Missing the Point with #USEMEINSTEAD

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mugshotI’m all about advocacy and solidarity, but sometimes in the passion of standing up for a cause we just miss the point.

So let’s talk about the #USEMEINSTEAD campaign.

It started with a group of ministers and priests wanting to change the conversation in terms of race. This was in reaction to a Florida police department using mug shots of young black men for target practice. The hope is to make the cops think twice before shooting. They’re using the hashtag to stand against this injustice.

The greater problem here is ignorance, bigotry, and a system slanted against people of color. Cops are paid to protect and keep the peace by our tax dollars, and that protection should be colorblind.

With this new campaign, it feels like the ALS ice bucket challenge. It feeds our selfie culture. Advocacy that happens without any personal cost to ourselves isn’t advocacy. It’s veiled self-promotion. And, oh, did I mention that most of the participants are white?

Now, I’m not saying the heart behind this campaign is wrong. It’s not. What I’m getting at here is that taking a pic and posting it to twitter is no substitute for action.

The problem isn’t about gun range principles. It’s about what’s actually happening on our streets. It’s about a mindset, a racial bias and a culture of bigotry.

I’m pretty sure cops aren’t trolling twitter and then having a life changing epiphany when they stumble upon these photos.

Taking on the role as a white savior of twitter seems to reek of sub-tones of white privilege. These atrocities should stir hearts. But the real posture that must be taken is one of humility, realizing that we don’t have the answers and we do not walk in their shoes. A humble stance would ask questions of the African American community. Humility should lead the white community to admit that they don’t fully understand the problem or what it’s like to be immersed in it. The call to change comes from living a new way. We must submit to African American leadership and to honestly ask this community what help they need.

Issues concerning race are not just in the streets, but also in church buildings and in our pulpits. We can’t treat this simply like a problem to be solved, so we can go back to our daily lives. We must step into a new way of living out our faith.

Soong-Chan Rah said The reality of the situation is that Western, white culture dominates American culture and, in turn, dominates American evangelicalism”. In our globalized world, the church should look like a globalized church. Diversity is needed both in leadership and in mission. One key place to begin this change is by rethinking (strategically) the ethnicity of church leadership. The literal face of Christianity must change. Not a mere token change, but a strategic one. Church leadership and laity should be a reflection of the neighborhood where they find themselves. For the church to truly be an expression of God’s kingdom, it must look as diverse as God’s global kingdom.

For diversity to happen, church leaders must be willing to step into situations of submission engaging with those outside of their ethnic group. For too long, the American church (and other arenas of power) has been dominated (or oppressed) by white leadership and white theology. Submission is both an act of reconciliation and also a posture for learning. The faith we represent is not one of perceived power and influence, but one of love, humility, grace, brokenness, and healing. We must also learn that submission is the chief posture for the people who carry the Gospel into the world; the heart of our church begins and ends in this simple truth.

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