Blaming Christians for the Atlanta shootings shouldn’t be a persecution, it’s prosecution
(RNA) – Some moments of parenting that you know right away stay with you forever. Last year when I was shopping at church on a Sunday, my family was sitting at a large gym at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburbs when my then 6-year-old daughter was looking around the pre-COVID-19 room asked, Loud enough for many of our fellow worshipers to hear, “Dad, where are the brown people?”
Zyan asked this question because all she had known in her own school and in our previous church is diversity. At that moment, I felt like I had been put on the stand to explain the race to my child.
Since Tuesday evening (March 16), when no more than 5 miles from my house, the now infamous “spa rampage” has been raging in Atlanta, eight people were killed, including six Asian women. This heaviness also has to do with church and race, and this time I feel called to explain to my congregation. Twenty-four hours after the shooting, the media had already discovered the alleged gunman’s Southern Baptist Church and revealed his long denomination. Some friends – those outside the media world – were shocked and felt that Christians, and especially Southern Baptists, were being persecuted as believers.
This cry of persecution has become the address of Christians whenever the media focuses on us. However, we are facing prosecution, not prosecution.
We are not persecuted for doing the right thing. We are being prosecuted for handling the last election. For buying into conspiracy theories that we know are not true. Because we did not call our brothers and sisters who participated in the uprising. For shifting blame, refusing to participate, and acting like the guilty party. Yes, it’s a post-Christian culture, but we’ve opened up to its law enforcement powers.
We have to admit that our churches have been on the wrong side of history when it comes to race, politics, and even interactions. How we deal with this moment will be a crucial passage for Christians in this region and across the country.
This begins with changing how we deal not with our feelings about races but with people of all races. When I left church that day with my daughter, I decided to only go to churches that reflect our congregation. Johnson Ferry has been recognized for his discipleship programs, and his pastor, Clay Smith, is a regular contributor on the subject of discipleship. How strange it seemed that they didn’t consider the diversity of their workforce as part of the discipleship in the increasingly diverse Cobb County. (I contacted Pastor Smith, but he was not available for comment.)
Since Tuesday I have heard followers of Christ defensively reiterating that the problem was the gunman’s sex addiction or that “he was not having a good day.” I’m not saying Sagittarius didn’t have a sex problem – it’s clear he did – or that he didn’t have a mental illness. But the rest of us need to realize that our Asian brothers and sisters are watching how we react to the racism one of us displays. They don’t want to know if we are to blame for what Sagittarius did, but if we hear their voices.
We are also judged on how we treat one another. Shortly before Easter we hear, among other things, the story we call “Doubt about Thomas”. Thomas struggled with his faith after the resurrection, and although he did not believe, it is noticeable how the disciples treated him. My friend Daniel Darling writes in his book “Characters of Easter” that the disciples withdrew Thomas to Jesus, and of course Thomas believed in the end.
Recently I have noticed that followers of Christ treat those who ask questions like enemies more than the brothers and sisters with whom they will spend eternity. Scripture makes it known that the world will know us by our love for one another, not by who won social media or the sectarian battle.
We are watched by the outside culture, but more importantly, we are watched by someone bigger than the world around us. If we model the behavior of God’s people, we will be fine. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that this is not our home; we’re going through. But how we behave on the way home is important.
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