My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion – Psalm 88:19

Today,  I woke up and said my prayers. It was a daily office type of morning. I left it to my wife to get the kids ready for school. I granted myself that privilege.

Last night, in the moments before I went to bed, another video made its way onto my timeline. A hashtag followed in quick succession, and our long national nightmare began a cycle that we know quite well. But last evening, I couldn’t afford to research or to detective my way through yet another tragedy. Tuesday would be a full day. I had lectures to prepare and a dissertation to finish. So while a family mourned, and black people in the United States were again left to wonder about their place in this country, I went to sleep. Then I woke up and prayed the morning office as I do on most days. I wish I could say that I prayed for my country.  I didn’t. I read the prescribed prayers and biblical texts as called for in the Book of Common Prayer. I sat in silence hoping to hear from God. Nothing came, and so I began my day.

I am not sure that people realize how difficult it can be for African Americans to go to work on days like this. We are forced to smile and to do our jobs when so much history weighs down upon us. But we press on because life demands it of us.

So I began my work. I revised a lecture on Joshua and Judges. I posted a few Anglican articles to Facebook. I tried to focus. Then the sadness, the inevitable sadness hit. So I stopped working for a while and began to write my way towards hope.

I remember, a few months ago, sitting at a nice dinner party. The people were kind, the food was good, and the conversation was casual. Then someone, who had read my writings on racial reconciliation, asked me what I wanted. They wondered what I hoped to accomplish by writing about race and justice. The question came unexpectedly, and I was not sure how to respond, but I have thought about it often ever since. What do I want? What are my hopes?

I want black people in America to be free. I want us to be free to raise our children, to buy homes, to move into safe neighborhoods, to browse in nice stores, to obtain a quality education, to drive to and from work without being afraid that at any moment the long history of racism will bare its teeth and snuff out our dreams or even our lives.

I want us to be free– just long enough– that I have time to tell my brothers and sisters who do not know Jesus about a deeper and wider freedom. I want to tell them about the truly good and free one who came to liberate us all, not only from the ongoing legacy of racism, but also from the brokenness that traps us all in our sins.

But that message is hard to hear when you are afraid and discouraged. That message becomes nearly impossible to appreciate when you turn to Christians for help only to be told that your complaints are an exaggeration or are rooted in your own sin. It is heartbreaking to be told that you must earn the right to be treated like what you are: someone made in the image of God. When God’s people don’t love us, it makes it harder (humanly speaking) to hear and properly respond to the Gospel.

The Black Christian, then, grieves not only for the loss of life, but also for the fact that a calculus is consistently being made in certain sectors of Evangelical Christianity. We feel as if people are always wondering: Do I side with African Americans who are mourning or do I decide not to offend the far right of Evangelical Christianity that sees any affirmation of the claims of Black folk about injustice to be an attack on America, the police, or the military. We just want to be free, but we lose every battle for the church’s attention. We lose to abortion, gay marriage, small government, opposing the Clintons, refusing to kneel, or whatever issue  that arises which  allows people to push the issue of racism to the side. When will the church say that our  issues  are  worthy of attention?

But the time for persuading people about the importance of these issues has passed. Instead, I want to close by highlighting two organizations that are attempting to provide an alternative to the assumption that Christians have to choose between biblical faithfulness and social justice:

The And Campaign


A Public Faith

Both these organizations deserve our time and support because they are attempting to articulate and implement a full and robust Christian ethic that will help us move from tears and sadness to the freedom that seems so elusive to black and brown people in this country. They are an example of what is means to be for freedom. May their tribe increase.

Published by Dr. Esau McCaulley

Esau McCaulley is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. His research and writing focuses on Pauline theology and the intersection of race, Christian identity, and the pursuit of social justice. He is also a priest in the Anglican Church in North America where he serves as Provincial Director for Leadership Development, which involves oversight of the recruitment and formation of clergy and lay leaders. He is one of the creators of Call and Response ministries, an organization committed to hosting conferences and creating resources for Black and Multi-Ethnic churches.

2 thoughts on “Freedom!

  1. Greetings, I was sent this blog from a friend. I’m particularly fascinated and agreeable to your words here:

    “The Black Christian, then, grieves not only for the loss of life, but also for the fact that a calculus is consistently being made in certain sectors of Evangelical Christianity. We feel as if people are always wondering: Do I side with African Americans who are mourning or do I decide not to offend the far right of Evangelical Christianity that sees any affirmation of the claims of Black folk about injustice to be an attack on America, the police, or the military. We just want to be free, but we lose every battle for the church’s attention.”

    I wrote two articles recently that I would sincerely like to hear what you think about:

    I think the first article addresses claims like And Campaign is making about participating in the local arena of politics. Most of these claims assume a Calvinistic reading of Romans that neglects St. Augustine’s famous quip that Laws that do not have Justice as an end, are not laws. If purpose is the 4th cause according to Aristotle, then purpose is part of what it means for a thing to be a thing. No Justice, No Law. Here I think some Christian Social Justice Movements, most parishes, and Christian communities act before thinking. We’re unfortunately followed a Deistic account of Rights that ultimately leaves us without The Trinity. Most churches are silent and you can’t get their attention, because they’ve become Fideists, unable to think or reason or see the symbols and signs, to read the patterns of the times to infer the ultimate projects at hand. A much, much smaller portion still are perhaps silent because solutions which ultimately assume The Trinity is not a real God, have no place in The Church.

    There is a penultimate question that Alexis de Tocqueville posed in his visit to The U.S. In the 1830’s. He said that after looking at the black folks that if they ever were to become free in this nation, they would never see the U.S. Laws as their own laws. That is, No Common Law between Blacks and Whites (and what Alexis called ‘Reds’ back then). If this is the case, then the implicit claim is that there is a crack in the very foundation of the nation. If this is so, then no amount of tailoring, knitting, or fixing systems will do a lick. For the System’s cracked foundation entails all of its systems will ultimately fall.

    I think this is pretty clear once we delve into The Constitutional framework. The Hobbesian assumption is that Man is apolitical, then due to strife and war, ENTERS into being a Political creature. This rejects The Christian Tradition that assumed Aristotle’s position that Man IS Political by nature. If Man BEGINS being political, then ultimately Rights & Laws are all arbitrary and should probably be removed since they’re contrary to our nature. If Man IS political by nature, then Rights have a foundation in our Biology, Anthropology, Metaphysic, etc. which they are constructed upon. The American “fathers” ultimately bound up two irreconcilable ideas: Natural Law & Individualism. Natural Law is now taught as an artifact in Law Schools everywhere and only brought up in bad seminaries and divinity schools as a somehow ridiculous idea that threatens our freedom, because Disciplines like Biology, Anthropology, etc. are ways for us to infer metaphysical realities that would limit our bodies.

    For instance, by looking at the functioning of the heart we infer its purpose, to pump blood to the rest of the body, and by extension we realize human hearts OUGHT do so, by extension then we OUGHT NOT stop a human heart from pumping. To intentionally do so we call “murder.” But some projects wish to relable, redefine, redescribe such an action as euthanasia, mercy, their time, their choice, or a final act of self-determination — all without arguing the points of biology and ethical conclusions we infer from biological functioning. Such is the case with Individualism, it rejects Natural Law, and by extension The Sciences upon which Natural Law rests or upon Logic upon which both Sciences, Biology, and Natural Law rest.

    So it is that between this Contradiction in early American thought: Individualism & Natural Law — Individualism won out. And so we to this day assume man must BECOME Political. Consider Aristotle’s notion that “Politics” is simply human organization, which we’ve always had. We know this through the Discipline Evolution, that Man has always been a pack animal, a dependent creature, not independent nor self-created. Thus now we turn to a descriptor like “Social Justice.” As opposed to Private Justice or Individual Justice? What does this descriptor do? It reveals to us that we still assume a European’s philosophy that Man is primarily individual then BECOMES political. There is simply Justice, and if we have to add “social,” then we’ve already lost the battle. We lose because The State is that which, in a Hobbesian framework, saves us from our own Individualistic ways. At best then Social Justice movements can only hope to reaffirm European Hobbesian, Lockean philosophy and ultimately pledge allegiance to some State. The State becomes God. The State IS Justice, only it’s coming into being like Hegel’s Zeitgeist. The Spirit of The World is Incarnating. It’s all a very anti-Christ kind of logic; an Alogos Logos.

    It is of no little importance than some older brown folks speak of The Civil Rights thus as a two-sided sword: at once it led to greater freedoms inherit to human nature for black and brown folks, while it also began a process of isolation and Individualism making them more like the European philosophers (Locke, Rousseau) wanted us to be. Once this Individualistic Assumption is accepted, that Man BECOMES political, black and brown communities will begin disintegrating, and arguably have already begun to do that since the 1960’s, and arguably Frederick Douglas unfortunately fell into when he moved up North and imitated European Individualist forms of life. Once the disintegration has taken effect, then we need to “organize” and “form communities” and “create Common Goods,” which is a sign these folks have had their culture, history, and very faith taken away from them. This is what my second article addresses, e.g. The newest Birmingham Civil Rights folks lament their lack of any Common Good or Common Church or Common Practice by which they could fuel a coherent, authoritative Black Lives Matter movement. But as they say, “It’s just a hashtag.”

    I think the second article addresses a larger problem of constructing a coherent Christian view of Rights. If we have a wrong view of God, then we have a wrong view of the Human Person, which is made in God’s Image. The Deistic view of God has taken over, thus our conception of Rights is inherently Deistic. I think parishes are silent because most of the “solutions” imply worshipping a Demiurge Deity. There must be a solution which a Christian can bite onto but none seems present right now in the public sphere. Which returns us to your point.

    I apologize for being so long-winded, I’ve found your article food for thought on a number of issues I’ve been trying to tie together for some time. To “read the signs of the times” if you will. To finally return to your dichotomy between acknowledging Injustice to Black folks or to hurt Right Evangelicals feelings about the military or police seems to me a false dichotomy — as I’m sure you would agree and are hinting at, if not outright saying. Most feel they must take a side. But if we take the side of Justice, then any Officer of Justice not doing Justice, is a bad officer, and we must strips them of their orders, just as bad priests ought be stripped of their orders. Such an officer still has authority, insofar as they practice The Law which assumes Justice, but those particular actions are themselves deemed non-authoritative, for they violated the ends that their orders were given to them for. I believe it’s analogous to the conscientious objector problem in the military. The State wants to tell us you’re either with us or against us. The Christian response seems to be, I’m with you when you do as you ought, and against you when you do otherwise, for I am always for Justice, Courage, Temperance, Wisdom, which we should be able to agree upon with the State, but also for Faith, Hope, & Charity.

    But of course The Church would have to get back into order before we could as a distinct people with a distinct culture every make such a stand. This I yearn for, and am quite fearful of the future, for our 40,000+ denominations only seems to say that perhaps this is a country we might have to shake our shoes off to.

    Pray for me brother, a sinner. And keep writing, it’s good for you and good for those of us who read it.



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