Dear Franklin Graham,
You recently shared this Facebook post, in which you asked us all to ‘listen up’:
And I’m writing to tell you that I have. I’ve listened. And this is what I hear:
I hear voices of injustice bemoaning a broken system. I hear neighborhoods crying out in anger, violence and pain. I hear families ripped apart by unprecedented rates of incarceration. I hear the earthquakes and aftershocks of a nation groaning under the weight of systematic subjugation and racism. And I hear the wisdom of your father, Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, condemning the same racial issues within the Church.
That’s what I hear.
Do I hear disrespect for authority? Sometimes. But not in the ways Christians should. I don’t hear the Church condemning poverty, but I do hear us complain about taxes. I don’t hear Christians bemoan the abuse and abandon of our Native American predecessors but I do hear us indignant over the plight of illegal immigrants. I don’t hear Christian leaders condemning war, torture, or capital punishment but I do hear us fighting legislation that poses a threat to ‘traditional family values.’
And when it comes to racial reconciliation, most of what I hear from white people is along the lines of: “Racism was a thing of the past. But it’s all sorted out now. So get over it and stop making excuses.”
When I turn to Scripture, I hear something very different. I hear that God remembers the sins of our fathers for several generations. I hear the story of his people whose divinely-ordained laws set out provisions for the aliens, the weak, the poor and the hungry. I hear the prophecies of Amos calling for judgement upon a nation known for systematic oppression. I hear the voice of Jesus’ brother, telling us that the religion God demands requires that we look after orphans and widows- the vulnerable, overlooked, unheard in society.
And then I hear the advice of Mark Twain, who said “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” I take this to mean, on a personal level, that we who find ourselves among the privileged, the well-to-do, the successful, the lawmakers, the religious, the Pharisees…it’s time for us to stop and listen.
And still I hear Protestant, white, male leaders who love talking about how the Bible tells us to respect authority when it comes to riots against racism and systematic injustice, but tend to abandon their respect for governmental authority when it comes to laws concerning same-sex marriage. Are you going to continue espousing your paradigm of Biblical submission when our lawmakers advance the rights of same-sex couples and families? Or will your concern for what takes place in the bedroom supersede your concern for the perpetuation of injustice in our schools, neighborhoods, courtrooms and prisons? Is advocacy for the rights of a homosexual citizen what signals- as you recently and so ironically put it – “anti-Christian bias?”
Injustice is not instigated by those on the receiving end of oppression. A white person suggesting that a solution to racial injustice is for minorities to “respect and obey” is like telling a victim of domestic abuse “well…you should try not to make him so angry.”
So I’m writing to tell you that what I hear, Mr. Graham, is a world that groans under oppression. And as white, middle-class, American males, you and I aren’t getting the short end of the stick. Rather it’s the side of the oppressors, the instruments of pain and machines of injustice of which you and I are a part. Racial tension in this country is not created by some bitter minorities with an entitlement complex. Rather, it’s propagated by the insistence of the guilty- that’s us– to stitch up the wound in haste, so that it remains raw and infected. And when the patient returns and asks us to treat it, we demand another payment.
Mr. Graham, I’m listening. And I hear the cries of people who’ve been hurt, who’ve been ignored, who want love and need grace. And I hear the antagonists in the story throwing up our hands and saying: “not our fault, not our problem.”
I’m listening, Mr. Graham. And that’s what I hear.
What are you listening to?
A white male with (pretty) good hearing