, in spite of the anger of those who see their world disappearing, who, at the moment, cannot conceive of a United States of America in which people of color are becoming the majority and becoming a greater part of leadership, I actually have hopes! After all, I do not believe that the apostle Paul's was a true "Road to Damascus" moment in the way we normally use the expression. Yes, he was a Pharisee who believed in a literal resurrection of the dead, which worked on his mind and heart; and though this new sect of Christians in most ways was too much for his traditional values, there was only so much anger and vile that he could live with, until he became sickened with himself as he would drag away those who began to look larger them himself. He was not the first to fall off his horse and surrender, and he certainly was not the last. I have hopes!

  5. I read a lot of your blog posts and comment on some. It's hard to say which post is the best but this post is certainly among the best. Without going into all the good but often cumbersome musings on the relationship between missiology and ecclesiology, you brilliantly remind us that our best answer to resolving the racial divisions is to simply be the church Jesus intends us to be. That is a community where there is neither black, nor white, nor hispanic, nor... but all are one, reconciled to God and each other.

  6. A single christian lady named Dorris is a member of our large church and a member of our small group. She participates fully, speaking words of exhortation and encouragement to us all. Dorris is black . She sat behind us this morning, had her family there. One daughter is married to a white brother who sat with her and their two daughters. Dorris served communion with my wife and me.

    On Her first visits ro highland no one spoke to her but she didn't give up. But Dorris tried agrain and one of our sweet hispanic Christian ladies "got hold of" her and pulled her into our group and helped her plug into the communion servers brigade. I don't know all the dynamics in this situation, but I'm certain Dorris' being at Highland is where she thinks Jesus would have her.

    I am thankful for people like Dorris....and people like you......ministers of reconcilliation. And you are prophetic. Your words and example spur us on to love and good deeds. Godspeed, my brother.

  7. What matters most to me as a Xn is that other Xns hear such viewpoints as this post. Many share your views. But many don't. If 80 percent of whites in a Pew poll say race isn't an issue in Ferguson and in this "shooting Michael Brown as a dog," as young blacks perceive it, and most blacks do see it as an issue, white Xns need to speak to other white Xns -- and demonstrate in solidarity with young African-Americans who are saying they have nothing to live for because that's how serious things are, despite progress. I grew up in the '40s and '50s. This is how I see it. Thank you.

  8. I do think that posting is important, actually, because people read far more than they respond to. The time has come for white folks to do their part about confronting racism in its current form in the US. How racial and ethnic disparities align with the criminal justice system may be the hardest civil rights issue of our time. The people with the privilege need to speak up. The conversation has to start somewhere. I don't do church the way you do. But please know that for a white man to say, albeit virtually, there is a problem with this situation, has value. Because for better or for worse, your gender and race put you at the top of the pyramid and therefore, what you say has, in some circles, more weight than what others do. Don't despair. You can't know all the good that comes from your actions. Every little bit counts. It isn't enough - it won't be until it is over. But it encourages and sustains others. I know that in my bones.

  9. it's the dumbest thing i have ever read. I was searching some other person like me, who really know how to save the world. And you want to go to church , the best place to find pedofiles, and i am not kidding, recently the pope demanded the arrest of a cardinal in rome. Cases of Pedophily raise every day, every minute, every second. The scariest thing for me is, do you actually know how they will be convicted ? do you actually know how they will be judged ? Of course you don't you stupid sheep. They are judged Not by the normal court oh no. By the vatican and with closed doors. But can believe what you want. Going to church won't stop the world to go rotten my "friend" .. sorry

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