By: Pastor Dan Osborn, Park Community Church Forest Glen
November 17th, 2020
2020 brought a lot of firsts for me.
My first global pandemic.
My first Quarantine.
My first (and hopefully, only) time cancelling the Easter Sunday service.
It was the first time I participated in a march for justice.
And, perhaps most formative for me, it was the year I became a foster parent to a one-year-old black boy.
I am a young white pastor in Chicago. In preaching over the last few years, I have commented on race in my sermons from time to time. I’ve talked about the shootings that have taken place across the country. I’ve condemned racism in conversations and on social media. And yet, this year, something changed in me. Something I am, quite honestly, still processing as a Christian, pastor, and father.
As videos of black men shot or killed flooded our news feeds this year, instead of seeing another name flash across the screen, I saw this little boy I have come to know and love as my son. I’m not saying it’s right, but I did not simply see Ahmaud Arbery. I did not simply see George Floyd and others.
I saw my boy.
And I had nothing to say.
That’s not because there was nothing I wanted to say. I desperately wanted to speak up and talk about what we were all seeing. But for some reason, as I raced through the internal catalog of things I’ve said about race in the past, everything felt like a trivial trope–they may have sounded good then, but they felt empty now.
It felt empty, even irreverent, for me to add my personal commentary over the top of a video capturing someone’s death. After all, what was being plastered before a watching world was the death of an Image bearer. These are men and women created in the image of God, infused by their Maker, with profound value and worth. These are stories that should move us to tears, make us sick, and groan for things to be made right! There is a sacredness to human life that should make injustice repulsive, especially to those who call on the name of Jesus.
You may not have the same experience, but look through American history, and you, too, will find clashing convictions at crucial moments in our national story. You will discover tragic realities that have shaped the world we live in today. You will read the eloquent condemnations of tyranny from Founding Fathers only to be confronted with their suppression of the very liberty they so passionately defended in slavery. You’ll hear from men of color sent off to fight in wars, preserving freedom not even promised them. You can watch footage of dogs sent on peaceful marchers in Selma, see pictures of black churches bombed out, and hear from members of defunded communities wrestling with all kinds of inequality from healthcare, to education, to economic opportunity.
And the American church has always been directly involved in these stories either as champions for repentance and change, or aggressors in maintaining suppression. Yet now is the time for believers to speak and act against the crippling grasp of racism. We may disagree over precisely what steps to take as a united Church, but we can agree with the baseline sentiment that life is sacred, therefore black lives are sacred. Now, let’s act as if it’s true.