More Context for Redemption’s Racism Video

May 21, 2020  |  Luke Simmons

Last week we recorded, released, and included in Sunday’s online service a video by Redemption’s Lead Pastor, Tyler Johnson, “Racism: The Heart of God is Wounded.” This post is designed to provide additional context for those who may have questions about it.

What’s in the video?

Please watch it here:

My summary of the highlights would be:

  • Another tragic race-related and public death has happened and many non-white people across our country and church are hurting as a result.
  • When tragedy happens, the loving response is to grieve first, not evaluate whether the grieving is justified.
  • “Every person bears the divine image and so when anyone is injured, the heart of God is injured.” (John Calvin)
  • Racism is a sin that needs to be repented of, and where it exists in Redemption, repentance is required.
  • Our theology needs to be “on the ground” not from the “cheap seats.”
What was the context for this video?

For some of us, this video may feel like it comes out of nowhere. 

For many non-white members of our churches, however, it didn’t come out of nowhere. The story of Ahmaud Arbery’s death has caused a fresh wound where the sting of racism is constant and fresh.

Many white members in our congregations are likely thinking, “Why are we bringing up race again?”

Many non-white members in our congregations are likely thinking, “Good, finally this church led by mostly white people is bringing up race and addressing this issue.”

But is this relevant for Gateway?

Some may think, “Well, this is a relevant issue for other more diverse congregations, but it’s not an issue at Gateway.” The truth may be that it’s not an issue that’s relevant to you.

But Gateway is made up of a diverse group of people, many of whom often feel invisible and misunderstood in a majority-white church. When these issues don’t get brought up, many non-white people experience the silence as deafening.

What about Tyler’s comment that “we don’t wait for the facts”?

This was a part of the video that made me cringe, only because I knew how some would misunderstand it. I know Tyler extremely well and he was NOT saying that facts are unimportant or that we let emotions decide what is just and true. 

Rather, he was saying that our first response when somebody we love is hurting is not to say, “Well, let’s see what the facts are before we extend compassion and weep with you.” No! Our first response is to grieve with the grieving.

Conclusion & Recommendation

You may or may not agree 100% with what Tyler said. That’s OK. We’re a diverse church and will see things differently. And the point is that despite these differences, we must love one another and work for unity. 

I’d also like to recommend you watch Gateway’s own Matt & Vicki Diemert’s video conversations with their friends, Daniel and Kendra Tillman. Vicki writes:

Matt and I had the opportunity to sit down with our friends Daniel and Kendra Tillman–through zoom- and a have an initial conversation about race, what it is like to be black in America, Ahmaud Arbery, and so much more. Matt and I are honored and thankful that they would let us into their world. I love Jesus more because of them.”

Not only is the conversation helpful itself, but it models the kind of curiosity we should all be aiming for.

Watch part 1 and 2 here and part 3 here.

Redemption Gateway, I love you and I long for our love and unity across every area where we may experience divisions. I trust you do too, but we will not drift there. We must labor in love, being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The door to leadership is open — with me or others — if you want or need to have more follow up conversations.