On the Outside Looking In

Sermon preached by Tim Cruise and Brent Newberry

FBC Worcester

July 23, 2017


 

Part 1

Yeah, come on in.

 

Don’t worry; they’ve been going at it for some time now.

 

I can fill you in a little bit and try to catch you up to speed.

 

No sense in you feeling like you’re on the outside looking in.

 

So, you’ve walked into a meeting of the Sanhedrin. It’s essentially the Coordinating Council of the region. Various religious leaders who run the show around here. They’ve been tasked by the Roman government to keep control of our region, so this is the council who does that.

 

Today, the council is debating whether the latest disruptive agents in our neighborhoods are too much trouble for their own good.

 

A story not unfamiliar, I’m sure you can attest to.

 

They’ve been going at it for quite awhile, now.

 

Who would’ve imagined a legislative body could prattle on endlessly about something?

 

Another story not unfamiliar to you, I see.

 

What’s that?

 

How do I feel about the topic at hand?

 

Well, as a person of faith, I tend to submit to the decisions our leaders make, but I think he’s probably a decent kid.

 

His name is Stephen, but he’s been accused of defaming the name of Moses, and upending millennia of traditions regarding the Law.

 

If everyone disregarded the Law, we’d have no order, and we need law and order.

 

We need to keep the peace.

 

So, you can imagine a young man getting caught up in the wrong crowd, running around with an obnoxious and unacceptable group of outsiders we call Christians. Their leader claimed to be the Messiah or Savior, so everyone makes fun of them for still believing it even though he died already. So, we call them Little Messiahs or Little Saviors, Little Christs. Christians, as it were.

 

Maybe the worst part of all of this, is that they go around trying to recruit people to join them.

 

Naturally, the more the ragtag group of outsiders coalesces into a more cohesive bunch, the more of a threat they are to our way of life under the Empire. After all, if it gets out of hand, they’ll come in a quash it for us.

 

That’s probably a story not unfamiliar to you either.

 

A threat to some of us, is a threat to all of us.

 

Oh, I almost forgot, my name is Saul. But you can call me Paul.

 

 


A story not unfamiliar – the police are called on reports of underage drinking happening in a large group of teenagers being loud in a residential neighborhood in suburban Dallas.

At the moment of the police’s arrival, three boys are leaving the party because it had gotten to wild. These boys are student athletes, respectful, and responsible; however they are not perceived in this way because they are black.

A story not unfamiliar.

They are leaving this party in their father’s car to get home safely; however, to a white local police officer, they are perceived as a threat.

A story not unfamiliar.

The boys are reported to be driving away toward their home; however, the police officer falsely claimed that they boys were driving their vehicle toward him in an aggressive manner. In a way that threatened him.

A story not unfamiliar- especially in Balch Springs, TX. Balch Springs is a small city about 10 minutes away from where I grew up. This region of East Dallas is one that has grown increasingly diverse. It was once the land of white flight. White affluent families moved east of Dallas proper into cookie-cutter subdivision houses so their children could grow up in what they understood as “safe” neighborhoods with “good” schools.

A story not unfamiliar.

Now decades later, these neighborhoods do not look like they once did. They are more diverse. With the advent of section-8 housing in the area and more families of color rising in socio-economic status, this area of Dallas is more diverse than it ever has been racially, religiously, and socio-economically.

And many white people, have never felt more threatened. If they are unable to move further east, phrases like “This place is getting so ghetto.” “I don’t feel safe anymore.” “It’s just not what it once was’.” Are often uttered.

In this region, there is a culture that loves whiteness and is afraid and threatened by blackness. There is still a desire to cling to the bondage of white supremacist heritage, rather than embrace the liberation of diversity. And sadly, some of those who are called on to protect and serve the community, protect and serve the narrative of white supremacy.

A story not unfamiliar.

 


Part 2

 

Like I said, the Council tried to stop the movement in its tracks.

 

They would follow this leader, Jesus of Nazareth, around and pepper him with questions and absurd hypotheticals just to show him as a fraud. But the people kept gravitating toward him. They claimed he did wonders, and that he spoke of fulfillment of ancient prophecies.

 

You probably hear things like this where you’re from.

 

They arrested him eventually, with the help of an insider, and they questioned him, and tried to get him to respond to the charges.

 

He never did, and eventually an angry crowd welled up and called for his execution.

 

What’s unfolding now with Stephen, is a story not unfamiliar from that.

 

Some have said he performed wonders, and spoke of ancient prophecies being fulfilled. And here he is arrested and given the opportunity to confess and move on.

 

Of course, now he’s been going on and on.

 

Let’s see, this young man is now claiming he was chosen to be one of the leaders of this disruptive group.

 

Oh, and now he’s telling us the story of our faith, as if we don’t know it.

 

God delivering the Hebrew people from all sorts of precarious situations.

 

He’d be keen to remember that each time, those threats were put down.

 

Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Those wandering in the wilderness with Moses.

The giants in the land of Canaan for Joshua.

The Philistines and so many other mighty nations.

The Babylonians

The Persians

The Greeks

Who knows, maybe the Romans…

 

Ah, you didn’t hear that from me.

 

We are where we are, and this is the history we find ourselves in right now.

 

But I’ll be darned if a thug from this group thinks he can stand up and tell us how it should be.

 

Oh my, the crowd is getting angry.

 

He’s insinuating that just as the people rejected the prophets centuries ago, now the Council have rejected his former leader and even himself.

 

Yeah, that was not a smart thing to say.

Oh no, this is getting out of hand.

This unruly crowd;

it’s a story not unfamiliar from last time.

 

 


Our country, and especially the part of the country where I am from, where these three young men of color were chased by the police has a history of fearing and hating blackness.

The economy was built upon the dehumanization and enslavement of black people. The city and neighborhood structures have been establish for the flourishing of white people and the disenfranchising of black people.

Though progress has been made, there heart of a white supremacist heritage still beats while the heartbeats of young black men are prematurely stopped. The idols of the confederacy still stand while the bodies of people of color lay lifeless and the ground.

This is a history, a horrific history that is still alive today. This story of racism is one in which I am a character, we are characters today.

It is a story not unfamiliar.

 

 


 

 

Part 3

I’m sorry you had to see that…

 

The Council never would have executed him; the Empire does the killing. Like when they executed his former leader.

 

But my, the outrage from the crowd, they were not going to stand for it.

 

As you saw, even I got caught up in the moment.

 

It’s ironic though, isn’t it?

 

A story not unfamiliar, when someone becomes popular, everyone wants to join in. And then it turns, and it’s the crowd who wants to stop him.
Mob mentality, group-think, it’s all so powerful.

 

But that was a lynch mob.

 

I mean, he needed to stop; resisting the authorities never goes over well.

 

You get what’s comin’ to ya.

That’s probably a story not unfamiliar to you, too.

 

I have found though, that when religious devotion is armed with the coercive power of the State—or like these two examples, when it’s outsourced to the seductive rage of a lynch mob—it can be a brutally compelling approach to keeping the peace.

 

And then, it’s really quite simple to justify a killing like this. He resisted the authorities, he was a threat to society, he was non-submissive, unapologetic, had a mischievous youth…

 


It is the story of Jordan Edwards in the front passenger seat of his father’s car that his older brother is driving away from a party. He is a fifteen-ear-old freshman at Mesquite High School – a school I’ve driven by thousands of times in my life whose football stadium I’ve played dozens of games in. It’s a school where Jordan Edwards has a 4.0 and is a successful running back on the football team.

It’s a school where Jordan Edwards should have been in attendance the next day, but the familiar narrative of white supremacy sought to end Jordan’s story.

Jordan was shot unarmed by a police officer with an assault rifle as he was riding home with his brothers.

A story not unfamiliar.

The following day, the city was in outrage. Answers were demanded. Justice was cried out for. Many denied that the police officer was unjustified in murdering Jordan. Surely this person who is understood as protecting the community would not murder an innocent child who is the youngest son of a respected and contributing family in the community.

But he was.

This young unarmed black man, this child, was murdered by a white police officer. Just like Michael Brown, Just like Tamir Rice, Just like Eric Garner.

Jordan Edwards is yet another victim in the narrative of white supremacy in the United States of America.

And those who subscribe whether consciously or unconsciously sought to rationalize his killing, to justify his murder.

A story not unfamiliar.

 


 

Part 4

 

You had to see that coming.

I mean, you had to see it coming.

Even he had to see it coming.

 

But he kept talking about what he was seeing, a light in his eyes, seeing Jesus his Christ, on God’s throne.

 

What crazy talk.

 

Of course you’re going to inflame the majority talking about how you’re different and need to be taken seriously.

 

You’re just perpetuating the problem when you do that.

 

And so, when you can’t obey the Law, then the authorities need to step in.

 

And now I’m safer because of it. The nation is safer without another dangerous thug on the streets, trying to grow his numbers and raise the collective voice of his community. We don’t need fringe, disruptive groups gaining any more ground.

 

A story not unfamiliar for any safe society, right?

 

But look, I’m with you guys.

 

Just standing on the outside looking in.

 

It’s not like we threw any stones.

 

We just held their coats for them.

 


I read the news the next day sitting at my desk in a classroom of refugees and immigrants – other victims of this narrative of white supremacy.

I was shocked. Disturbed. Horrified.

There was a part of me who wanted to pretend that this story had nothing to do with me. There’s a part of me who wanted to ignore it. To do nothing. There’s a part of me that wanted to play the role of the self-righteous white liberal who could shame the white conservatives in my hometown for facilitating the murder of this young innocent black man.

But I know why this story is one not unfamiliar to me.

It’s because this narrative of white supremacy is operative within me.

I think back to all the ways I benefited from it and defended it growing up. I have never claimed to be racist, but rather, I had respect for the police.

It was never an explicit hatred of people of color, but rather a discomfort and sense of being threatened by someone different than me.

All of my micro-aggressions toward and cultural appropriation of black culture have never been intended to result in the murder of a person of color. I was simply just having fun with my white friends who looked like me.

 

A story not unfamiliar.

 

What I realized in hearing the news of this innocent young black man being murdered by a white police officer was that I have been complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy in East Dallas.

While the literal body of Jordan was being laid in the ground, the figurative coats of those who have stoned so many like him have been laying at my feet my entire life.

Advertisements

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s