My various news feeds are swirling with people responding to injustice. Peaceful protests all across the nation. Violence and looting. Police brutality. Police support. Theological commentaries. Mental health resources. Point-counterpoint articles. The list of things to watch, read, and listen to gets longer and longer and longer.
This list of things to do can feel contradictory at times. Put up a black square on Instagram! Don’t put up a black square on Instagram! Listen! Speak up! Wear black to a local protest to show solidarity with Black people! Don’t wear black because it is associated with subversive groups!
Instead of playing whack-a-mole with emotions and information and seemingly contradictory instructions, I want to consider my responsibility (response-ability). How can I respond to the injustices and anger and pain and disagreement out there? How can I respond to the emotions it brings up in me—the sadness, the withdrawal, the hope?
But today I’m offering this list for those of us who are still looking for ways to respond thoughtfully and lovingly to current events: Reflect, relate, respond.
Reflect: What do you need to understand? What do you need to learn? (And if there are dozens of things on that list, pick one.) Where can you go to read, listen, watch, and think about that topic or event?
Relate: Who do you need to understand? What stories can help flesh out what you’ve learned? (And public service announcement: people of color are not responsible for educating white people about their personal experiences. Thankfully, many individuals have written, filmed, and recorded those experiences so that even if you don’t have a friend you can talk with about these things, you can seek out those resources and consider what it would mean to cultivate true friendship outside of your racial/ethnic group over time.)
Respond: What are you able to do in response to injustice? What thoughtful, humble, deliberate action can you take in response to what you have learned and who you have listened to?
I need guides and curators to know what I need to understand, who I need to listen to, and how I might respond to injustice. I am especially keen to listen to the voices of African American Christians right now. To close this post, I’d like to recommend a few voices who have been guiding me into responding to current events with love.
First, my friend David Bailey is the leader of Arrabon, a ministry that trains and equips churches in the work of reconciliation. David is a Black man who lives in Richmond, Virginia. In his monthly newsletter, which arrived today by email, he writes: “Brothers and sisters, we live in a broken world, so there is a lot to be angry about. The church should be a place where people learn how to process their anger. Is your community of faith a place to help people process their anger about injustice? Or is your community of faith a place that doesn’t shepherd people about issues of anger and injustice, but critiques others when they don’t express anger in the appropriate ways?”
Willie James Jennings
I read those words and then headed out on a run, where I listened to a podcast with Willie James Jennings, another Black Christian man who teaches at Yale Divinity School. Jennings’ podcast was titled “My Anger, God’s Righteous Indignation.” He talked about the importance of anger for people of faith in the face of injustice. He talked about the connection between anger and hope. He talked about how Jesus protects us from moving from anger to hatred.
Austin Channing Brown
As I read and listened today, I was reminded of Austin Channing Brown’s memoir, I’m Still Here. Brown also is a Black Christian whose story of growing up in the United States includes her own anger about the injustices she personally suffers and the injustices experienced by generations of people. For Brown, too, anger ultimately leads toward hope.
Respond to Injustice
As a white Christian, I have a lot to learn about how to respond to injustice from these men and women who are my brothers and sisters in faith. Their words today prompted further reflection. How little I’ve thought about anger in the context of faith or hope. How uncomfortable I feel expressing or witnessing anger. How much the Psalms could teach me about righteous anger. How much I could better understand and pray for and stand with my brothers and sisters in faith if I were to understand anger.
Reflect. Relate. Respond. With love.
To read further with Amy Julia:
- A Week of Protests: Learn, Listen, Lament, and Love
- Five First Steps toward Participating in Racial Healing
- Choosing to Be Present in Suffering
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