Why I marched in Dallas

Alex M.G. Murphy

Alex M.G. Murphy
July 15, 2016

Love, hate and bravery were all on display the night of the Dallas shooting. Christians must keep marching until love wins.

Jon Rohr
July 15, 2016

I am reminded of another parable having to do with a log and a speck. It seems that in the process of being worried about the speck, the author is missing the logs!

Certainly a wrongful shooting by a police officer is more than a tragedy, it is always injustice regardless of the race of the officer or the victim. And I am not mad at the Black Lives Matter folks, I just wonder why it is that only certain black lives that matter?

What about the families that are devastated by black on black crime? What about the hundreds of thousands of abortions of black babies that happen every year? The number of white on black police shooting pales in comparison to the number of black men and women dying each year through black on black violence and abortion.

And, apparently police officers unjustly shoot white people about twice as much as black people. I am not really trying to do a statistical report, because I really think race based statistics just perpetuate racism. But with Google and a few minutes you can check the facts.

Forgive me for thinking that we are arguing about an overturned canoe while a cruise ship is sinking in the background!

Doug Vande Griend
July 15, 2016

What a broadbrush accusation, that if your are white and Christian, you are in the group where "many ... have been far too comfortable with the presence of this evil in the world." What about if you are white and non-Christian, or black and Christian -- or non-Christian, or Asian and Christian or non-Christian, or Arab and Muslim. No, pretty much the only group that gets accused, as a group, of being "too comfortable with the presence of ... evil in the world" is white and Christian -- including in thinkChristian articles.

Doesn't that sound like racism and bigotry? Respectfully, it does to me.

Let's go a bit further on this. So the author was marching in a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas to protest about police brutality against blacks. In that march, he and others who were also protesting, were protected by Dallas police, and when when a person who was black started shooting police, the police (by all accounts) put their bodies and lives in between the shooter and the protesters, regardless of color or religion. So that means what? That we should continue to further protest the police by marching in Dallas? That white Christians are "too comfortable with the present of evil?"

Perhaps the meaning of those events is quite different. From all reports by pretty much everyone (excepting the black Dallas shooter I suppose), the Dallas police department, headed by a black police chief regarded by pretty much everyone, including white Christians, as exemplary, does its job exceptionally well, even if part of their job is to protect, defend and die to allow folks to protest, in Dallas mind you, against police brutality of blacks.

Is there a point where marching and chanting, and applauding marching and chanting for an ambiguous claim of "working and marching against the evil of systemic racism" and for "truth and justice" becomes a bit too nebulous to the point of being empty, even over the top and counterproductive? Frankly, I think so, and a march in Dallas (which I would defend as the marchers' legal right, but so is getting drunk) is Exhibit A for that proposition.

And just what is a "love-fueled protest?" Was this march a thank you march for the benefit of the Dallas police? If not, what exactly was its point?

Carrie Seazzu
July 15, 2016

The Bible didn't say that the Good Samaritan went on to publicly denounce any of the other people who passed by the man in need. He simply obeyed and acted out the loving thing to do. It was a very personal action that happened between God, himself and the man in need.

Your act of being part of a march that whether or not you understand does indeed carry the dangerous message that the most vulnerable of our society's public servants, our police officers, are the ones responsible for the ills of our society in regard to the injustices that our black communities face.

If you really want to be part of helping the black community, then do so in a way that actually brings about the sort of change that the community needs.

There are countless ways to help via taking the Gospel to them, education, and job creation. America has plenty opportunities for mission work.

America can be a place where small groups of people can come together to form clubs or societies for a specific cause to do something about whatever God has placed on their hearts to address. This can be done without demanding that elected officials (government) take care of it.

But this act of marching, in the end, seems to be more for those marching than for the ones in real need.

Who are the ones called on to protect the people marching? The very ones being blamed for the problems. That, right there, is an injustice in itself.

Prayerfully, God will answer our cries for wisdom and understanding in how each of us can obey His command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And that applies to EVERYONE - not just whites.

July 15, 2016

Thank you for this.

Yes, Black lives matter.

Yes, I too see the call to follow Christ and identify with and protect the poor and oppressed. Thank you for helping us to see the connection between obeying Christ's command to love your neighbor and protesting, advocating, and your work as a teacher.

Yes, I concur that there is overwhelming documentation that white evangelicals especially, as a whole, and that white Americans in general, have a problem with racism.

We can't bear to think that we might be racist. That our systems, our assumptions, the way we've set things up to work, our authority structures and pet institutions--that these things might be racist in ways that are usually invisible to us.

But it's still true. We need to understand that racism isn't primarily this past thing, a matter of overt hatred manifesting in a conscious decision that leads to a specific, overt racist action, like burning a cross on the front lawn of a black family. That kind of overt, unapologetic action still occurs, don't get me wrong. But the deep resentment and bias against African Americans in the "bad old days" has just been driven underground, not eradicated.

Instead of dressing up in bedsheets and calling your racist Sheriff buddy to join you to give that uppity n***** family a good scare as our grandparents might have done, we just pick up and move when black people move into predominantly white neighborhoods, God forgive us. Instead of redlining, we have realtors showing houses on one side of the tracks to clients of one color, and houses on the other side to clients of another color. Instead of signs that outright warn that certain ethnicities need not apply, we blithely assume that we're a post-racial society even while we don't call Jamal for an interview because we are pretty sure he's not a 'good fit' but we can tell that James is very professional--just from their names (http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873; in sum, study results show that white-sounding names receive 50% more call backs than black-sounding names).

We aren't even moved by the obvious self-interest angle: society--even my experience of it as a white woman--would be better. Addressing and rooting out racism helps EVERYONE. But no, we'd rather close our eyes and our ears and comfort ourselves with lies and excuses rather than risk being changed.

We have a problem. And thank God, more and more people are beginning to notice and ask how they can love God and love their neighbor by using their gifts to push for justice.

That so many white Christians in America would rather invest in finding excuses or exceptions or nit-pick or offer counsels of perfection than find a way to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God" testifies to our love of power, control, and privilege, and testifies to our failure to love our Jesus.

When I study the history of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., I'm overwhelmed by the corollaries between perceptions among white Christians in the 60's and the perception of the same demographic this year. In both cases, so many believed that racism was no longer of practical concern, but at the same time, were also not willing to fellowship with black neighbors.

What will we readers do differently than our parents or grandparents did? It's so easy to believe we would have been in the minority who marched with King rather than cursing him for disrupting traffic, but we shouldn't assume that.

What will you do?

Danielle Rowaan
July 15, 2016

Thank you Alex, especially for this line: "But too often, white American Christians act instead like the priest and the Levite, who both saw a man suffering from injustice but kept walking."

Doug Vande Griend
July 15, 2016

In Reply to Melissa (comment #28619)
Me, Melissa (What will you do?)? I live in a neighborhood that's probably 40% Hispanic, 2% black -- but where most blacks live in my town (Salem, Oregon) --, 15% Asian, and the poorer section of town overall. The balance is white, many of whom are relatively modest means Christians along with modest means Mormons and Jehovah's Witness.

So would you explain exactly how your broadbrush description/condemnation applies to the white Christians, Hispanic Christians, Asian Christians, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses in my neighborhood? How exactly is it that we all are "clos[ing] our eyes and our ears and comfort[ing] ourselves with lies and excuses rather than risk being changed"??

Doug Vande Griend
July 15, 2016

In Reply to Danielle Rowaan (comment #28620)
I am astounded that anyone wants to claim (or at least mention) that it's only the "white" and "Christian" people who "too often" act like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Not that I'm not sure some do, but to exclusively claim that for "whites" who are "Christian" is really remarkable.

Would it not be the case that "... too often, black American Christians act instead like the priest and Levite ..."? -- if so, why specify "white?" Or just "black" but drop the "Christian?"

Have we really gotten to the point where it is acceptable to bash in a broadbrush way like this, to claim that "white" plus "Christian" is bad but mention no other racial or faith categories? Seriously?

July 15, 2016

I am white and I am Christian and it has taken the Black Lives Matter movement to open my eyes to the ways I have denied the pain of my black brothers and sisters. This week, I've been reading "Just Mercy" to better understand. I highly recommend it if you want to wrap your mind around the concept of systemic racism.

I also contacted a black friend of mine and asked her if she had ever been the victim of systemic racism in any way and would she share her stories. I honestly thought that she might say no she hasn't because she and her husband are well educated and live in an affluent area of the country. I was shocked by the stories she told me, including stories of her husband having guns pulled on him multiple times. It's not even on my radar that I might have a gun pulled on me and sadly, it wasn't on my radar that this is the narrative of her life. I highly recommend asking a black friend the same question.

Is my ignorance racism? Maybe not. But the fact that it's taken something as volatile and vitriolic as the tensions being felt in regard to the Black Lives Matters movement to get my attention, points to the fact that I likely am more Levite than Good Samaritan. It is tragic that there is such anger behind the movement, but I must ask how different things would be if we entered into our black brothers and sister's pain rather than denying it.

Kimberly Davis
July 15, 2016

I find it utterly fascinating that some call into question the writer's broad brush and condemnation of white Christians and then go on to show examples of that very type of racism.

First, there is no such thin as black-on-black crime; it's a myth perpetuated by mainstream media and good white folks (and racist ones) to paint our communities as inherently unsafe. It also is a way to divert attention from our demonstrations against state-sanctioned violence against black people. The fact of the matter is that not only do many black organizations demonstrate against and work within communities of color to end violence and crime (and have for decades), but also those who bring up this myth didn't care much about our communities until we started actually saying that Black Lives Matter.

Moreover, most violence in this country is intraracial--meaning that white-on-white crime is actually also a thing, with 84 percent of white murders being committed by whites.

As for where this broad brush comes from? Look no further than surveys about racial attitudes of Christians and you will see an eve-widening gap--particularly between whites and blacks. Aside from the fact that the writer, himself, is white, and will focus on his own community, these surveys show that the vast majority of whites see race and racism in stark contrast to blacks (http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2013/december/growing-gap-how-black-white-christians-think-race-pals.html)

I want to commend the writer for attending this demonstration and an so thankful that he is safe.

Launa Strickland
July 16, 2016

As I read the comments posted here, I am overwhelmed with sadness. So many 'do not get it'. The repeated criticisms of ' they do it too', 'more White people are killed by cops', 'Black on Black crime is the problem', are heartbreaking. Especially when coming from Christians. Romans 12:16-19 days, "Be sensitive to each other’s needs — don’t think yourselves better than others, but make humble people your friends. Don’t be conceited...but try to do what everyone regards as good. If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people.;"
Everything that is happening now is the result often too many years of Black Oppression and White Privilege. My generation had the honor to grow up during the civil rights era and we dropped the ball. We are all Bigots by default.
I stand with you, Alex M G Murphy, because you clearly have God's heart for people.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world..."
Sad that His People do not love as well.

July 16, 2016

In Reply to Doug Vande Griend (comment #28617)
Most often those offering critiques of Christians are non-Christians. This man IS an evangelical white Christian, maybe be ought to consider listening to our own?

July 16, 2016

This article by verge network nails almost everything touched on in the comment thread of this predominantly white evangelical thinkchristian audience. http://www.vergenetwork.org/2016/07/14/why-we-should-stop-using-the-term-white-guilt-racial-justice-series-part-5/

"It's HARDEST to convince white evangelical Christians of this issue of racism because we view it through a hyper-individualistic angle and lens"...."It's not my fault, I've never owned a slave. I've never personally taken land away from a Native American."...." So when words like white privilege and structural sin come up, white evangelicals don't have the right theological, sociological, and intellectual tools to handle that kind of conversation" .......the premise of the verge article is perfectly played out in here...

The God-Man Jesus claimed “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:17-21(NIV)

Why is it SO HARD to convince those that claim to follow Jesus that Christians are to be about this VERY THING of FREEING the oppressed? Maybe because like the Pharisees of Jesus day, we aren't all that interested in fighting for something that will cost us? Maybe we really aren't the mature disciples we thing we are if we don't hold the same values of the one we claim to follow. Clearly WE can still fall into the same category of the ones that need RECOVERY of our SIGHT, because we are BLIND too.

Mr. Murphy, your savior Jesus proclaimed this same truth and his own (blind pharisees)killed him for it....you are in good company.

Lord have mercy, and in your mercy, please let this conversation sparked by blacklivesmatter lead us to repentance and change.

July 16, 2016

I do hold BLM accountable. Since their beginning, there murder rate has risen in all the cities they've marched in... So many young black lives are being lost and the only ones who can protect them are the ones being targeted by this group. The violence in these communities is what fuels the over reaction from the police.
The sad fact is, these communities need more police not less. Young black men and women need to show the police more respect not less.
When I get pulled over, it's yes sir or no sir.... BLM is making the problems worse and I am concerned when Christians get involved with anti establishment groups.... Please don't think I'm not aware of the very real problems of racism, I am... Just don't think this group is any better then the Black Panthers and all the liberal programs and politicians just use this diviseness to get elected. While poor folks die. Focus on education and jobs and keeping the peace. No one gets an education or works when all they can think about are the bullets riddling their neighborhoods. Strict gun laws do nothing but leave honest people defenseless.... When will the liberal stupidity end.

July 16, 2016

The Black Lives Matters movement isn't a Christian movement. Your intentions were good but I can't see how joining in a cause that is based on faulty facts and led by questionable leadership can end well. I'm white, not racist and led by the Spirit. I have nothing to be guilty for, nothing to apologize for and frankly, the black people in my family have nothing to be afraid of from the law. Well, they have more now, thanks to BLM. My brother in law's brother and his wife and three kids were driving up to Michigan for a wedding. From Texas. It never occurred to him to be scared. Look into the statistics. Look into the dissenting views. BLM is, sadly, a power grab by people who want to replace the affirmative action crowd (or what ever Jesse Jackson's 'cause' was.

And forget about guilt, the Bible isn't big on that. Try Gratitude; find a way to bless people that will get the message God wants you to send. Trust me, it will be from a place of Blessing. Seek Him first, brother.

Doug Vande Griend
July 16, 2016

Responding to Kimberly Davis and Wes:

When a black person is unjustly shot by a police officer (regardless of the officer's color), the cause is two-fold. First, the officer profiled the person he decided was a suspect, that is, the officer observed a very short list of characteristics of the person to mentally place that suspect into a particular category. Second, the officer applied a negative prejudice, that is, the officer acted upon a negative predisposition to persons who are in the particular profiling category.

I very much oppose profiling in law enforcement. Why? Because it a process that statistically defines an individual. I also very much oppose oppose law enforcement applying prejudice (positive or negative) when dealing with citizenry, suspects or otherwise. In other words, I believe good law enforcement practice means that officers, white or black or otherwise, regard individuals without placing them into a profiling category and without applying any personal prejudices they may have.

And this two point rule (don't profile and don't apply positive or negative prejudices when dealing with any individual person) is important for other purposes also, e.g., when considering an applicant for employment, when voting for someone who is running for a political position, when calling a pastor, etc. Also, this two point rule applies to far more factors than just race.

I would suggest the Dallas police force, by all accounts, and including officers (of all races), police chief, and city government officials, applies this two-point rule, and teaches its officers to apply it as their do their job (probably their lives generally as well). And that's why the Dallas police force gets high marks, from white, black and others, from wealthy and poor, from this religion or that, etc.

When we start profiling "white Christians," as this article does and some commenters seem to support, it may seem like we are being just, or fair, or merciful, or racially reconciling, but in fact we are being just the opposite. Broadbrushing a particular race or ethnicity or gender or weight or economic status or anything else is profiling. And that is the beginning of developing prejudices, both negative and positive, as well as the beginning of being willing to act on those prejudices by applying them to profiling categories.

Respectfully, I and many "white Christians" don't need to read "Just Mercy" or any other recently written book to figure out what racism is or that some "whites" and some "Christians" and some "white Christians" are racist. But some ________ (fill in the blank with every race, religion and race/religion combination) are too. But some "white Christians" are not racist. And precisely the same can be said about "black Christians," "white non-Christians," "black non-Christians," "white Mormons," "Arab Muslims," (and an endless list of others).

Even if it were the case that MANY whites or Christians were racist, my response would be "what's your point?," which is the same response I would give to a profiling police officer who said "blacks statistically commit more crimes."

But we can't battle racism by profiling or applying prejudices to profiled categories (i.e., broadbrushing), regardless of race, religion, gender, weight, attractiveness, wealth, (list goes on) -- even when the profiling is of, and prejudice is applied to, "white Christians." That only causes a multi-race, multi-religion country to be more divided, and helps no one.

July 16, 2016

Doug, pointing out racism isn't racism. It's reality, history, social science, statistics, and truth telling.

It should be impossible to react to a movement that insists black lives matter with a claim that boils down to "I'm not racist! You're racist for pointing out that racism exists!"

Yet here we are.

Sure. It's the people who are pointing out that racism is real who are the real racists. It's the people who confront us with the way the world is divided who are being divisive. It's the people who show us that racism and worship of authority are killing innocents who love violence and wish innocents harm.

That's a despicable distortion of the truth.

July 16, 2016

All lives matter regardless of color. I do not find any more injustice toward blacks than whites or any other color. They are on almost every TV show and work every place I go. How many demonstrations by whites or other colors where stores were broken into and etc?

What we all need is to teach our kids morality according to God's word. We need to practice ourselves as adults.

The media appears to be promoting racism by not presenting all the facts of situations and how we need to love each other regardless of color.

Doug Vande Griend
July 16, 2016

In Reply to Melissa (comment #28635)
You say in response to my comment that describes the elements of racism (and all other ____isms) and clearly acknowledges its existence by claiming I have said: "You’re racist for pointing out that racism exists!”

I said nothing of the sort. What I said is it irresponsibly broadbrushing to point to people of ONE particular group ("white Christians" in this case) and say "you are racist" (even if the accuser is part of that group). Perhaps the difference seems nuanced but the real world impact of the difference is enormous.

Tagging this or that profile defined group as racist will be -- has been -- counterproductive. Its effect is to further divide into statistical (profiled) groups and exacerbate the problem.

And I'll bet the (black) police chief of Dallas Texas agrees.

Doug Vande Griend
July 17, 2016

CNN has a video, at: http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/07/13/black-voices-in-dallas-orig-cm.cnn/video/playlists/dallas-police-officer-shot/ where a series of "black men in Dallas" comment about their "fears." Good content. In particular, I noted what one of the men said:

"When you start to learn how to treat people like people, then some of the other barriers will come down."

Amen. But that applies about all people (all of whom could be profiled into a group) regardless of their characteristics (race, age, weight, faith/worldview, attractiveness, occupation, ability, etc). Pointing out that a particular group, "white Christians," have too many racists, or that the group, "black people" are the lives that matter, travels in the opposite direction.

This morning, more police were shot in Baton Rouge. Have the "love-fueled protests" mentioned in this article, including this one in Dallas where police by all accounts do "treat people like people," had the effect so far of convincing all Americans to "treat people like people," or otherwise?

July 17, 2016

Since this is "Think Christian" lets start doing what God says. Phillipians 2:14-15 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

This is an accurate description of our nation (perverse) and what we should be doing.

Is this the way you are responding to what is going on?

July 20, 2016

I've read this article with comments along with others somewhat like it on this site and it seems to me the issue is justice. Melissa tells us "We have a problem. And thank God, more and more people are beginning to notice and ask how they can love God and love their neighbor by using their gifts to push for justice.", and I would agree somewhat only pushing for justice in an unjust world is tough. On any other site that would be fine, but if your thinking Christian then you would know God never promised us justice on earth and he didn't send his son to offer justice, but forgiveness. Nothing at all wrong with seeking justice, but expecting results, that might not happen until we leave this earth. Great reads on this subject would be Reinhold Niebuhr who influenced Martin Luther King another would be Bonhoeffer. Don't let seeking justice turn into vengeance. Alex, Melissa, Kim I would stand with you in a second and I would like to meet everyone of you because I love people with passion standing up for what's right. However it seems that there is plenty of frustration and tension behind it from what I've read. It's not white Christians, black Christians add what you will it's just Christians and should have the same goal. I didn't grow up privileged, but I'm not even close to suffering as many have this is the place God has me in and I two commandments to follow "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" it's the impossible possibility.

Add your comment to join the discussion!