#SharetheMicNow: Social Justice and Christianity by Laurel E. Brown and Anjeanette LeBoeuf


In the midst of recent events and protests, a social media campaign entitled #sharethemicnow has emerged.  The campaign asked white people and people of influence to use their platforms, quiet their voices, and highlight, heighten, and listen to their Black counterparts. I have been honored and privileged to be a monthly contributor here at FAR for 5 years. This month’s post will be in participation with the #sharethemicnow campaign. This campaign seeks to keep the momentum for the realization and implementation of equality and just treatment for all peoples – regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I asked a dear friend of mine, whom I had the pleasure of working with at Whittier College, to write this post. Dr. Laurel Brown, whose discipline is in Social Work, shares with us some thoughts on Christianity and Social Justice in midst of our current issues.


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The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and most recently Rayshard Brooks have led to renewed calls for reform, reparation, anti-racist policies and social justice across a broad spectrum of demographics and communities: young people, Black, White, Asian, Latina, straight, LGBTQ+.  As I watched the posts and feeds on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, I was disheartened to see the number of self-proclaimed Christians who were critical of the call for reform and accountability of the criminal justice and law enforcement systems. It seems that some see a disconnect between the demand for racial and social justice and the Christian call to love one another.

I recently listened to a podcast on a Christian website, The Christian World View, where 2 black men who were leaders in their church denied the existence of “systemic racism” and rather felt the racism they may have experienced was a result of individual “ethnic sinfulness.” First of all, it is interesting that this organization found 2 black men to validate their premise; secondly, this premise helps white churches and congregations deny any responsibility for the systemic power iniquities in the religious organizations that they serve. Sunday mornings continue to be the most racially segregated time of the week.

It seems to me that these Christians who deny that there is systemic racism, power inequalities, etc., would like people to believe that if Jesus was here in the flesh, during this current time in history, he would gather the disciples in a room and hold a 24 hour prayer vigil, declare that sin was at the center of racism and all should pray for those afflicted, and then all go back to their homes continuing on as before.

The confusion for me comes from the fact that this is so contradictory to the Scriptural portrayal of Jesus, who was to say the least, a revolutionary and activist of his time. He knew that He was and possessed the power of God, yet he humbled himself and only used His power in order to serve and to advantage others who had no power. He openly and consistently contradicted and challenged the religious leaders of that time who used their power and position to oppress the poor, to abuse and take advantage of women and children, to exile and disenfranchise the sick and disabled, and to ignore and subordinate the foreigners among them.

Jesus’s behaviors and views on these topics can be seen throughout the Gospels. John 7:53-8:11 challenged the cultural practice of stoning women charged with adultery. Throughout the Gospels are stories of Jesus healing and touching those who were sick and diseased. The Gospels challenged the tradition of certain Jews holding themselves superior to others like that of the Samaritans. For instances, the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37 is a call to help the ‘neighbor’ regardless of who they are. Another example is in John 4:4-30 with Jesus’s interaction with the Samaritan “woman at the well.”

Jesus challenged the status quo of the time, disrupting their traditions, regulations and those systems that had become corrupt and oppressive. His followers were considered outlaws, terrorists, firestarters by spreading a message of service, love, and reconciliation that turned the power structures of the day upside down. Galatians 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…” which allowed for ethnic and racial dividers to be torn down. All were invited to the table, what a revolution.

So here we are again, confronting the power structures that continually and historically oppress, subordinate and disenfranchise the poor, the foreigners, those who are racially and ethnically different. The criminal justice system that creates laws that encourage the unequal sentencing of drug use depending on which communities use what drugs. (i.e. sentencing for use of powder cocaine vs. crack cocaine). The disproportionate incarceration of black and brown young men. The criminal justice and law enforcement systems that allow unarmed black men and women to be killed, while refusing to prosecute those officers, regardless of the overwhelming evidence provided by videos and other witnesses capturing the killings. Why? The simple answer is to continue to hold the reins of power, wealth, and control.

If those of us who call ourselves Christians are willing to stand by, to discourage those who courageously and boldly, even loudly challenge these systems, how are we followers of Jesus? Rather it is those who follow the example of Jesus, who should passionately use whatever power, position and resources they have to dismantle those systems that are corrupt and oppressive, to come along side of the weakest and smallest of us and make sure we all have a seat at the best table in the house.

 

Laurel E. Brown has a Ph.D. in Social Work and is currently an Assistant Professor at Whittier College located in Whittier, CA. Dr. Brown is an active leader, mentor and Bible teacher in the Women’s ministry at her church, which she has done for many years. Her professional and research interests include developing and encouraging strength-based interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect with an emphasis within the African American community.

Anjeanette LeBoeuf is hunkering down during this pandemic and hopes all that reads this are safe and well. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She is focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. During this pandemic, she has started to tackle to read the mounds of books that have piled up and is simultaneously reading YA fantasy books and strenuous academic books. 



Categories: Christianity, Friendship, General, In the News, Power relations, Privilege, Racism, religion, Social Gospel, Social Justice, Women and Ministry, women of color, Women's Voices

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. I think this issue is much more fundamental than learning about what Jesus and Christianity seem to think… this is a crisis of humanity and regardless of religious persuasion we need to immerse ourselves in the bigger picture – one that sees man’s inhumanity to man as a fundamental reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post. I am the daughter of a minister who was an activist in Civil Rights movement, and he was appalled by Christians who were preoccupied with their own individual sin and salvation and denied what was then called the Social Gospel. I did not remain in the church, but the direct and often challenging teachings of the Gospels remained in me. Sometimes between sleeping and waking, I ask questions. Here is a conversation I recorded in my journal:

    “How did you feel when you saw the would-be American emperor incite violence to cross a street to wave a bible in front of your church?”

    “How do you think I felt, choking on tear gas? hit by rubber bullets?”

    “You were there?”

    “Where else would I be?”

    Thank you again for this post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Elizabeth,

      Thank you for sharing your journal comments. It reminds me how in many Christian circles, the rhetoric is that God is always with you in the suffering yet will also be quick to dish out condemnation and judgement.

      The question I feel in my bones when I die and meet my marker is “What did you do with the gifts you were given? How did you help spread love? How did you help when it was the hardest to do so?”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jesus was a good teacher, that is, he taught us to be civil and kind and to react to injustices by being just. Well, he tried to teach these things (and more). Alas, it’s a fact that the faith named after him has failed to learn the lessons he gave. Thanks for this post. I hope people who call themselves Christians pay attention to the lesson you give. Brightest blessings to you both!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Great post! It is refreshing to see this. People either often forget or are ignorant to the actions that Jesus and his disciples took to fight oppression and inequality and they were most certainly not silent or passive. Often maligned themselves, they championed the marginalized of society and became their voices.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thankyou for the reminder of what Jesus taught! Kelley Douglas Brown in Stand your Ground says that “Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism” rests at the bottom of American consciousness. This view that the original “Puritans,” were more intelligent and moral than other races causes some Christians to have the view African Americans should just work harder to bring themselves up. Some Christians think welfare is sinful and so are the receivers of welfare. Further, many Christians don’t want to pay taxes for welfare because it promotes laziness. There is little recognition how the deck has been stacked against the marginalized. These same, “Christians” also think “taking a knee” is a crime against the flag. White priviledge, too, is unconscious. We, who are marginalized, need to continue to cry out, “NO!”

    Liked by 1 person

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