Thanksgiving is over in post-Ferguson America, and it can’t come too soon. A national celebration of country, family and freedom from want follows on the heels of protests, frenzied media, and the deployment of the National Guard over the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer over the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown. In an America deeply divided over race and debate over individual character vs. systems, bad apples vs. rigged games, the long dawn of Advent has begun. Thank God.
Advent is upon us, and I’m just not feeling it this year. Granted, it is only the first week, but I’m not sure I can muster up all the mystery and purple and candles again this year.
On Sunday I heard myself say in my sermon something about making our hearts ready to receive the Christ Child this season. I said it as I have said it every Advent for the last 21 years. And later while I was doing the dishes I realized that I haven’t the foggiest idea what I mean by that.
These are wise words from Chris Rock, words that bring to mind the point often made by Ta-Nehisi Coates, among others: that while race may be a construct, this doesn’t change the all-too-clear reality of racism.
I attended a rally last week in Athens, Georgia, expressing unity with the protestors in Ferguson after the failure to indict Darren Wilson. People gathered peacefully, even quietly, and held up signs. The protestors stood in quiet conversations, some with candles, some with children in arms, a mix of white and black and Latina/o.
The first speaker to address the crowd was Alvin Sheets, president of our local NAACP chapter. He thanked us for standing with the people of Ferguson and reminded us of the plight of black Americans, both recently and throughout U.S. history, and the great poverty that many in our own community face. As Sheets’s speech drew to a close, he turned to religion: he expressed his belief that the church needs revival.
When I was living in China, taxis were a convenient and cheap mode of transportation. One time, our taxi driver got into a small fender bender. The cabbie of the offended party got out of his car and began walking towards us shouting angry retorts, garbled in the thick Tianjin accent I was yet getting used to, laced with a few profanities.
My mind ventured off to the Contemporary Christian Music concerts I attended with my youth group. CCM was taking off, and evangelical teens had a mass of buying power. In my home, my mom would pay for any CCM that I wanted.So I listened to the music and even attended Disney’s Night of Joy. It was a magical evening in the kingdom. As Michael W. Smith sang in front of the Cinderella’s Castle, girls in the audience would raise their hands and scream, “WE LOVE YOU, MICHAEL!”
First, we condemn The Gospel Coalition’s editorial leadership for its moral and pastoral failure in publishing such an anti-black viewpoint. No Christian organization should ever participate in dishonoring the image of God in black people, especially at a time when so many black Americans are in pain. Second, we lament the internalized anti-black racism that Pastor Voddie conveyed in his article and the fact that it has been used to further support White-on-Black violence among Christians. Here, we offer a different perspective, one that we believe honors the image of God in black people.