I was born and raised in Orlando, Fla., and one of the things I remember from my childhood experience was knowing when a storm was coming our way. You just knew from the look and smell that you should prepare for cover and get out of the way.
Another cultural storm is brewing right now in America and, unlike my childhood experiences, we may not be able to get out of the way of this storm. This should concern Christ-followers in an already divided country.
The Ahmaud Arbery trial is underway in Brunswick, Ga., and there are some warning signs that are very concerning. Signs that not only could divide us in the body of Christ but could set this country back racially for years to come. As Christ-followers, we are called to be prepared for challenges by praying and leading the way in standing up for right.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Tyler Merritt, author of I Take My Coffee Black. Tyler is best known as the creator of the viral video “Before You Call the Cops,” which achieved acclaim a few summers ago. I’ll never forget what he said regarding culture and the believers. He reiterated that we have been called as Christ-followers to make a difference. “It’s a ripple, man. Like any city you’re in, if you can affect one or two people in their circle, you can begin to cause a wave.”
I would like to make a wave in sounding the alarm about what is happening in Brunswick, Ga. As you may know, Arbery was killed by three white men, while he was jogging through the neighborhood where he lived. Arbery had just as much right to be there as the three men who are now standing on trial for his death. Many would call this event a modern-day lynching.
Concerns were present before the trial even started. Although the city is made up of 55% African Americans, there is only one Black person on the jury. Defense attorneys managed to eliminate 11 of the 12 Black jurors in the jury pool.
If that wasn’t alarming enough, this past week the defense attorney asked that no more Black pastors be allowed to sit in the courtroom with the family. Let’s just stop and think about that alone. Can you imagine if a defense attorney would have told white pastors not to sit in a courtroom? James Dobson and the likes of Pat Robertson would have been so infuriated, they would have called for every evangelical to rise up.
However, we have not heard a word from the evangelical right to this racist and bigoted comment. Not to mention the religious freedoms that were trampled on by the defense attorney.
Here are his exact words: “Obviously there are only so many pastors they can have. And if their pastor is Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here … sitting with the victim’s family, trying to influence the jurors in this case.”
As a Black pastor myself, I find this insulting. Yet sadly, many white evangelicals have remained silent on this, the same people who regularly decry threats to their own religious freedom. Where is the freedom of the Black pastors who want to sit in the courtroom?
As people of faith, we must be diligent in praying and begin to make a wave in letting the culture know that a storm is coming. I can remember the days and nights after the trial for the killers of George Floyd. I covered the riots and protests and can remember asking God to please not allow our country to ever see this again.
“Well, here we are again, and unlike with the George Floyd killing, there are some warning signs we must not ignore.”
Well, here we are again, and unlike with the George Floyd killing, there are some warning signs we must not ignore. As Christ-followers we should never tolerate the singling out of anyone within our spiritual family. Black pastors have historically stood the test of time and made historical waves. One of those Black pastors was Martin Luther King, who many love to quote when it benefits them. If you’re one of those people, don’t just quote him, but take a stand like he would against this racist rhetoric.
The defense team, attorneys for these white men, have done everything in their power to try and divide us. Even to the point of trying to put Arbery on the stand although he did nothing wrong and did not deserve to be killed in the middle of an American street. When they found Arbery’s body in the middle of the street, he was mangled almost to the point of being unrecognizable. Not to mention, it took more than a month to bring the three men to justice, which also should include indicting the sitting district attorney for inaction.
I believe a storm is coming, and my hope and prayers are that the storm passes over us. However, just like we would prepare for a storm that is coming, we must prepare ourselves through prayer and take a stand against racist rhetoric when it’s said. We also must aim to bring about the change we need in this country so that incidents like this never happen again.
In the words of my friend Tyler Merritt describing one of his goals as an influencer, “If I can continue to get people to jump offline, from hiding behind their phone screens and get face-to-face and discuss things in real life and have proximity together, then I think I can help make this world a better place.” I would have to agree with Tyler: My hope and prayer is not just that Black pastors will show up in the courtroom, but that white pastors also would join in standing alongside their brothers and sisters in the faith as we wait out the storm.
I pray the storm never arrives, but if it does, we will ride it out together in standing against racist rhetoric that targets people of faith like that of Black pastors.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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