What Brock Turner, Charleston and Orlando have to do with the church

The past few weeks, my social media timelines have been populated with outrage for the sentencing of Brock Turner. In the past 24hrs, they have been filled with posts in solidarity with and sadness for the tragedy that took place in Orlando. This coming week as we approach the one year anniversary of the Charleston shooting I imagine my timeline will be filled with remembrance, solidarity and people who are praying for the victims and their families and all of that is great. We should be outraged about Brock Turner, we should stand in solidarity with and pray for the victims of the hate and violence in both Orlando and Charleston, those are exactly the responses that I hope we would have and the responses that I would hope our churches have.

As a Christian, it brings me so much hope to see the body of Christ rally around any group of hurting people, because that is what we are called to do. But my fear is that we are quick to rally around those hurting groups without taking the time to realize that we have been a part of causing their pain.

Here’s what I mean. There were people who were outraged about the Brock Turner case but the same people post articles about how women shouldn’t wear yoga pants because it will cause men to stumble. We have churches who promote a theology of submissive women and aggressive men who are taught that lust and pride are the two acceptable sins to talk about because all men have them and that’s just the way it is. We have churches that participate in small, daily actions that fan the flame of the rape culture that America is so steeped in. We stand up in outrage against Brock Turner but instead of teaching men not to rape, we revert back to teaching our women how to not get raped. We promote male leadership and without saying it, we show our women that their voice is less valuable than a man’s voice. These are all small steps that lead to rape and we have to own up to our role in all of it.

People and churches all across America rushed to the aid of the church in Charleston. Some of those same people worship in segregated churches and refuse to address the systematic racism that exist in their places of worship. Some of those same churches support a legacy of theological racism by continuing to value the white voices of the church over the black voices. Churches who have refused to address the subtle racism that exists in their community outreach and missions organizations. Support came from people who, quite honestly, still lock their car door when they see a Black man walking by. Yes, we were all outraged by Charleston but the church in America today is as segregated as it ever was and we need to acknowledge our role in racism.

And of course, the country is now mourning with the victims and families of the Orlando tragedy and we should be. But we need to be able to understand our roles in all of this. Pastors and church leaders who have meetings to decide what role the LGBTQ community can have in their church, who don’t allow this community to serve in their ministries, worship in their congregations and certainly do not let them preach from the pulpit give the people of their church reason to see the LGBTQ community as less than. They are giving people permission to believe that this community has less value in the Body of Christ.

Friends, we have to start paying more attention, not when tragedy hits, not when we see the most extreme actions come out in violence and hate but when we are at church and we notice that only men preach from our pulpits. Or when we are looking at the books we read and the people we listen to and they are all white. Or when we don’t allow our children or ourselves to be in real, meaningful community with people who are not like us. We need to realize that as Christians, our churches are some of the hottest breeding grounds for poor ideologies about gender, race and sexuality. So as we gather as a country and pray for Orlando, I will also be praying for our churches. May God allow us to not raise another generation of church leaders that hold meetings to make decisions about how valuable a person is but rather, lets raise a generation of Christians that hold to the fundamental understanding that every human has a valuable role to play in the Kingdom of God.

We are not all innocent in this and we need to start doing our part to make this a better place. And to my friends out there that call yourselves Christians, let's do better. 

xx,

Brit Barron