Silence is Betrayal

I’ve been trying to get my bearings since I divorced evangelicalism back in 2017.

We were ever really married. I woke up one day and was told I worked for and with evangelicals and was being taught by them. I thought I was working and serving with Christians. I still remember the being at a staff conference when it was made clear the organization was an evangelical one. I was confused as to why it was stressed…until 45 was elected.

Either way, since I resigned from InterVarsity at the end of 2017 and finished my Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary last month, I’ve tried distance myself from the foolishness. I don’t listen to the news every day. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter as much. I don’t cringe or how write a response when conservatives, evangelicals, republicans, colonized people of color, and/or white supremacists (they are mostly lumped together in my mind these days) say something that denies the image of God in people or reduces people to the social construct of a racial class or says something incredibly sexist/xenophobic/misogynistic, etc.  I practice Tai Chi, I read, I talk to my boo, I exercise—I live my life as I did before I knew what evangelicalism was.

But it’s been difficult to locate a job. I have a Bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies. I have a Master’s degree in Ethics. I have the experiences of an entrepreneur, a manager, fundraiser, supervisor, trainer and staff developer, writer, speaker, critical-thinking problem solver, strategic planner—the list goes on. I’ve spoken with a number of friends who left evangelical employment and most of us are struggling to locate work. We have degrees and experiences outside of that camp, apart from those institutions…yet all of us have one thing in common, we have an evangelical institution listed on our resumes are employers are shunning us like we have the plague.

What’s the catalyst for this post? Well, the last two weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with…you guessed it…the evangelicals. I created my own consulting company so my advice is no longer for free. And something strange has happened these last few weeks—every evangelical I have spoken with has fallen into one of three categories: a) Trump is doing a great job, b) we have an illegal immigrant problem that needs to be fixed or c) we don’t have any race problems in America.

Option C is what someone spent 15 minutes explaining to me last week. On a Sunday. When ICE was attempting to round up undocumented immigrants (because no human being is illegal). The day before the sitting US President told four women of color to “go back home” when three of them were born in the US and the fourth became a citizen years ago. Two days before Eric Garner rolled over in his grave after it was announced there would be no consequences for the police officer who choked him to death on camera.

As NPR lambasted me with the fire hydrant of back-to-back-to-back events, the words of Dr. King rang in my ears…

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

For every pastor, priest, politician, campus minister, executive vice president, CEO, small business manager, you have to see that something is viscerally wrong with our nation. To continue to function with a business as usual mindset is spiritual suicide.

In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah asks about a group of people who have survived the horror of exile and have been returned to their country. His brother told him, simply, the people were back home but were in “great trouble and disgrace” the country was in shambles.

Because the city was not ok, the people weren’t ok. The country was not ok, and as a consequence, the people were not ok. This is the part where someone says Nehemiah about rebuilding walls which is what America is attempting to do.

To quote Dwight Schrute: FALSE.

Half of Nehemiah is about rebuilding the walls of a nation for a marginalized people. It is not about powerful exercising xenophobia and diminishing the value of human life in order to protect your myopic privileged existence. The second half of Nehemiah is about rebuilding the people. There is one of the most powerful scenes of repentance recorded in Scripture—their response to their punishment for ignoring God.

Read the Old Testament right before the Exile (Kings and Chronicles), and you’ll find a repetitive motif: the kings of Israel—and as a result the nation—were judged by what they did with the high places.

High places were the places of worship. Either they worshipped God there or they didn’t. They could be great kings, but it still mentions what they did with the high places. They could be hot trash kings…still, did they honor God in the high places was the evaluative tool.

We live in a nation today where the leading Christian voice, evangelicals, have been overwhelmingly silent, self-absorbed, or pretending that 45 does not compromise of their witness. Too many of our politicians are more concerned with duplicating AOC’s Twitter skills than actually solving problems in Washington. Five years later, after we are no longer protesting in the streets, the lack of convictions remind us that Black Lives Do Not Matter to America. And the undocumented immigrant, the one God says to look after, his form of preference when visiting the earth in the Old and New Testament, we are treating with such disrespect that it begs the question how and why we refer to ourselves as a civilized nation. I mention racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia because these are our high places. They are what America reflects in her actions and inactions every day–either by word, deed, or by silent acceptance.

Despite all of this, oddly, I am optimistic about the future. I was depressed working with and studying under the evangelicals so any freedom I have is better than being trapped in those spaces. I am optimistic because this reminds me of all of the examples when God’s people cry out for deliverance in the midst of overwhelming oppression. God has never failed to raise up a priest, a prophet, a man or woman to be his agent of change at the appointed time.

There will become a reckoning to America.

It will come from Ferguson, Missouri.

It will come from Flint, Michigan.

It will come from Eric Garner’s tears.

It will come from the adults who are currently sleeping under aluminum sheets in Texas and California.

They will be the prophets of our time. And God will give them justice.

I hope we are prepared to give an explanation for our complacency, capitulation, and cowardice.

I won’t be apologizing to them. I’ll be standing beside them then–just as I am now.

 

Where are you?

 

 

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