Strong Allies | Ezer Equipped
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.
Welcome to this month's edition of Ezer Equipped!
Last month we launched a three-part series on the Holy Spirit, and we were all set to send you the next issue on the Holy Spirit’s ministry through us, but in light of the current conversation around racism and injustice in America, we are shifting directions and will revisit the topic of the Holy Spirit next month.
I don’t know about you, but I have felt a range of emotions recently, and I have not known what to do. This weekend, I attended one of the protests. As I stood there, I was keenly aware of a young white man who “looked” menacing. After some time, he began arguing with an older white man, and I was concerned it was about to escalate. I stepped between them and said to the younger man, “Their voices need to be heard and if you cause chaos, their voices won’t be heard.” As I was talking, a young, masked black man stepped up to me and said, “We need a voice. You said they. But it’s we.”
And I remembered what we say all the time at Grace Church: “There is no they; there is only we.” He, a young black man, didn’t see me as separate from him; he included me and my voice in his fight to be heard. This was such a humbling moment for me. He was wiser, more humble, more inclusive, more gracious, more equitable, and united than I. I learned that I still see myself as separate, as other. But there is no “they;” there is only “we.”
The first step to recovery begins with admitting you have a problem. I think most would agree that something is wrong. But we could diverge over what the problem is. So for the purpose of this newsletter, we are going to ask you to draw a circle around yourself and deal only with what is inside the circle—you. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what sin you harbor in your own heart where this issue is concerned, to confess it, to lament it, and to repent of it. I am asking you to:
1 ) Courageously confront the ungodly thoughts, words, and actions of racism in your own life.
2 ) Educate yourself on the plight of men and women of color.
3 ) Choose one or two steps you can take to become a strong ally.
I've been examining my underlying assumptions, thoughts, words and actions. Where have I been negligent, dismissive, or silent? How have I made assumptions about a person’s character or actions based on how the police interacted with him or her? How have I judged a person’s character or value based on the color of their skin? How have I failed to see and understand the legitimate pain, fear, and anger of the black community? How can I not be quick to move beyond when the tension subsides, while they continue to face the daily challenges of systemic racism and have conversations with their children that many of us will never have to navigate?
It’s time for change. Many of us need to educate ourselves on the suffering and injustice our friends and neighbors have faced generation after generation. We need to confront our ignorance and denial, allow ourselves to be discomforted, and walk with them toward equity and justice. It is time for us to use our voices to advocate for change. You cannot single-handedly fix the systemic issue of racism. But you can do something!
Remember, we didn’t get here overnight. This issue runs deep in American history through generation after generation. Some of us are just beginning to awaken to the reality of what our neighbors have suffered. But all of us need to realize that this will require a lifelong process of listening, learning, and laboring.
You cannot have empathy for someone without education; you cannot have empathy until you understand what someone is going through. But the burden of education has to be on us. This month, we have provided a robust resource to help you educate yourself and give you concrete ways to use your voice, your resources, and your strength to be a strong ally for our neighbors. We encourage you to work through this slowly and intentionally. We have work to do.
Because there is no “they;” there is only “we.”
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Article: We Need To Be Uncomfortable
by Phillip Holmes
“Until we’re able to listen to the cries of black advocates, sympathize with black mothers, and express righteous anger over dead black bodies, we might remain comfortable—but it’s a poor substitute for the love to which we’ve been called.”
Book: The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
“Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro's making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance . . . . Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical . . . .There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; and an understanding of the facts of the problem—a magnanimous understanding by both races—is the first step toward its solution.”
by Jasmine L. Holmes
“We want to raise someone who will change this world so that by and by the narrative he has to tell his son—or maybe that his son will have to tell his son or his son’s son—will be different. We want to hold that tension with the already and the not yet. The already being that Walter Wynn Holmes is an image bearer, invested with identity, dignity, and significance and that in God’s economy his brown skin is nothing more than a glorious display of the creative purpose of the Father. And the not yet being the fact that sometimes the world does not see his identity, dignity, and significance and that the results are often grievous.”
Sermon: Tom Skinner Urbana 1970
by Tom Skinner
Even though this message was delivered in 1970, it is surprisingly still relevant, which goes to show that there is much work still to be done.
“You must keep in mind that, during this period of time, in general (there were some notable exceptions, but in general) the evangelical, Bible-believing, fundamental, orthodox, conservative church in this country was strangely silent. In fact, there were those people who during slavery argued, "It is not our business to become involved in slavery. Those are social issues. We have been called to preach the gospel. We must deliver the Word. We must save people's souls. We must not get involved in the issues of liberating people from the chains of slavery. If they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, by and by they will be free—over there."
Instagram story: Upward: The Sin of Silence and God’s Heart for Justice
by Danielle Coke
“The sin of omission is the result of not doing what God says. Not pursuing justice. Not correcting the oppressor. Not speaking up when injustice is in front of you. Not loving your neighbor as yourself. Scripture says that to know what is right and not do it is sin. We need to recognize that a lot of us have been complacent in this.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
1 ) Listen to yourself. What goes through your mind or comes out of your mouth…
- In response to someone saying, “Black Lives Matter”?
- When you see a black male walking down the street with a hoodie on?
- When you see a group of black teenagers standing in a parking lot?
- When you watch a report of an arrest or death of a person of color?
- When you watch news of riots and looting?
- When you see protests in your city?
- When you see another post in your feed about race?
2 ) Check your assumptions. What influences your positions? What were you taught growing up? What were you not taught? Are you aware of the bias and unhealthy stereotypes that influence your thinking? When they creep in, what work do you currently do in that moment to reframe your thinking or what work do you need to start doing?
3 ) Own your ignorance. On a scale of 1-10, how educated do you feel you are regarding past and present racism? How familiar are you with these terms and the impact they have had on the history of racism in our country?
- The difference between ethnicity vs. race
- Structural racism
- White privilege
- Convict leasing
- Jim Crow Laws
- The Great Migration
How much do you understand about what it is like to be black in this country? It’s not the responsibility of a person of color to educate you. It’s your responsibility to read, listen, and learn. For more historical context, check out The African American Experience to learn a brief history of some of the issues that have led to our current crisis.
4 ) As you have reflected on these questions, what have you learned about yourself. Where are you seeing your sin regarding racism? Write a prayer of confession and ask God for courage to take a step towards repentance, even if it makes you uncomfortable. We cannot ask God to heal our land until we first ask him to do the work in our hearts.
Scripture warns us to not be just hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the steps below to take.
1 ) Educate yourself. If you don’t feel compelled by this issue or feel like you don't have personal responsibility for racial injustice:
- Your first step is to listen to the stories of what it is like to be a person of color. It is easy to condemn what you don’t know; our own ignorance and arrogance feed stereotypes. This makes listening to the voices of our neighbors imperative. It’s easy to dismiss a category; it is much harder to dismiss a person.
- Visit museums to learn about the history of black people in America: The National Museum of Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama; The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; and National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Read biographies and autobiographies or watch documentaries and movies about men and women of color. A few suggestions are:
Movies: Twelve Years a Slave; Harriet; Just Mercy; Selma
2 ) Use your leverage. If you are feeling a new awareness but are overwhelmed and confused over what you can do, here are some steps you can take:
- Here are a few Grace Church initiatives you can get involved with and support. For information on how to get involved with any of these organizations, email Jess Satterfield.
- Prison Discipleship Ministry: JumpStart
- Affordable Housing: Homes of Hope
- Local Outreach: Allendale, SC.
- Orphans and Vulnerable Children: Foster and Adopt Ministry
- Housing Ministry Women’s Mentors
- Use your voice. Vote. Write your senators, congressman, governors, mayor, chief of police, city and county council members and express your concern and ask them what they are doing to ensure safety and justice for the black community.
- Support black-owned businesses. Here is a list of restaurants and a list of black-owned businesses. You could also consider using a black owned bank for some of your financial investments.
- Speak up when you hear others making racist comments, or speaking from uneducated assumptions.
- Leverage your privilege and power to protect people of color when you observe discrimination or profiling.
- Give financially to scholarships that support education for black youth.
- Consider volunteering with or donating resources to local organizations like Mill Community Ministries, Urban League of the Upstate, and Frazee Center.
- If you are a parent or a teacher, be intentional to teach your children and students about racism. Here is an article that guides you through age-appropriate discipleship conversations and books on the dignity of all God’s children. Take an inventory of the toys and books you have in your home. Remember, even if you buy new toys and books, your children learn the most from listening and watching you. How you speak and treat people of color will inform their worldview more than what they play with.
- Think about your unique season, circumstances, and the roles you play. How can you leverage your position, your influence, your resources, your voice for the black community?
Remember, you cannot fix the issue of systemic racism. But you can use your voice, your power, and your resources to be a strong ally.
3 ) Pause before you post. Ask yourself these questions before you post about race on social media (some questions excerpted and adapted from Instagram):
- Is this post simply about virtue signaling? Is my goal to dismantle racist systems or to broadcast to my community that I am one of the “good white people”?
- Does posting allow me to feel off the hook for taking meaningful action in my own life? Is this the only action I am taking today to address racism in my spheres of influence?
- How can I work on my own self-awareness in addition to this post?
- Is this a time when it is most important for me to listen instead of speak/post?
- Could a person of color read my post and feel dismissed, injured, or devalued?
- Is what I am about to post true, necessary, and kind?
4 ) Lament. As followers of Christ, when we see the dignity of men and women created in the image of God who are dying at a higher rate than anyone else, parents who are losing their children, communities who are suffering injustice, and political leaders who fail to lead with integrity and humility—the biblical response for all of us is that of lament.
A lament for our particular context might look something like this:
- Acknowledge what you are experiencing. Are you angry? Afraid? Confused? Full of despair? Ambivalent? Grieving? Describe this heaviness while also owning your sin, silence, and self-rightness. Be honest. Offer it all to him. Let him carry it for you.
- Ask God to act, for the sake of his name. Ask him to act and move in specific ways in your own heart as well as our nation. Ask him to move on behalf of our neighbors in the black community. He is moved by the prayers of his people. Cry out to him.
- Frame what you are experiencing around God’s truth. God is just and merciful. He takes up the cause of the weak and the vulnerable. He will one day return to rule and reign in a kingdom that is not marked by injustice, racism, fear, or sin. Only this steadfast hope can settle our minds and give us a measure of peace and hope, while we continue to labor for justice alongside our brothers and sisters. You can see similar patterns of lament in the scriptures: The book of Joel, as well as Psalm 13, Psalm 22, Lamentations 3:1-16 or Job 3.
5 ) Pray for humility. We cannot possibly understand the years of injustice and oppression our neighbors have experienced and we should not pretend to. We need to be careful not to oversimplify complex, deep-rooted issues in pursuit of temporary, feel-good actions. We need to listen and learn with compassion and love for our neighbors.
6 ) Build Relationships. We may not be able to change the world, but we can begin having conversations and building relationships with people who are different. It has to begin with us at a personal level before the world will ever be impacted. Check out our March 2019 issue on Prejudice for additional resources and guidance.
7 ) Seek Opportunities to Grow. If you are local and would be interested in joining a group of women to engage this topic in a more substantial, experiential way, fill out this form and we will be in touch.