This blog post is written specifically to my Christian and clergy friends. All are welcome to read it but it might make more sense if one realizes to whom it is directed.
Before reading this post I strongly encourage you to watch this video.
With that in mind, every time something terrible happens in our country (mass shootings, cops shooting a unarmed suspects, riots, etc.) and you:
· Immediately post on Facebook some mime, picture or post expressing the popular opinion about who is at fault – STOP IT! Instead, step back, take some time for an investigation to be done, for facts to be uncovered so that an intelligent conclusion (Instead of an emotional conclusion.) can be arrived at and then, if you must, weigh in with your thoughts.
· Speak out about how heartbroken you are about what has happened, piling on the words to sound even sadder than the last person who expressed their sadness. STOP IT! Of course you are heartbroken. Any caring, mentally balanced, emotionally healthy, clear thinking person is heartbroken. You are adding nothing helpful to the corporate conversation. You are not helping.
· Support a rally sponsored by BLACK LIVES MATTER or any other special interest group. STOP IT! Of course Black lives matter. I haven’t done the research but I feel comfortable saying that less than 5% of the American population doesn’t believe that black lives matter. And holding a demonstration on the subject is going to do absolutely nothing to change the minds of the bigoted jackasses who don’t believe that black lives matter. Because such demonstrations hold such great possibilities of descending into violence, and do so little to effect change, they are generally a bad idea.
· Trot out your diatribe that if we would past some more laws on gun control, all of this madness would cease. STOP IT! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that guns are not our core problem – not even close. Hatred, lack of aggressive treatment of mental health problems and attempting to live as a society in a spiritual vacuum are at the heart of our violence problem. Could we do better with the control of guns in America? Of course we could. Would it make a huge difference? Probably not. Certainly we are not naive enough to believe that, are we? Gun control is just an obvious and easy topic to debate. Take away the guns and the hatred, racism and killing would stop? Of course not.
· Use the opportunity to plug your favorite politician. STOP IT! In my lifetime I have watched politicians of all ilk’s promise the moon, rise to power and nothing much has changed. The sad truth is if they have the power to procure a significant office, they don’t really care about us. (No matter what the TV ads might say.) Our political system is so dysfunctional that real change has become an impossibility. And my observation over the decades has been, if you want something to get profoundly screwed up, put the federal government in charge of it. No matter how badly you want to believe it, the reality is your candidate for office is not going to fix our country.
· Express your shock that a police officer has done something inappropriate, improper or contrary to the protection of the public he or she is sworn to protect. STOP IT! Is it a shame? Yes, of course. Is it shocking? Not really. Cops are people and people make mistakes. In any given group of people one will find some that are not too intelligent, some that are mean people, some that are bigoted people, some that are thoughtless people and some that are emotionally unhealthy people. That would be true for police officers. My research tells me that as of last year there were 1.1 million police officers in the United States. If there were just 1% of these officers who fell under the unhealthy descriptions I just shared that would work out to about 10,000 possibilities of something going very wrong. So, is misconduct by a police officer horrible and unacceptable – yes. Do these bad apples need to be weeded out, absolutely. But is this bad behavior shocking, no.
All of the above is so easy to do. For many of us these are our default responses. Talk first and think later. Knee jerk to our default political position. Respond emotionally instead of intelligently. Talk much and do little. It is just what we do. It is also profoundly ineffective. So just STOP IT!
Let me suggest what we Christians and clergy could do that would make a difference. Do what God put us on this earth to do. Apply our theology that tells us that we live in a fallen and broken world that needs the wholeness and healing that comes only from God through a relationship with Jesus. Get out of your office, your home, your church, your comfort zone and engage some people in real and vital relationships and conversations. Within the strength of those relationships share the love, healing, forgiveness, mercy and salvation that is made available to them through the love of God in Jesus Christ. Take some great advice from my son, David. “Want to do something about racism? Befriend a racist. Don't think racism is a problem? Surround yourself with minorities. Want to change the world? Get off Facebook and engage your fellow man. You won't change someone's mind by arguing with them.” Even if he is mine, I think the man is brilliant.
Want to change the world? Change hearts and lives. That is done one-on-one in relationships. Want to see hatred end? Change lives. I know it works because it worked in me. I grew up angry, hostile and basically a hater. If I met you I didn’t like you. My brother introduced me to Christ and Jesus changed my heart. I can’t explain the process but I know it happened. Politics didn’t. Arguments didn’t. Lectures didn’t. Those things may change circumstances but they won’t change hearts and lives. Jesus did it for me and millions of others and He can do it again in this dark and chaotic world in which we live. Things change. People don’t. Not without lots of work and the touch and power of God.
It is our calling as Christians: we are Ambassadors for Christ. We must get out of our Christian ghettos, connect with people who do not yet know God and are struggling with hurt, hatred, racism, brokenness, sin, lack of purpose, confusion, addictions, crappy relationships, fear, poverty and share with them the good news that there is a God who loves them and intends more for their lives.
Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved
Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.