Updated: Jul 2
My name is Imani Geary. I am a proud Black & Filipina woman. This essay is an admonition for Christians who claim neutrality in the face of social, spiritual, and cultural uprising. I feel a conviction in my heart that I need to speak up about as it directly pertains to my heritage and my identity. If the topic of race makes you uncomfortable, I'd like you to try to have an open mind. Push past that discomfort and take my words into consideration. Set aside your personal agendas to support me and my people in this time of suffering.
There are 6 points I’d like to make:
1. Turning the other cheek does not equal silence. 2. Prayer will not work as intended unless you act upon it in faith. 3. God is a loving God, yes, but He is a just God as well. 4. You are either for equality or against it. 5. We identify with peaceful protests, not senseless riots and looting. 6. Your discomfort when talking about racism is justified.
TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK DOES NOT EQUAL SILENCE
It is often preached in the Bible (namely Matthew 5:38-40) that we, as Christians, should always "turn the other cheek." This is true. We must be impartial and look upon others with love. Jesus explains that “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” But what does He mean, exactly? I feel like Jesus' true connotations have been misconstrued. When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, He did not intend for us to take every beating or snide remark with a grain of salt. No, he meant that when we are met with injustice and violence, we are not to reciprocate with injustice and violence. When your child disrespects you, what do you do? Do you remain silent? Do you allow their problem behavior to keep happening until they somehow figure out that what they're doing is wrong? No. You would lovingly rebuke your child. You let the child know that what he or she did was wrong in order to prevent it from happening again. The same applies to protesting racism. If a cashier refuses you service solely on the basis of race, the right thing to do would be to assert that what they’re doing is unfair and they should recognize their discriminatory behavior as unlawful. What do you think the former definition of "turning the other cheek" would do? According to behavioral psychology, your choice to stay silent in that situation would serve as a “negative reinforcer” for the cashier because there was a lack of reproach. Therefore, allowing the cashier to treat you unfairly has indirectly lead to an increase in that behavior. Allowing injustice to happen over and over again because you’re afraid of confrontation or because you think you're "taking the high road" is part of the problem. In silence, you’re literally telling that person that what they’re doing is alright to do because they won’t suffer any repercussions from it. Rebuke racist behavior with love and understanding, otherwise the vicious cycle of unfair treatment will continue. We must be vigilant and discerning when it comes to how our actions, or lack of actions, affect others.
PRAYER WILL NOT WORK AS INTENDED UNLESS YOU ACT UPON IT IN FAITH
I will admit that my generation of believers tends to use prayer as a cover-it-all way out of our problems. I am a devoutly Christian woman. I love my God with all my heart and I do personally believe in the divine power of prayer. However, I think this is where most people get confused. Some have started to believe that prayer in itself is the solution to your problems. In reality, prayer is merely asking God to guide you towards solving your problems. Take this for example: You’re stuck on a deserted island. You pray to God to send you a boat so you can sail off the island safely. You start finding all sorts of tools on the island like a hammer and wooden planks. You could use these items to build yourself a boat, but you sit back down and continue praying that God will send you a boat. You end up dying on that island because you relied entirely on the ceremony of prayer, rather than the nature of prayer. Some don't have the motivation to use and act upon the opportunities that God presents them, resulting in a missed blessing. While prayer is a powerful tool to use when you’re feeling overwhelmed, praying without intention becomes misguided, especially when you are not actively searching for ways to bring that prayer to fruition. We can say our “thoughts and prayers” are with protestors and repost pictures on instagram all we want, but real change happens when real action happens. Some things may be out of our control, like when we pray for healing. But when an opportunity like this one arises, the opportunity to rise up and demand sociocultural change, we have to act upon it! God heard our prayers. He has given us all the tools to fight back, and all we have to do is use them. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Prayer works, but you must be willing to put in the work too.
GOD IS A LOVING GOD, YES, BUT HE IS A JUST GOD AS WELL
Does anything about George Floyd’s story sound fair to you? Do you think God is going to stay silent about the fact that his people are unfairly killing each other? The reason this movement has grown to the proportions it has is that the spiritual and cultural wars we’ve been fighting for hundreds of years have been boiling up to this point. We can’t brush it aside and let this keep happening. We can’t keep saying “Oh, this happens all the time and it’ll happen again. We just have to move on.” This pattern of outrage, protest, and silencing can’t be the norm! As long as you proclaim that God is your God, you must fight for justice as He fought for you. Let’s think back on what Jesus did when He discovered that the government had disrespected His temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Did He stay silent? Did He avert His eyes and pray that God would make it go away? No! He got involved and made it clear that what was happening was unlawful and unholy. He was angry. Jesus Himself got angry, but only when it was absolutely necessary. Yes, we are to obey and give respect to our authorities where obedience and respect are due, but as soon as the authorities forsake and infringe our moral rights, we are justified in demanding change. Jesus constantly challenged the status quo in His day. He lovingly rebuked Pharisees and Sadducees, even calling them “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28) because they weren’t practicing what they preached. If you are truly trying to have the mind of Christ, remember what Jesus stood for; He actively stood for equality and justice.
YOU ARE EITHER FOR EQUALITY OR AGAINST IT
There can be no neutral side. This should go without saying. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but if you can’t actively stand against inequality and injustice, you are no better than the racists themselves. You are being complicit in racism. God does not tolerate prejudice or colorism in His kingdom, so why should you tolerate any form of prejudice or colorism on Earth? Also, this fight isn’t exclusively for black people. This is for all people of color who are directly affected by systematic racism. This is a fight for all people whose lives have been neglected by the people we're supposed to trust our lives to. If you can’t fight for your black brothers and sisters in suffering, unfortunately, you are being complicit in racism. The goal is unity and love for all people. Please do your part.
WE IDENTIFY WITH PEACEFUL PROTESTS, NOT SENSELESS RIOTS AND LOOTING
I don’t believe looting is ever justified. It’s entirely a means to one’s own end. When the colonizers first pillaged and looted the natives, that worked out “well” for them. But because of that, many have now been conditioned into believing that lashing out in violence is the only way to get movement, which is so wrong. We’ve started race wars, we’ve lighted fires, but all it does is push the agenda that black people are animalistic (which is entirely false and blatantly racist). It’s counterintuitive to fight fire with fire, but for a lot of people, it’s frustrating when our peaceful protests are met with more unnecessary violence. I will never condone violence, but think about it... isn’t it sad that even when we exercise our lawful right to peacefully protest, black people's concerns are consistently silenced and ignored? For so long, our voices have been overwhelmingly ignored to the point that some people have begun feeling like they have to be violent in order to be heard, which is truly heartbreaking. How could we have let it get to this point? What solutions are being proposed in order to stop the senseless killings? Martin Luther King Jr. always preached peaceful protests. It’s what started the civil rights movement in the first place. I don’t think he could ever endorse outright destruction of property or revenge on cops. We just have to keep demanding peace so there can finally be a civil conversation about what needs to be done for reform. But that can only happen when the violence stops on both ends.
YOUR DISCOMFORT WHEN TALKING ABOUT RACISM IS JUSTIFIED
Racism is uncomfortable, but we shouldn’t avoid the topic. It is a stigma we have to shake, starting in our own homes. Whether we like it or not, racism and prejudice affect all of us. We have to open the floor to discussion. We have to keep talking about it, otherwise, we will never reach a satisfactory solution. March with us. If you can’t support the movement by marching, then donate. If you can’t donate, spread the word. If you can’t spread the word, inform yourself about our history. Don’t be stagnant in your faith. If you truly believe we’re all equal, I hope this has convicted your spirit enough to start actively doing something to put more positivity into the world. Lastly, I’d like to leave you all with a verse. In Galatians 3:28, it says, “AND WE NO LONGER SEE EACH OTHER IN OUR FORMER STATE—JEW OR NON-JEW, RICH OR POOR, MALE OR FEMALE—BECAUSE WE’RE ALL ONE THROUGH OUR UNION WITH JESUS CHRIST WITH NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN US.” God bless us all.