The protest against the brutal police treatment of black people in Grand Rapids Saturday night was a profoundly Christian moment. People came together and walked shoulder to shoulder from across ethnic, racial, and gender lines, and from every social class. They peacefully and passionately advocated on behalf of the powerless to the powerful.
It was the social performance of Jesus’s action in the temple.
As we neared police headquarters, we saw that a street evangelist had set up shop. He stood apart from the crowd by a few feet and had a banner behind him. He was white, maybe 60.
When chants died down near him, he raised his hands to make his pitch. People ignored him and routinely drowned him out with cries of “No justice, no peace!” and “George Floyd, say his name!”
I’d never seen the man before but I know him well. I was raised in the same white conservative evangelical culture that produced him.
He perfectly embodied that culture Saturday night. It’s a culture that encounters Jesus and does not recognize him. It sees the social embodiment of Christian faith and wants to save it. It witnesses the gospel in action and stands off to the side. It waits for the cries for justice to die down so it can make its sales pitch.
Sarah leaned over to me and said she wanted to tell the man that if Jesus were here he would say George Floyd’s name.
Indeed, Jesus was there and that’s exactly what he was doing.