A few months ago, I ordered a sound machine. I was about to begin my senior practicum and knew that I would have to cope somehow with the FOMO that would come with adopting an early bedtime in a rowdy house full of my best friends, so at 9pm on a Sunday night, I unboxed it, cranked the white noise up, and slept like a baby. A wild semester!!
I find it fascinating that the combination of all audible frequencies drowns out other sounds. White noise numbs us, pushing us toward a neutral state.
Ironically, amidst a cacophony of voices, we drift off to sleep. Sound familiar?
The paradox of my generation is that perpetual parallel dialogue on social media actually makes it harder for us to reach the truth. We can quickly dispense our own monologues before we have listened to a diverse range of perspectives or fully digested the reality of a situation. We can even filter out information from lenses that don’t align with ours. When everyone is proclaiming something from the safety of their own epistemic bubble, we wind up further from the core of what is really happening. We talk past each other until we’re too exhausted to engage at all anymore. Shut it all out, drift off to sleep.
If I’m honest, the fog has enveloped me lately.
At the tail end (we hope??) of a global pandemic and the rising heat of political and racial tension, we’re all being pulled in a thousand different directions. Mixed messages are written everywhere and it’s just a mess. We’re telling each other what the appropriate response looks like and what shape reform should take. We’re reacting to each other’s reactions and attacking the motives behind them. Some are saying that to be white and be silent is to have blood on your hands, while others are calling us to just speak less and listen more. Some are engaging with individual and corporate racism for the first time, whether in their homes or with arms heavy from cardboard signs held high. Some are rejoicing that white America is largely waking up. Some are still claiming that racism isn’t a problem. We’re all figuring this thing out and we can’t move forward without grace for each other.
Anyone can have keyboard courage, but justice on the ground looks quite different.
How do we land between echo chambers and the forum? We’re not gaining anything if the only voices we’re hearing sound just like ours, but we can’t afford to clear headspace for every voice either. The most proximal questions pressing on me are, “What does my circle look like?” and “Where am I turning for information?” I need to listen to people who look different from me, but I need God’s voice to be the loudest.
Extremes swallow us up, sucking us into gods of nationalism, partisanism, and tribalism, but there is a better way. I believe that the Christian answer is beautiful and all-sufficient because it rests not on the work we do but the work of Jesus Christ. Scripture draws us to the best answer we have. This is anything but a shallow approach to racial reconciliation; Of course we still fight for justice in our corner of the world, but we must properly diagnose the problem at hand and understand that we are not the answer to it.
All were made in the image of God and all have sinned and fallen short of his glory. Jesus came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins by death on a cross, and we love other image-bearers from the overflow of the love that he showed for us. Reconciliation is both horizontal and vertical.
My understanding of God should shape my view of what justice looks like in the world rather than the other way around. My politics do not inform my view of God; my view of God bleeds into my politics – and every other facet of my life. God is just and merciful; I will pursue the same.
So what does he have to say about injustice?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
Biblical justice = confronting evil on earth and reconciling hearts to Christ.
Jesus fought against injustice, but he was most concerned about the salvation of both the oppressed and the oppressor. He is our standard for righteousness, and if we miss him in our pursuit of justice, we miss the point.
Speak out, not for the sake of individual exoneration, keeping in step with the status quo, or calling out the motive of another, but that God’s heart might be seen in our response and people may be set FREE.
At the end of the day, I’m still white and there is no end point to my understanding of racial issues. This is about humanity, far too visceral to be shoved into the confines of party affiliations. Beyond the quantifiable, how many narratives does it take for a problem to be realized?
“The difference between the wise and the foolish is a teachable spirit”, so tell me your story.