A Christian Response to UCSD’s Growing Racial Tension

I’m not going to claim I know all the answers. Nor am I going to speak on behalf of any organization or particular group. Rather I want to speak right now as a follower of Jesus who is desperately seeking God’s heart on how to act in the midsts of a lot of pain and anger that’s escalating at UCSD.

Today as I joined hundreds of others on campus to say “no” against blatant acts racism, I watched person after person take the mic and share their hearts. Some shared impassioned pleas to actions, others shared words of solidarity, and still others shared their pain and fear. As I stood there for 3 hours listening, I began to ask two very disturbing questions. First of all, where was the Asian American presence? As a majority minority on this campus, do we not have the responsibility to at least say we stand is solidarity with those who are suffering? But I think what was more troubling was I kept asking where was the Christian presence? Of the 30 or so people who spoke this morning representing everyone from the LGBT to faculty and even an openly Communist representative, I did not witness one person represent Jesus in the midsts of all this.

What is Our Gospel?

Now I don’t write this to condemn or guilt trip Christians. I mean after all it’s not like I stood up to speak. Still as I stood there in my silence I was deeply bothered. Where was the gospel in the midst of all this? Where was the good news that Jesus had to offer, because I believe Jesus would have much to say! And to be honest, even if a Christian did take the mic, most of us would have nothing useful to say anyways. I mean who of us would actually have a “gospel,” a word from God, that would actually sound like “good news” to those in the crowd? And really this speaks less about our willingness or desire to speak and act (because Christians have all sorts of ideas on what do be doing during this time), but rather how detached we are to the real brokenness of the campus and how paralyzed we are because we don’t actually know what Jesus would say or do. And let’s get this straight.  It’s not because he doesn’t tell or demonstrate it for us, but because we don’t care to listen or see.

First Steps

So what do I think is a Christian response to all of this? I think the first step is simple, and many of us have already been taking that step. We must enter into the brokenness and identify with the brokenness, incarnating our presence among those who are hurting. We must open our eyes to the situation and not just brush it off as an unimportant secular protest. It is important, because I know God’s heart breaks along with all those who are crying out in pain, fear, and anger.

Second, I believe we must pray. I can never discount the responsibility as Christians that we have to pray. I have been encouraged by the many organic prayer meetings that have been popping up all over campus in the last 12 hours. I truly believe our strength as the people of God is found in our cries for Him to move. I believe that God hears our prayers and that the spiritual atmosphere of this campus literally shifts when we cry out for Kingdom realities to come into being. As people who have eyes to see the spiritual realm on this campus, we have a responsibility to fight the spiritual battle that wages here. And can I just say this, Satan chooses no side except his own. As people who understand this reality, we must be able to transcend the current lines of debate and fight the true enemy through our prayers.

A Dual Responsibility

However, I think it would be easy to stop there. People of faith, but Christians in particular, are excellent at spiritualizing everything, and not actually taking action to make anything a reality. I believe as Christians we have been given a double charge and responsibility to not only engage in the spiritual realities of this world but also the physical realities. After all, we must be willing to become the answers to our prayers.

So what are we suppose to do? Once we’ve incarnated ourselves among the broken, how do we not allow the brokenness overwhelm to the point of anger or hopelessness? I know this has been challenging for me as the gospel compels me to care and enter the brokenness, while not getting carried away in the emotional escalation of anger and retaliation. Yet this tension makes me feel paralyzed. Like all I can do is gather in my holy huddle and pray, leaving me with this question- wouldn’t Jesus have done more? Am I suppose to choose a side? Am I suppose to support certain demands and scream certain chants? What greater action does the gospel compel me to do that transcends all of this and serves as a “third way?”

As I said in the beginning, I don’t have all answers to what we should do and I’ve been wrestling with this question for the past week. Still I don’t think it’s as complicated as we may make it to be. First of all, I don’t know which side Jesus would choose, in fact my observation of him in the Bible is that he often refused to choose sides. I do know, however, that if he were here today he would be marching along side of those who are protesting, while also holding the shoulders of our poor Chancellor who is so obviously hurting through all of this. As I think about what kind of action I want to take, I want to be able to say that I stood side by side in solidarity with those who were hurting- serving them, loving them, and fighting with them against injustice- while also recognizing that our true “opponent” is not a fraternity or the school administration, but rather a darker evil in this world that oppresses us through our own institutions and systems.

Further Steps

What does this mean practically? As I mentioned already, I believe we should be out there marching in solidarity with those who are in pain, not representing any human side but rather God’s side that commits to stand with the hurting and the oppressed. We should be out there serving, giving out bottles of water and packets of sunscreen, while offering an open ear or prayer for anyone who might take it. We should be out there fighting for justice, condemning what needs to be condemned (and its not individuals that need to be condemned or made “example” of), because truly behind all the hype we cannot forget that there are real systems of injustice and oppression that exist on this campus. We should be out there at the rallies praying, believing that as we pray we are inviting His presence into the chaos and division. We should just be, knowing that we carry the presence of God with us and just the action of presence in itself is ministry unto others. I know this is a very controversial stance, and I’m not going to be naive enough to think that the outside world (most likely the church) won’t criticize us and think “we’ve chosen a side.”  But in the midst of that we must be clear to why we’re there. We’re not there to promote any specific side or demonize any other side, but rather to be God’s living presence amongst His people.

I also believe we must be asking where else in the midsts of all this can we practice the ministry of presence, because the reality is that there are people hurting on all sides. Perhaps we need to talk to those in the fraternities or those in the “majority” population who might be feeling guilty, confused, or paralyzed in the midst of this. Perhaps we need to just go to different places on campus that God may lead us to and just pray for his presence to rest there. Perhaps we need to practice the ministry of presence for our administration. Today, I sent an email to the chancellor’s office telling Chancellor Fox that I’m praying for her and that God’s presence is with her. I have no idea if she’ll actually read it, but who knows. All that to say, we must be asking God, where is your presence needed on this campus, and whatever He says we must go. Refuse the temptation to gather in the prayer room, but know that where you go His presence goes with you.

Hold Onto the Hope of the Gospel

Finally, we must hold onto the hope and reality of the gospel that at the end of the day true action and justice is not going to come by the sword, but by radical acts of love and forgiveness. As part of the majority population on campus I say that with deep humility, being the first to admit that I haven’t experienced a fraction of the injustice and pain that my under represented brothers and sisters have had. And although that may give me little credibility as I make that my rally cry, I cannot let go of that gospel. Therefore, we must pray for God to raise up in those communities a prophetic voice to scream out above the rest that love and forgiveness is the answer. That instead of constantly trying to make examples of those who hate and oppress, we must forgive and love them. That is the most disarming power in the universe. My greatest fear in the midsts of all of this is that the old mantra of an eye for an eye will just continue to escalate the anger and the hatred. This morning I woke up filled with fear that at some point someone’s going to crack and really do something crazy, and so this must stop now.  We must all be praying that love and forgiveness become the rally cry of this movement. As Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. “

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