Not again…that’s what I thought when Amanda told me there had been another officer involved deadly shooting of an African-American. Sadness was my primary reaction. And then my mind started to churn…was it justified? Were the circumstances out of control? Why does this happen so often? Has it always been happening? How will the neighbors react? How will the staff react? Will this be a tipping point? And just hours after I hear that news, a shooter in Dallas murders 5 police officers and wounds others. When will this stop? Are we about to have large scale rioting? So many thoughts, but before we can even process those events from Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas, another shooting happens much closer to home. Just blocks from our house and ministry center, Alva Braziel was shot and killed by police. Tragic.

Months before any of these shootings, Agape Development had a planned a training for summer staff about racial reconciliation. My friend and pastor, David Hill and I do a workshop called “Conversations that Heal”. Over the years, we’ve had many significant conversations about race, injustice, and old wounds. Through these years of friendship, we’ve drawn out principles that have led to healing for both of us. We’ve given the workshop many times over the past 3 years, but never so soon after a police shooting, much less one in our neighborhood.

I am always a little anxious before giving this particular workshop, but this time even more so. Would I say the wrong thing? How was it going to be received after the intensity of the week? These kinds of fears easily keep us from addressing the subject at all. It’s uncomfortable. But as followers of Jesus, we simply cannot say nothing. Monday night, the workshop was packed and we had time afterwards to join in prayer for the families and communities affected by the recent violence. David relayed his journey of coming to a place where he was able to share vulnerably with me, stories of old pain from racism. That he would share vulnerably with me as a white man, in light of our nation’s history, is an undeserved gift of tremendous courage that I can never repay. I shared some things I have learned over the years about how to listen to the painful stories of racism without rushing to fix, explain, or try to defend my own race. We both shared mistakes we’ve made along the way like making assumptions, generalizations, or seeking quick fixes to guilt.

Am I naïve enough to think that something as small as my relationship with my brother in Christ will make a dent in the massive problems we have as a nation? Do I think it changes the reality that blacks are policed differently than whites? Or that the violent crime in our community is far greater than in other communities, drawing more police here in the first place and putting them more on guard? Yes. We will certainly be called to more, but healed relationships between individuals must be the bedrock.

Regardless of what you think about the recent news, as believers we must agree that God’s Shalom will not come by deciding that the problem and the responsibility for change rests completely with “them.” Shalom will cost us all, but the gospel offer remains a treasure worth all we have. Lord grant us the courage to seek that Shalom. Come Holy Spirit.

awsd

 

2 Responses to Kirk Craig’s Response to the Recent Shootings in America

  1. Louise McLarty says:

    Beautifully said, Kirk! I worked in a predominantly black school in southeast Houston for 30 years. I was there long enough to be accepted as one of them – and the children often discussed racism among themselves forgetting that I was white. I understood their pain. At one point they decided I was “mixed” because I stayed and showed love for them and they asked if my children were black or white. I went into the community often visiting homes of disabled children and saw many circumstances that were disturbing. I don’t believe I saw color in those elementary children. I just saw many kids without fathers present in the home and other children “staying” with grandparents because neither parent was in their lives. Many of my best friends in those teaching years were black and most were really good people – and many strong Christians. If we all got to know each other really well I think the suspicion and fear would subside. We are all God’s creation. We all have a desire for a better life for our children. And the really common need is the love that only Jesus can bring into our hearts. God’s love melts hate and fear and brings peace.

  2. Hardy Fairbanks says:

    I really appreciate your words “That (David Hill) would share vulnerably with me as a white man, in light of our nation’s history, is an undeserved gift of tremendous courage that I can never repay. I shared some things I have learned over the years about how to listen to the painful stories of racism without rushing to fix, explain, or try to defend my own race.”

    It reminded me of what Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor of the Village Church in the Metroplex had this to say (preach):

    “History shows on repeat the betrayal of African Americans by the very systems and structures that were meant to protect them. From the Emancipation Proclamation to 40 acres and a mule that were very quickly taken back from African Americans and handed back over to former plantation and slave owners, only to institute a new type of slavery, on in to Jim Crow, to the Great Migration, into the Civil Rights era. We have nothing in our history but that the systems and structures built to protect and defend have oftentimes borne the dark edge of their blade on African Americans. I just don’t see how you can argue that this isn’t our history. This is our history. This is true. Because this is true, this has created a very real fear and rage, a version of PTSD that haunts our African-American brothers and sisters. I think the only shot we have for progress is to develop a deep sense of empathy that is not paternalistic, an acceptance that history has broken some things,that systems certainly are broken, and an empathy in our hearts toward that so that we might actually mourn with those who mourn. I can put it in this arena, and maybe it’s helpful. It is not uncommon for me to have to go to the hospital because a member of our church has died suddenly and tragically. When I show up, and there’s the wife, or there’s the husband, or there’s the mom and dad sobbing their eyes out, I don’t
    start digging around for the facts before I’m willing to enter into their mourning. I don’t go, “Listen. I see that you’re really broken and really angry. Let me tell you theologically why you shouldn’t be.” I don’t show up and see them mourning and see them broken and crying out and angry, and I don’t enter that space and go, “Now where were you when that happened? Gosh, didn’t you think to do…” How wicked of a son of a gun would I be if that’s how I handled brokenness? The inability of
    primarily Anglos to enter the sorrow of our brothers and sisters stems from a lack of proximity, stems from a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding of some of the systemic issues of our nation’s history that has brought us to this point. Let me save you the email. I’m white. I like being white. I don’t feel guilty for being white. I’m not operating out of white guilt. I’m operating out of a desire to be the people of God in a very dark time.”

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