Human beings are dying daily, by the hundreds, and being publicly executed because we as a society are not following God. And I do not mean that garbage lie that “God is punishing us because we don’t pledge allegiance to the flag” or “don’t allow prayer to Jesus in public schools.” I mean, human beings are dying daily, by the hundreds, and being publicly executed because the majority of white people in this country, the majority of whom outwardly profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, are not following Christ or the ways God has desired for human beings from the very beginning. We are not providing justice for the oppressed, healing for those who are ill, safety for the vulnerable. We are not loving God with all that we are and have and do. We are not loving others as ourselves.
The more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus are not because people don’t respect the flag. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are not because we don’t have prayer in public schools. The more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus are because we have let the top 1% of human beings in this country, almost entirely white, steal trillions of dollars from the over 140,000,000 people in vulnerable poverty, disproportionally people of color. The more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus are because white people stole the land and resources of sovereign nations already living here, built an entirely new wealthy nation through the enslavement and oppression of black and brown human beings, through Native American, African, Asian, and Latinx human beings; and once all the resources and power were greedily hoarded, said, “You’re on your own. Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps … Oh! By the way, let me have your bootstraps first though.”
The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are because we have established one system of judicial bias for white people and another system of injustice for people of color. White human beings can kill black human beings and walk away freely. Black human beings are often not even allowed to walk freely or breathe. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor happened because the guilt on the souls of generations of white people runs so deep we quake in fear of the day when all that blood is righteously and justly avenged.
Our commitment to following God, or not, has mortal consequences. It is a matter of life or death, not for ourselves alone but for other human beings as well. Jesus expressed this same sense of urgency over and over again in his teaching, as much in the Sermon on the Mount as anywhere:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:21-22
Many of us shy away from the Sermon on the Mount precisely because of the severity of Jesus’ message. But we must face this truth: following Jesus is a matter of life or death.
And now is the time when we need to do everything in our power to bring life into this world. Those of us white and Christian have a particular responsibility. Those of us who are white because we embody all that is worst in our country right now. I know many will balk at this, cry foul, “I’m not like those horrible people!” But our faces, our bodies, our clothing unite us in a way that we must own. Those of us who are white hold privilege and power that others do not. Those of us who follow Christ have committed to loving God and loving others with all that we are, all that we have, and all that we do. And Jesus warned us, to follow him means to be willing even to give up our lives for the benefit of others. Following Christ is a matter of life or death.
And right now, it’s far past time for people like me to put our lives at risk so that others don’t die. We have to change. We have to speak out against lies and ignorance. We have to work and vote for massive structural change in our economic and justice systems. We have to listen to the voices of those pushed to the margins; then, stand with them in solidarity and march beside them in protest. We have to give ourselves to bring justice to the oppressed, health for those who are ill, safety to those who are vulnerable. We have to change. Now. It is life or death.