A White Christian’s Response to Looting and Rioting

Hey Everyone.

So this post is about to get real.  There is a good chance that it will offend many of you.  I’m at peace with that.  Change never happens without people being offended and I feel very strongly that change is needed in our country, in our world, and most importantly in our hearts and minds.

There has long been a history in our nation of government/police violence and discrimination towards Black, Hispanic, and Native American peoples.  This has most recently come to light with the killing of George Floyd during which a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and fifty three seconds while his hands were cuffed behind his back.  For almost three minutes of that time, Mr. Floyd was unresponsive.  Three other officers watched this happen and failed to intervene.  An autopsy revealed that Mr. Floyd died of a heart attack caused by asphyxiation.

This horrific murder has sparked outrage throughout the world.  There have been thousands of Black Lives Matter protests globally to push for systemic change that would bring about true equality.  In The United States, almost every major city and even most small towns have held gatherings to protest police brutality specifically towards black citizens.  Several of these protests have turned violent with protesters clashing with law enforcement causing injuries to person and property alike.

While most white Christians were fairly quick to respond to the death of Mr. Floyd and decry the racism behind it, they have been even quicker and much more vocal to denounce the “looting and rioting” that have occurred.  They talk about how they fully support peaceful protests but don’t condone violence of any form.

So how should Christians, and specifically white Christians, respond to this more violent form of protesting?

First, I think it needs to be said that white Christians have absolutely no context for how Black America feels right now.  For centuries, they have seen their people mistreated, abused, and murdered.  They’ve felt the weight of a system designed to keep them down pressing harder and harder on them.  And every time another black man or woman is murdered, they’re told to protest peacefully, that our thoughts and prayers are with them, that change is coming.  But change never came.  They have constantly cried out for their burden to be lifted just to be continually ignored.  The sadness that has led to frustration that has led to outright rage is something that white America simply cannot understand.  So, as white Christians, we need to be careful about speaking into a situation and an emotion that we simply cannot comprehend.  We don’t know the agony of not being heard.  That cannot be emphasized enough.

Second, some Christians have posted things like, “Jesus was a man of peace, not violence.”  And that’s true, except for when it’s not.  To simple describe Jesus as a man of peace is far too simplistic.  It’s more accurate to say that Jesus was a man of compassion.  Compassion is defined as, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”  In other words, when He saw something wrong, He needed to change it.  Many times that manifested itself peacefully in the form of physical healing or verbally speaking out.  However, there are times when Jesus was violent.  Actions that people might even call “rioting and looting.”

John 2:13-17 (ESV) describes such a time.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV) describes Him doing it a second time.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

So there definitely is a biblical precedent for using violence or “rioting and looting” as a means to an end.  The question is however, does this apply to now?

First, examine Jesus’ reason for violence.  People were desecrating the Temple, the dwelling place of God.  This desecration of of the Temple made Jesus so angry that He acted in violence to stop it.  More to the point, they were desecrating the Temple for their own monetary gain.  When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two, symbolizing that God’s dwelling was no longer limited to that one physical place.  1 Cor 3:16, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Rom 8:9, Rom 8:11, Gal 4:6, 2 Tim 1:14, among others, say that we are now the dwelling place of God.  Our bodies are now the new Temple.

What we see in our nation now is a desecration of this new Temple.  Our black brothers and sisters are being systemically repressed in almost every way; economically, emotionally, and physically. This desecration of the Temple should invoke in us a similar response to that of Jesus.  We should be filled with the same type of holy rage that filled Jesus.  If we see that peaceful protesting is still resulting in the the outright violation of the Imago Dei to which we so fervently hold, we should act more decisively until the desecration stops.

So, what am I saying?  Am I saying to intentionally go out with the intention of looting and rioting?  Not necessarily.  I am simply saying that the desecration of the Temple (the repression, abuse, and murder of our black brothers and sisters) should outrage us immensely more than the loss of property caused by looting and rioting.  Jesus, as I said before, was a man of compassion.  By definition, the end result of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering/fix the problem.  I know that it is uncomfortable to think of Him in this way, but it’s true.  There is a verse in the Bible that is oft overlooked because, to be honest, most people don’t know what exactly to do with it.

In Luke 22, Jesus was talking to His disciples during what is known as “The Last Supper.”  He was giving them instructions for what to do after He was gone.  He said, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack.  And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.  For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’  For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”  And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Is Jesus telling us in this to go out an buy guns?  No, He’s simply calling us to action.  He’s saying that there are some things that will require drastic action.  That is what a Christian response should be in the face of such utter disregard for human life.

 

 

Once again, thank you all for taking the time to read this post.  I know that it covers an extremely uncomfortable and controversial topic.  If you are offended by it, I humbly ask that you ask yourself two questions.  First, why specifically are you offended?  Second, which offended you more, the death of George Floyd and the disregard for black lives or the destruction of property caused by the rioting?  Thank you and God bless.

Does God only Love Us, or Does He Actually Like Us Too?

Lately, I’ve been reading through a book called Grace Walk by Steve McVey.  So far, it’s been a great journey and helping me through a lot of self-worth and self-esteem issues that I struggle with in my life.  In the opening chapter, McVey says this about how he used to feel about God’s feelings towards him, “I knew that He always loved me, but felt that He probably didn’t like me…”(McVey, 2005).

Gosh did that ring true with me.  I felt the weight of that statement very deeply in my soul and took a long while to process it.  So, the question remains, does God just love us, or does He actually like us too.?

I think that this question arises initially from a distorted view of what God’s love is.

This perspective of God’s love paints Him as a disapproving disgruntled parent who obligingly is forced to love His children because it’s in His nature. It’s as if He has no choice but to love us and if it were up to Him, He wouldn’t. He just loves us because He has to. This view shows a God who seems to be constantly disappointed in His children and puts up with them out of pure duty.

The truth is radically different as McVey points out late in the book. God loves us AND likes us.  Psalm 16:3 says, “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Psalm 149:4 says, “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.”  God doesn’t love us obligingly.  He not only loves us, He takes pleasure in us and delights in us.

Just go back to the beginning of the world. When God looked out over His creation, “He saw ALL that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  That “all” includes every single person ever born. Later, the Psalmist says in Psalm 104:31, “Let the Lord be glad in His works.” God didn’t make a mistake when He created us. He still looks at His creation and says, “It is very good.”  That includes each and every human on the earth. We are all His creation and not only does He love us (by choice mind you, not by obligation), He actually likes us as well. In His eyes, we are his delight, His pleasure, and we are very good.  That thought, to me, is so encouraging, uplifting, and fulfilling.

 

I hope you’re encouraged by that thought as well.  This is the first part of a series that I’m doing on love stories from the Bible.  If you want to follow the blog and get a notification whenever I post something new, simply click on the pop-up in the lower right hand corner.

 

McVey, Steve. Grace Walk. Harvest House Publishers, 2005.

The Cattle and the Food Shortage

Again, I know that it’s several days after Christmas, but I wanted to share a few more thoughts about the Christmas story and how it relates to us.  Today, I wanted to focus on the cattle in the Christmas story.

“Then they wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.”

 

The cattle are a very overlooked character in the Christmas story. Luke 2 says that after Jesus was born, that they laid him in a manger to sleep since there was no room for them to sleep anywhere. Although you’re probably all aware, a manger is where an animal’s owner would place its food. Most people probably assume that this manger was already full of hay for the animals to eat so it made a decently soft bed for Jesus to sleep on.  

I want to focus on the cattle this week because, although this might be going a little far, they had to give up their food in order to give Jesus a place to sleep. If Jesus is sleeping on their hay and in their “food bowl,” then they can’t eat it. They sacrificed their own physical needs in order to provide a physical need for someone else.

Just like the homelessness I talked about last time, hunger is a huge problem in the United States. According to Feeding America, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger and poverty in America, over 37 million Americans are currently considered “food insecure.” * Of those 37 million, over 11 million were children (feedingamerica.org).  

You may think that these statistics only apply to big cities with big city problems.  However, the food insecurity rate in Medina County, according to The Akron Canton Regional Foodbank, sits at 9.7%. That means that here in Medina County, one out of every 10 persons has limited or uncertain access to enough nutritional food to support a healthy lifestyle. That percentage, when translated to a hard number, is 17,060 individuals who are food insecure here in our own community. 6,560 of those individuals are children who do not have the means to support themselves at all (akroncantonfoodbank.org).

It’s hard to imagine being food insecure if you’ve never been food insecure before. If 9.7% of Medina County is food insecure, it means that 90.3% is not. So the vast majority of us don’t know what it feels like to be unsure of where our next meal is coming from or if it is coming at all.  

So this Christmas, as we focus on the cattle in the story of the birth of Christ, try to put yourselves into the shoes of someone who struggles with hunger. So much around the holidays is focused on food. And don’t hear this wrong. Food is good. God gave us food to enjoy as well as provide nourishment. However, I would ask that as you try to empathize with being hungry, that you would consider a non-profit or food bank that helps alleviate it. There is so much good that you can do.

 

* Being food insecure is defined as a household that has limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.

“Facts About Hunger and Poverty in America.” Feeding America, Feeding America, https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/facts.

“Hunger in Medina County.” Akron Canton Foodbank, Akron Canton Foodbank, 3 May 2018, https://www.akroncantonfoodbank.org/hunger-medina-county.

 

 

Article originally posted on Northside Christian Church’s website.  For the full article and to find out more about how Northside helps to alleviate its community’s hunger problem, head to http://www.northsideweb.org/assistance or just click here

Journey To Bethlehem – Homelessness

So, I know that today is actually December 26th, but I wanted to post a couple thoughts I had on the Christmas story and how it relates to life for us today.  So, here’s my first thought based on Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and the struggles they encountered there.

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:1-7 English Standard Version

 

Imagine being Joseph in this scenario. You’ve just left your home in Nazareth with your very pregnant wife and journeyed at a minimum 4 days and 70ish miles to get to Bethlehem. As the man of the family during that time, your role is as the protector and provider for your family.  However, upon arrival in Bethlehem, you find that you are unable to provide for your wife and unborn child and may have a very hard time protecting them as well if you are forced to stay on the street. Imagine the panic and anxiety there, the feeling of utter helplessness in having no place to stay.

 

Or imagine being Mary. You’ve spent the past nine months praying over your child. You’ve been worrying about and making preparations for his birth. You want everything to be perfect. You feel an overwhelming feeling of need to protect and care for your child. All that to find that you have no place to stay upon arriving in Bethlehem, the likely place that you will give birth to your child.  The clean home that you prepared for your child to spend the first days of his life is sitting useless and unused 70 miles away. You have no idea where or how your child is going to be born or cared for. Again, imagine the feeling of utter helplessness in having no place to stay.  

 

Homelessness is one of the saddest and most despairing states of life to be in. There is no certainty, no stability, and no feeling of safety and security that can be found within a place of refuge called home. It is disheartening and, to be completely honest, even dehumanizing. And, although the United States ranks second worldwide in wealth per capita, according to data obtained in January 2018, there are over 550,000 homeless persons in our country. Of those, almost 200,000 were unsheltered, meaning that they literally lived with no roof over their head at night…in January. Specifically in Ohio, in the year 2018, there were over 10,000 persons who experienced chronic homelessness and over 29,000 public school students who were homeless at some point.  (Data from United States Interagency Council on Homelessness). These are just a few of the startling statistics that show one very alarming thing. Homelessness is a big problem even here in the United States.  

 

It’s an easy thing to sit back and pass judgement on someone who is homeless. Some people make comments saying things like if someone is homeless in the United States it’s his or her own fault, that there are plenty of fast food jobs or other jobs available, that there’s no such thing as real poverty in the United States if you compare it to other countries. However, as Christians, our job is not to analyze how or why someone is in the position of need that he or she is in. Our job is not to compare one person’s poverty in one country to another person’s poverty in another.  Our job is to see a person in need and care for that person in need. When the Bible commands us to give to those in need or care for those in need, there is never any addendum or addition to the command. We are simply to care for those in need.

 

This holiday season, as we reflect on the Christmas story and the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we focus on Joseph and Mary’s homelessness. The fact is that someone took them in and gave them at least some place to stay. We are called to do the same. We encourage you to prayerfully consider researching ways to give from your own blessings to care for the homeless in our communities.

 

Article was originally posted in full on Northside Christian Church’s Webstie http://www.northsideweb.org/blog.  Head  here to read it in its entirety.  Merry Christmas.

 

Finding God in the Fall – Part Two: Rest and Rhythm

Rhythm is such an important part of our lives.  Almost everyone’s lives eventually fall into some kind of rhythm.  We generally wake up at a certain time, eat lunch and dinner at a certain time, and have some sort of routine we do before bed.  Even week to week our lives generally have rhythm.  We work five days (most of us) and then have Saturday and Sunday off and back to work Monday.  For children, this is even more ingrained with their daily school schedules.

On the outside, this constant predictable rhythm can seem mundane and banal.   However, I believe that it is also comforting and reassuring to have that rhythm.  I think that living our lives in a rhythm is very important.  It’s one of the reasons that working night shift or working a changing work schedule is so difficult.  Our minds and bodies never get set into the kind of relaxing rhythm we need.

That’s kind of the problem with summer.  Don’t get me wrong.  Summer is my favorite time of year.  I love the heat, the sunshine, the long days, everything.  However, summer also has a way of throwing us off our rhythm. For many people, summer is a time of constant movement.

Life picks up speed in the summer and the rhythm of life that we found over the last 8 months is completely thrown off.  There are always things to do and places to go. There are family reunions, weddings, vacations (that always seem to be more tiring that relaxing), and graduation parties. There is grass to mow, hedges to trim, and flowerbeds to keep.  The kids are playing three sports at the same time while also doing the summer reading program at the library and taking swim lessons.  Friends come to visit.  We stay up late for fireworks.  Our rhythm is completely thrown off in the constant busyness.

Fall is a time to slow down.  The work and busyness of summer is over.  Life goes back to a steady rhythm. Although this can seem monotonous, it can also be peaceful.  Our lives need rhythm and consistency.  Within that rhythm and consistency, we can plan for more meaningful time spent with God.   We know exactly when we need to wake up and can plan on doing that a little bit earlier to center our day on God before we start.  We know when we need to go to sleep so we can pause to reflect on the day a little bit before that and refocus on God.  This rhythm, rest, and consistency enables us to better center our lives and perspective on our relationship with our God.  Connection with God in the fall continues with focusing on rhythm and rest.

With that refocus on God, I find that a lot of the depression, anxiety, and all around malaise of life kind of disappears.  Refocusing on something and someone bigger than myself reminds me that my problems are not as big as they seem and that there is always someone caring about me.  I can find this through finding God in the fall.

 

This is part two of a three part series.  If you would like to get an email letting you know when I post the third part and new series, just click on the link in the lower right corner of your screen to subscribe.  Thanks for reading.

Finding God in the Fall – Part One

If I’m being completely open and honest, I’ve always struggled in the fall.  Depression hits pretty hard for me starting about middle of October and then comes and goes until April-ish.  It’s a tricky thing for me.  For those of you who know me, I’m a person of faith.  I rely pretty heavily on my relationship with God to get me through difficult times.  However, the funny thing is that as my depression gets bigger and closer, God seems to get smaller and farther away.  So it’s a downward spiral generally.  The weather turns, I get depressed, then I lose my connection with God, and it makes me more depressed.

So, this year, I decided to try to shift my perspective on the fall.  Usually, I see fall as a time of death and decay as plants are going dormant for winter.  I see fall as a time when the vivid colors of spring and summer morph and fade into dull browns and grays.  The fun filled activities of summer lull into a slow drawn-out trudging monotony.  However, over the next three posts, I’m going to show how to shift perspective to redeem all these things and to use them to keep my connection with God.

Let’s start with the first, death and decay.  It’s true.  During the fall, many plants die.  The beautiful flowers that are planted in the spring whither and die, the vibrant green grass goes dormant into a grayish brown, and the trees stand lifelessly still.

However, I think the way to change perspective on this issue is to look at fall not as a season of death and decay, but also as a season of harvest.  Yes it is true that plants are dying, but that death is part of the harvest.  It is the completion of what was begun in the spring with the planting.

We can connect with God through this by remembering that He is a god of completion.  God finishes what He starts. This is true in plants but it is also true in us.  Every one of us was put on Earth for a reason.  We are not accidents.  We have purpose for being here and God will bring about that purpose in our lives.  He is going to finish what He started in our lives.  Focusing on that and dwelling on the harvest is the first way that I am shifting my perspective this year.  God is not a god of death and decay.  He is a god of harvest and completion.  I choose to trust in that.

As always, thank you for reading.  If you want to receive and email notification whenever I post something new, click on the “follow” tab in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Tune in next week for the continuation of how to shift focus in the fall.

 

(This is an abridged version of a piece that I wrote for my church, Northside Christian Church’s, website.  If you want to read the original piece, head to www.northsideweb.org/blog)

 

You Have A Voice. Use It

Hey Everyone,

So, first of all.  I realize it has been a very long time since I last wrote a piece on my own blog.  There are several reasons for this.  First, I’ve been struggling through some issues in my life dealing with anxiety and depression and just the all around manic pace at which my life happens.  Seconds, I’ve begun doing some freelance writing for other blogs.  It’s been super challenging but fun and interesting at the same time.  Last, I’ve actually been doing something that has been exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  I’ve been working on self-publishing my own book.

I can proudly say that as of about a week ago.  My book is live on Amazon.com to purchase.  Shameless plug, you can get it for 9.99.  Head to Amazon.com and either search for my name, Erik Steidl, or for the book, The First Ostrich to Fly.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might have read a poem I wrote a while ago called What is No One Ever Told the Ostrich.  If you want to go back to read the poem again, the link is here . The book that I wrote is based on that poem.

So, you might wonder how publishing a book can be terrifying.  I mean, all in all it’s kind of simple.  You write it, edit it, add illustrations (if it is a picture book), and upload it to Amazon.  Then people can buy it.  However, it truly is terrifying for someone like me.  Publishing a book is putting yourself out there.  A lot of emotion and feeling goes into a book and by publishing it, you’re exposing those emotions and feelings to the world.  For an introverted person, that is a very daunting thing to do.

However, I want this post to be an encouragement to you out there if you are like me and you like to keep things close to the vest and safe.  If you have something, an idea, a book, a poem, etc. in your head that you feel would benefit people, then put it out there.  You have a voice and you’ve been given that voice for a reason.  Someone out there needs to hear what you have to say.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and books by an author named Rob Bell recently.  He is a Christian author and one of the things that he says a lot is that “God is constantly looking for people to join Him in the ongoing creation of the world.”  That is something that I have taken to heart.  Bell talks about how the world is still being created, that we have an opportunity to help shape this ever evolving world into how we want it to look and feel.  We all have voices and we all have passions.  If you see something in the world that you think needs changing, voice that.  If you just want to add positivity into the world, do it!

Like I said, I realize that this can be frightening.  For me, it was terrifying.  I constantly second guessed myself as I went through the process of self-publishing.  Thoughts kept jumping into my head telling me that my book was stupid, that I was dumb for thinking that it was actually something people would want to read.  However, after about a week of having my book out there, the response has been so positive.  The number of people who have reached out to me telling me how much they loved the book has been truly overwhelming.  I think that the same will be true for you as well.  People need to hear what you have to say.  Your words, thoughts, and voice have worth and value.  You have a voice.  Use it.