I Recently Wrote a Post on Race. Here’s How That Turned Into Action.

I recently wrote a short post on why the race conversations are deadlocked, and why Christianity offers a solution. It developed into far more than I anticipated.

So here’s the story.

In the post, I reasoned that both sides in the race debate are arguing the truth (once you cut out the extremists), and because of this neither side can convince the other they’re wrong.  One side has the perspective of individual responsibility and thus sees these acts of violence as matters of personal failure. This is why they tend to emphasize the criminal and/or sketchy behavior of the people who get shot (or shoot) and emphasize the equal value of all people (hence, “All Lives Matter”). This is true. The other side adopts “group level” thinking and thus sees these incidents as societal failures. This is why they tend to emphasize the environmental factors that led up to these shootings and the inequality certain minority groups face (hence “Black Lives Matter”). This is also true. My argument was basically that since both sides are right, there needs to be a transcendent solution. Christianity, I believe, offers a worldview that can incorporate both sides of the debate and, thus, can transcend the issue.

So I published my post, then continued whatever it was I was doing (likely giving my fantasy baseball team a pep talk because MY PITCHING IS GARBAGE. But I digress). After the post went public, a good friend (who cares very much about racial inequality) made a crucial observation – I wasn’t offering any real world solutions.

I thought about this and realized that she’s absolutely right. I had written on the issue, but hadn’t really done anything except express an opinion from behind a computer.  Sure, the post was intended to be more theoretical than practical, and was simplified to make my point about both/and logic, but what she prompted me to realize is that I never had any intentions to implement it.

I felt like I had contributed something because I wrote 750 words, but this type of slacktivism is, ultimately, meaningless (on that note, anyone know what Kony is up to these days?)

Talk is cheap. And religious talk is cheaper.

So it was on a car ride from Anaheim to Reno where I asked myself “what can I actually do to apply what I wrote on?” Reno isn’t exactly the epicenter of racial friction (although Nevada was once dubbed the “Mississippi of the West,” which was an exaggeration but not without its reasons). Nor is the black community particularly large in this area (it composes roughly 3% of the population, which, for perspective, equates to 1/10 of the population in a square mile of Manhattan).

But regardless, our local church exists to meet local needs. So I decided to reach out the Reno/Sparks NAACP president, Patricia Gallimore, to ask what tangible ways Summit Church could serve the local black community. She was open to any ideas, but said that public education on racial discrimination is huge.

So that led to a simple idea. What if my church hosted a panel discussion where the public could gain an understanding on how the race issues are playing out locally? This wasn’t a revolutionary idea by any means, nor is it something that only the church can offer, but it was a start.

So I teamed up with coworkers Michelle Wright and Jim McMorran and we recruited leaders from the community – not from within our church – who could speak to this issue. Then the dominoes started falling. We got a commitment from Washoe County’s Sheriff, Chuck Allen, to represent the law enforcement community. Then Channel 2 News Director, Jason Pasco, agreed to speak on behalf of the local media. And then Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado joined to represent the Hispanic community.

That blog post ended up snowballing into an event.

pic2-2

Oh but it isn’t, skeptical Tommy Lee Jones picture. It is a demonstration of unity around a common enemy and a forum for mobilization.

At this panel, each representative will not only get to educate the community at large about what their groups are facing, but will also get to present tangible ways that our local community can help. We’re not hosting a discussion for the sake of talk. We’re hosting it for the sake of addressing this particular expression of evil, and rallying as a community to try and prevent Reno from making negative headlines (aside from the ones it already does make).

I agree with my friend that “Jesus is the answer” has been sloganeered into meaninglessness. Vague religious sentiment sounds noble but is worth less than the British Pound. Christianity, however, doesn’t just support real world solutions – it mandates them.

Jesus talks about forgiveness and tangibly saves a woman from getting stoned for adultery.

Jesus talks about God’s love and tangibly weeps with the suffering.

Jesus talks about judgment and  exposes economic injustice in the temple system.

And Jesus tells us to “go and do likewise.”

So Christians seek justice, healing, and peace in the world in addition to conversions because they have been modeled and mandated by God himself. Christianity is not about hiding from present evil and escaping like a ghost into the next world. It’s about the resurrection of this one. That begins now through resurrected people by the power of the resurrected God.

The end is written. People from all nations will join together in the worship of King Jesus. In the meantime, the church can demonstrate in the present what it will be in the future.

After all, faith, without works, is dead.

But works, without faith, were never alive to begin with.

If you want to participate, the panel will be Wednesday, August 24th from 6:30-8:00pm. It will be held at:

Summit Christian Church

7075 Pyramid Hwy

Sparks, NV 89431

 

Christian, husband, pastor, father. Occasionally, I try to arrange words into sequences that make a difference.