Response to Your “Gospel of Non-Violence” Message
Dear Greg Albrecht,
I’ve been listening to your messages for some time now, and 100% agree with your Christianity without Religion teachings. I love and support the work you are engaged in and find it both necessary and a blessing. It is the recent Unplugged Podcast titled “The Gospel of Non-Violence” that troubled me.
As a Black American of a certain age, I’ve lived through a climate of volatile race relations and social injustice before. In fact this feels very much the same as it did in the 60’s, complete with the subtle and not-so-subtle stoking of fear and “egging on”, if you will, from the countries’ highest leader. Your message prompted me to reach out, because like then, the news reports and images we saw plastered everywhere would suggest that the majority of the groups of protestors are as you say, looting, rioting, tearing down statues and burning buildings, when that is far from the truth.
As I live through it again I find myself screaming in frustration at the TV, “THAT’S NOT US!!!.” There are always a segment of misguided individuals amongst the group that will be captured committing such acts, but the vast majority are in fact peaceful protestors, who leave the scenes at curfew as instructed. What’s left are the provocateurs, agitators, and paid plants to push the narrative that the oppressed are retaliating violently. We are not burning down the neighborhoods our ancestors of previous generations fought to build. And knowing the vile things that were committed against us over the last 400 years, we would never commit such acts against those in power, including the police.
What you don’t see in the media, are all of the people who confirm this truth, even reporters who now know the truth because they’re living through an assault on them as well. It’s not widely reported the 75% of the people arrested for committing acts of violence, are from out of town. You don’t see the community block parties that took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin, days after the senseless shooting of Jacob Black. It wasn’t widely publicized when it was found that the masked man busting out the windows of the Autozone in Minneapolis, Minnesota was really a retired police officer. It would be difficult to find the videos of the group known as the Boogaloo Boys responsible for projectiles being thrown at law enforcement, whose sole mission is to infiltrate these protests and sew chaos and violence.
I’ve been a protestor since I was ten years old, and witnessed first-hand how someone not of the movement, incited riotous acts and lawless activity. The single most frustrating thing about these times is the promulgation of an incorrect narrative. I say this in love, with the deepest respect and humility for you and your platform, please investigate and research the “other side” and perhaps speak to that. It shouldn’t be “us and them”, but it is the reality of my lifetime. I continue to pray for change, for justice, for peace. Thank you so much for your time, and God bless you!
The Gospel of Non-Violence, Take Two…
Thank you for your well informed, thoughtful and compassionate thoughts. Thanks for the honor of being able to serve you in some small way. I have reviewed the podcast in question, while carefully considering your perspectives.
As a part of my response, let me first say this: please forgive me if I have overstepped the boundaries of the gospel as I have attempted to make sense of the real, traumatic and necessary conversation we must all have – racism and all of its constituent parts can be, in my opinion, a Christ-centered conversation or it can be something else altogether.
In the podcast in question I felt there was a nexus between the world swirling around us right now and the gospel. That said, I am like any other human being – I have plenty of blind spots and imperfections, and, as that old saying goes, I deeply understand that God is not finished with me yet. I am a work in progress … may I not write and preach my own views, but may I point others to Jesus alone. That is my hope and prayer. Some specifics:
- I am a 73 year-old white male, husband, father and grandfather. I “identify” as a Christ follower most of all, as inadequately as I do so, it is my primary identity and allegiance. But my heritage, gender and color means I have blind spots … to some it means that I am not even qualified to talk about this issue. I too remember the upheaval of the 60s, with huge personal regrets, for at that time my identify was more about my color and my gender than it was about being one in and with Jesus Christ. In many ways I was not “privileged” – I grew up “lower middle class” – my parents never owned a home, renting apartments when I was growing up. I was a minority in terms of the legalistic religious views they adapted, which of course were beliefs I grew up with.
- On the flip side, I grew up as a member of the majority race – sensing this I made intentional attempts to befriend young black men as I grew up, but of course that singular action does not mean I was not racist. Of course I was. I made good friends with blacks and I did with a Jewish friend who remains a lifelong friend – both of these early experiences served me well for later spiritual growth I deeply needed.
- Later in life, in my early ministry, I became a fan of MLK Jr. I started, ironically, to study his rhetoric, as I started to study and teach homiletics (preaching). As I studied his speeches, I then started to read his writing, and was drawn by his spiritual teachings … his gospel of non-violence if you like (which I contend is not his own, but that of Jesus Christ). The life and work of MLK Jr gave deep meaning to my life and provided a platform for my involvement in a ministry of racial reconciliation – in this ministry and during these travels and speaking engagements I believe I learned far more about racism that I had ever realized before (about 25-30 years ago).
- With you, I absolutely agree that the rioting and looting in the US in the summer of 2020 did not represent the vast majority of folks who were and are calling for real and lasting change. I have read and believe that a huge number of the violent protestors were from out of town, violent agitators, “hired guns” if you will who hid behind the skirts of those who were asking to be heard on a non-violent basis. This segment of what we have seen deserves to be called out for the vicious, unethical manipulators they are and were, for they did not advance the cause of reconciliation.
- I also absolutely believe that there are many “on the other side” who will not change, who will fight for the status quo and attempt to lump all protestors into the “violent” category. I have no doubt that police brutality exists (without a long discourse I have seen it, experienced it personally and have helped victims of that brutality) and that just as we must root out the manipulators who loot and burn and destroy in the names of racial justice so too must we root out brutality amongst the police. That said, I remain a person who believes that our nation needs police and our nation needs protestors who dissent – I believe it is a fatal pitfall to condemn all on the basis of the misbehavior of a few.
- My sense is this – as long as we (here I mean those of us who are Christ followers) find our primary identity in our race, age, gender, culture, political affiliation, we are missing the gospel and perhaps even perverting it. Our primary identity must be in Jesus Christ and then, as he lives in us and we in him, we might be able to be light in our darkened world.
- I believe Jesus is about reconciliation. As long as our focus, or indeed that of our society, is on revenge then we will only continue to be mired in a vicious eye for an eye cycle. We need for all “sides” to sit down, listen, learn, repent, respect each other, and to love, show mercy and demonstrate compassion. As that great hymn says, we are enabled, by his grace, to become “instruments of his peace.” Reconciliation means both or all “sides” must be willing to work toward a better world and a meaningful solution, while saying “no” to those who would press for violence, payback or the continuance of the status quo. Real change only happens when Christ-centered reconciliation happens, and when that happens we will see repentance and forgiveness. As Christ followers any agenda we might have – of gender, race, culture, religion or politics – must be in second place, as service to others in Jesus’ name is our priority.
My two cents – I submit these thoughts to you as my equal, a co-follower of Jesus Christ, whom I am honored to serve and from whom I can learn as, by his grace, I grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you – may we be together children of God, motivated toward peace and reconciliation in all that we do.
In friendship and in him