A Response to the times that is actually worth reading

A call for everyone in the human race to start standing up for what is right by doing what is right. 

Quick points:

  • The overwhelming vast majority of Americans are in agreement that racism – prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superioris bad. 
  • There is a disagreement, I believe, in the means by which our nation can combat racism.
  • At its core, racism isn’t something a governmental decree or action can ultimately cure. It is going to require changes in the hearts of individuals. 
  • Everyone has the ability to promote and infuse this change into society through their own living example. This IS a slow process, but one which has actually seen incredible progress in the last 200 years – in this nation – and is going to require continued patience, persistence, and grace.

By Ryan Sederquist

“We affirm that God created every person equally in his own image. As divine image-bearers, all people have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect, and protection. Everyone has been created by God and for God.” WE DENY that God-given roles, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, sex or physical condition or any other property of a person either negates or contributes to that individual’s worth as an image-bearer of God.” – SJ&G –

One of my tenants, posted on this site, states, “Search for truth.” As someone who seeks truth and living it out, I feel it is appropriate and maybe even necessary to provide a response to the events taking place in the city where I was born and state I lived most of my life. 

Like almost all Americans, after watching the video of George Floyd being choked by a white police officer, an egregious and unacceptable act, I was left in shock and utterly disturbed. Ensuing riots and looting (stark contrast to the protests, mind you) have left me disturbed as well. Politicians and reporters looking to create a narrative to please or promote certain people, like they simultaneously have continued to craft alongside the CoVid-19 pandemic, has been an additional source of disturbance. I suppose the weight of disturbance is largely due to my infatuation with ‘truth,’ and thus, I feel compelled to offer up, to whatever small base I have following me, some sort of meaningful reflection.

The affirmation given above accurately communicates the basis for my belief in regards to human rights. If followed to its logical conclusion, I can confidently and consistently assert racism is an evil thing. As hard as it is for someone like me, I’m going to, for the sake of the intent of this article, ignore the fact that most who are arguing for equal rights for all do so inconsistently within the framework of the rest of their worldview. Instead, I’d like to simply state something I haven’t heard spoken in the press or on social media enough: 

The vast, vast majority of Americans are in agreement that racism is bad. 

The vast, vast majority of Americans believe that civil rights is a huge issue. 

The vast, vast majority of Americans agree minorities have to overcome obstacles white Americans do not in order to succeed.

What we may disagree on, however, is how we improve human equality and combat racism in our nation. Is it something a politician or political party could fix? On one side, people are clamoring for the government to take action – to “do” something. Is racism and discrimination a condition we can ‘decree’ out of existence?

I’m not sure it is, and I believe the earliest civil right’s activists understood this, realizing that ultimately, racism is a heart issue, and because it is a heart issue, the government does not have the capacity to ‘change’ things at the root in a meaningful way.  

While it would be nice to enact a law stating, “You must view and treat all people equally,” there would be no way to test or enforce that. Just like the members of any religion are ineffective in decreeing by law for others to believe the way they do (we know this from history — look at Rome and Christianity) a government lacks the capacity to write in a law decreeing a specific belief about others. They do  not have the ability to force change in peoples’ hearts. 

Take Rome in the 4th century- when they attempted to force people to believe in Christianity as a religion, it failed miserably. Furthermore, forced belief by the government was never the true message of actual Bible-believing Christians, and in a similar vein, government intervention to such a degree was never the ultimate cry of the civil rights’ activists (though they certainly needed the government to act in rewriting some laws which were blatantly racist). Instead, as Christians, we are called to pray for others, have faith in a sovereign God, preach the gospel, and serve others. We are to live out our faith through our actions and hope that this display of genuine, authentic faith effects change in others and opens their eyes to the truth. Great heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. and Arthur Ashe fought for equality – human equality – in a similar way, because they knew, quite frankly, it was ultimately the only way.

They believed it was wrong to be treated differently simply because of skin color. And while during their lifetimes, literal legislation did indeed need to be removed (during their lifetimes, being born black literally was a ‘death’ sentence; or at least a sentence that your life would NOT, by LAW, be treated the same solely because of your skin; so, this was certainly government action that was necessary), they understood that the root of their message would require a far greater sphere of influence than any government could legislate. They needed every member of the country to wake up and realize that everyone deserved to be viewed and treated equally. What they were asking for was change, ultimately, of the heart.

To them, I imagine the Rooney Rule or the NFL’s new policy of rewarding teams who hire African-American general managers with more first round draft picks, would be unimaginably insulting. Everyone see and understand there is a disparity in these and other administrative positions, but I believe Ashe and MLK would desire for blacks to infiltrate the coaching and managing ranks the right way – because they earned it by being truly the best person for the job! There call would be that those in power to hire would wake up and realize that their fellow black Americans should be viewed at the same way as any other candidate. That there should not be a prejudice towards a certain race when considering applicants.

I have to believe they would find the idea of a team hiring a minority on the basis of them potentially earning more draft capital, however, insanely insulting. Even just writing that out is hard to do … minorities who are striving for managerial positions shouldn’t be bound by the chains of knowing if they are hired, the only real reason they ever got the job was because some (probably white) guy in power above them realized there was capital to be gained if they hired them! Finally, at the end of the day, legislation like that (and this is just sports, I get it) is not a step towards equality of treatment to all, since it puts a white GM candidate at a distinct disadvantage! So, well the intent may be good – to increase the diversity in these positions, the route to the destination, in the end, actually harms the primary fight/cause.

Coaches shouldn’t be required or incentivized to give white running backs an increased opportunity (of which there has been 2 or 3 starters in the last 30 years) just because we don’t have a lot of white running backs currently starting, right? Of course not. Hire the best person for the job, and do so regardless of their skin color

I suppose that is easier said than done, though.

I understand minorities – Native Americans, African Americans, and other groups, have been so unfairly treated for such a long span of time, legislation like the Rooney Rule is not only necessary to jump start change, but in many ways, it seems warranted, almost as a type of payback or overcompensation. Frankly, I’m ok with these discussions and these ideas. Minorities have every right to feel mistreated, because they were and areand I’m with them and in agreement on that. They were treated unfairly and unjustly for centuries, maybe longer. Because of it, they are still at a disadvantage on many levels. However, the ultimate endgame for the MLK’s and the Ashe’s was equal treatment – human rights – viewing each other based on character, not skin color … and I fear a path with legislation slanted in anyone’s favor might be headed in the opposite direction of this noble goal. This is where grace is critical. On both ends, but much more so the side of African Americans, since they deserve for America to plead for forgiveness and provide them with an extra repayment, and yet, in order to further the noble cause they’ve been fighting for forever, in a sense have to say, “No, what you did was wrong, and we deserve retribution, but let’s just start today clean and fresh, treating everyone equally…”

Maybe that is a totally different topic – I don’t claim to be an expert in social-economic policy changes. However, I think the root issue still lies in change in the human heart.

And this is where, I believe, minorities should have hope. 

200 years ago, multitudes of Americans held racist beliefs and carried them out – many were slave owners. In the 20th century, people didn’t think it was weird or wrong in any way having sections of a restaurant or water fountains for blacks and whites only.

Persistence, patience, bravery, and grace in standing up for what is right by doing what is right, has been the catalyst for change in every generation. In America today, being black is not a death sentence, even if that is what many blacks (rich and successful ones, ironically) are saying. If it was, people who are stating that, like Lebron James, wouldn’t be where Lebron James is – a true talent who is where he is because he was free to express his athletic talent and abilities and earned his place in high school and now the NBA

Persistence, patience, bravery, and grace, largely on the efforts and the backs of noble and amazing African-American civil rights activists, mind you, has effectually changed the hearts of many Americans, especially white-Americans, through the centuries, to the point where today, I do believe that the majority of people (of all races) are on the side of human rights, fighting for, believing in, and striving to help everyone succeed, reach their full potential, and be given the opportunity to pursue the life they freely earn.

Do awful things happen, like what we witnessed in Minneapolis earlier this week? Absolutely. Does that mean it is appropriate to suggest that America as an entire nation is a racist nation where the flag stands for racism, the constitution was built on racism, and certain political parties are racist? I think that is a pretty big jump … probably one which is at least statistically unwarranted. If you asked 100 people on the street, “Hey, do you think it is perfectly ok to mistreat someone solely based on the color of their skin?” how many do you honestly think would say, “Yes, that is totally ok.” In the 1840s, it maybe would have been 55%. In the 1940s, it might have been 40%. Today, in spite of the fact that racism does still exist and obstacles are in place which are inherently against the free movement of minorities (this article is not a denial of that), the people – the citizens of the US – are mostly crying out for true equality and justice. I think the number of people who would say we should suppress people of color and …people who would deny the creed at the beginning of this article — that percentage is very low.

Arguing over whether or not there is racism in this nation isn’t what I’m going for, though. We have actually been fighting for decades – centuries, really – for progressive improvement in the area of civil rights. From the days of slavery, when, to be black literally prevented you from living the same type of life as whites, to the 50’s and 60’s, when schools were by law segregated by race. 

Now, in 2020, civil rights is certainly still an issue, but, for every deranged white male who commits an awful crime like what happened in Florida or Minneapolis this month, or who is ok tweeting insanely racist and hateful comments, there are thousands of white teachers and coaches who care for, love, and want what is best for their minority students.

I witnessed it every day in my own workplace this year, a high school led by a white principal who is an awesome dude who understands, relates to, loves, and fights on behalf of his minority students like they were his own kids. As a white male teacher myself, I share those feelings, though I’m admittedly less adept at being effective in every aspect like he is! But it isn’t because I don’t love minority students less or see them as less than other students. It’s more just because I’m a relatively ineffective teacher haha! I do love all of my students and view them as equally capable individuals whose dreams and personalities are beautiful. Though they may struggle to believe me when I say, “With hard work you can and should strive for your dreams and make them a reality,” because to them, as a white male, I’ve always had it very easy, I believe it is still a beautifully true statement in this country, and I want to do everything I can to help them see and experience it themselves. 

I think it is worth ending this by suggesting a solution for each and every one of us.

What should we do to help? What action should we be taking?

I believe the avenue for change is to live out, by example, your belief that every person has been created equally, and as divine image bearers, have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect, and protection. That call is for whites, blacks – people of all races. It is going to be slow, and there are going to be generations of people who live out their lives and don’t see this come to fruition – that is just how it is. We live in a fallen world. 

Nevertheless, We all should stand up for what’s right by doing what’s right. We should stand up for what is right with perseverance by doing what is right with patience and love. Therefore, I think these riots certainly need to stop. They aren’t effective in changing people’s hearts. I don’t need to hear about how patriotic it is since during the revolution there were also violent protests, as if this somehow warrants looting, burning of buildings, and other madness and violence. Who is to say that those founding fathers should have used riots and violence to accomplish what they did?

 Just because we live in a free country as a result of those actions does not mean they were appropriate actions. The ends don’t always justify the means. On top of that, it is a double standard for these individuals or groups to say, “Our country is awful and was built on racism and we need systematic and fundamental change,” and then turn around and say, “Hey, we were rioting just like the founding fathers did.” If you think our country stands for really evil things, then how can you say the means by which they were founded was somehow acceptable and is therefore an acceptable means by which we and others can exact change? It doesn’t make sense.  

The bottom line, though, is that

fixing this issue will not be accomplished by government.

It will not be fixed if there is a different person in office.

And it will not be accomplished through violence. 

It will be effectively accomplished by individual change in individuals’ hearts, and the greatest power in effectually and meaningfully doing that is through living example, based on a consistent worldview, one anchored in truth.

And so, I guess I wound my way back to truth. In finishing the way I started, let me remind you of what is true when we are contemplating those around us, when we are thinking about how we should treat our brother’s and sisters, and when we think about ourselves, too: 

WE AFFIRM that God created every person equally in his own image. As divine image-bearers, all people have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect and protection. Everyone has been created by God and for God. 

Let us all – every person – be urgent in proclaiming, living out, and defending, peacefully and appropriately, this truth so that we can continue improving the opportunities and livelihoods of people of every race.