Over the last six month's I always get the same question continuously from people, “How can I care about Social Justice & the black community and leave the black church.” I’ve spent months trying to mode and shape the perfect answer, when it comes down to it, almost a year ago I was on the search for something different.
The answer is something I’ve struggled with; my reasoning is something I struggled with and my lack of more action in social justice in the black community is something I’ve struggled with. I would leave conversations with other black people replaying in my head my response and asking myself was it well enough, if I sounded sincere enough, my head literally running wild for days about the impression of a girl who longs to learn more about Social Justice and making a real change in the community but also finding faith and where that should be.
I started to wrestle with my feelings spending nights researching “Black Christians in a white church” on Google to read more information, I started praying for understanding from God. The more I found myself in church trying to fix me, so fixated on me and on God’s kingdom, the more I felt I was spacing myself between the community I longed to help and where I truly was in this season.
I was also battling with speaking up, as more and more people started joining my platform from church I felt silenced, not intentionally but as in a way of well if I speak up about this, then I must return to church on Wednesday and Sunday with people staring at me because they didn't agree or didn't understand where I was coming from, I felt silenced because I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable but then slowly I began to feel uncomfortable, to feel out of place. I started to revisit those conversations that I was having with people about God and about my “space.”
As our nation has made a shift (and I feel crazy saying that because we’ve always had a problem) I find myself a little more tired, angry and ready for action but I found myself out of the element for that action. Recently after the Charlottesville attack, I remember walking into church and this heaviness feeling fell upon me and I cried and I felt disconnected because I wanted to say, I don’t understand hatred, I don’t understand why we accept hate speech as freedom of speech & I don't understand why the church doesn't play a vital role in that, and I realized I didn’t know who to speak with, I didn’t know how to express how I was feeling overwhelmed with everything. I was also very, very angry at myself, I’ve been saying for a long time I wanted to do more, I wanted to be more vocal but I also wanted to take more action and I haven’t had a clue how to start, I started to feel angry at myself for not surrounding myself with a tribe that could help direct me, help lead me. I sat at the edge of my seat, ears buzzing and dread rising, I literally was having a hard time sitting still, I couldn't breath until that moment I couldn’t take anymore and I think that may have been the fastest I’ve ever ran out of church.
As I was driving home, I was replaying again in my head all the questions I get about church and about my desire for Social Justice. In that moment for the very first time, I felt like a coward, I felt like a coward to my new church because all this love for the kingdom they have going on I just haven’t been able to relate to it, I wasn’t connecting with all this “joy” they proclaim because my heart is in different fight. I felt like a coward to the black community, I was sitting with people talking about all these great things I want to do, not just with Social Justice but in the black community in general and I wasn’t out there on the frontlines doing anything.
I started to think about all these feelings I was masking because I didn’t want to make someone uncomfortable, I was looking at other black people in white churches, following many around the world on Social Media thinking am I the coward for not only focusing on “God’s work” or are they the cowards for overlooking what’s going on in their own community? I was struggling with being a “good black Christian” who focus is chasing after God, praying for people and everything under the sun will be ok, I was struggling with being the girl that couldn't stop separating being black and being a Christian, I told myself, quit separating the two, just follow God and I started to ask myself, can I be a Christian and speak up and take action for the black community? does speaking up and taking action, fighting back make me look like a different Chrisitan to my white church family?
One thing I learned is how hard it is to navigate, how hard it is to not feel like a project. I stopped blogging for a while because every time I wrote those blogs I was feeling burden by perception, I was starting to understand when people say, they don't talk about their spiritual journey because I was overwhelmed with the thoughts that they are probably tired of me talking about topics other than God but I was growing weary of not being the hands and feet of God in my community and losing my voice so that I wouldn't feel weird around people.
For some that have said to me that I am doing it wrong, that I should only think about God and leave race out of it, no you have it wrong. I can worship all day in four walls of a church and walk out and I’m not a Christian, I am a black person that's what people will ALWAYS see and understand first. As I try to understand God and religion, I have understood that religion is a cultural thing. It's not a perfect relationship within different cultures but it's there, how we move forward in it from here on out is very important. So to answer the question, how can I care about Social Justice and not serve a black church? I am seeking God, my placement, even I don't understand but I do know that no matter if I am sitting at a black church or white, I can't excuse the fact that I'm black, that my fight is different and that not everyone will join my fight but seeking out my tribe in making changes in our community is important to me, even if that means going outside of the four walls of the church is the most important no matter where I am.
Have I found my tribe at my new church, no, I also didn't find it in my old Black Baptist church so now I redirect the question to no matter where I am, I am seeking my tribe from every walks of life! It's not perfect but it's a start.