By Laurel Davis
Special to Inside The Pew
Editor’s note: This article originally appears in its full length on Laurel’s blog, The Reluctant First Lady (http://www.reluctantfirstlady.com/all-souls-matter) under the title, “7 Reasons Why My Faith, Not My Race, Comes First.”
My two young adult sons have been called “nigger” too many times in their own neighborhood for me to be indifferent to the fact that racism is alive and well in America. I have before and will continue to “pull the race card” whenever it’s truly warranted. I’ve picketed, boycotted, stormed the castle, and held up signs about “Equal Rights for All” just like my maternal grandmother did during the Civil Rights Movement decades before me.
I get righteously indignant at hasty judgments against the nuances of Black American Culture that I identify with and find downright endearing. See just one movie, any movie, with a mostly Black audience. While some people may complain, “Why can’t they just act normal?” I celebrate what makes us unique. We are normal. Normal for us. And what’s normal for us is far beyond, far deeper and far richer than what’s portrayed in the media.
And while I respect that many well-meaning non-Blacks have their own perspective on 400 years of American slavery, Jim Crow laws, socio-economic discrimination, racial profiling, so-called “white privilege,” and why we Blacks can’t just let it go, I wish they knew what it feels like in the 21st Century to have to sit your teenage boys down to tell them what to do if they’re ever confronted by a cop or the neighborhood skinheads. To the extent it’s in their control, I don’t want my law-abiding, smart and well-nurtured sons to ever be mistaken as “just another angry Black thug” by someone with preconceived notions and a gun.
But, even as I say all of that, I am a Christian. And I am a Christian before I am Black.
People may see the Black in me before they see the Christ in me, but I hope it’s the Christ in me they walk away with more than anything else. Being Black is certainly part of what defines me in this life. But being a Christian defines me for eternal life to come.
It may be semantics, but Black is part of what I am, while Christian is all who I am. To me, it comes down to a matter of skin versus soul. My race doesn’t get me into or keep me out of Heaven. Neither does social justice or injustice and the degree to which I do or don’t take corresponding action. What gets me into Heaven and keeps me there forever is the grace of God through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I profess my faith. And just like Jesus doesn’t care that I’m Black, I don’t care that He’s not.
Jesus is worth infinitely more to me than the color of my skin, the brutal slavery of my ancestors, and the continued discrimination against my brothers and sisters in the flesh. Yes, #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter, but #AllSoulsMatter infinitely more. My faith reminds me, there’s something far more urgent to stand and fight against than another tragic death due to race, and that’s another tragic soul dying without Christ. That’s why, while as a Black person I can pick and choose my battles against racism and social injustice, as a follower of Christ I am called to be in battle daily for my faith, ready to defend it “in season and out of season” because of the growing global bombardment against it.
Racism will one day end, and it won’t be due to picket signs or die-ins. It will be because Jesus makes all things new, in His way and timing, as He wills. If I suffer as a Black person, I may never get the satisfaction of retribution. But if I suffer as a Christian, as the Apostle Paul says at Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present afflictions are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Most importantly, not everyone needs racial sensitivity training, but everybody needs Jesus. I can help turn a non-Christian into a Christian, but never a non-Black person into a Black person. Sure, non-Blacks can reach an understanding of and respect for our ongoing history of struggle, but the satisfaction of knowing if they ever do pales in comparison to knowing you had something to do with leading a lost soul to eternal life in Christ.
Laurel Davis is a pastor’s wife in Los Angeles and also a Christian writer and women’s ministry speaker. Her blog, The Reluctant First Lady, is based on 2 Timothy 3:1 – 4:4 and takes a bold stance for God’s truth. Laurel and her husband have four grown children and a grandchild.