Today the verdict to the case regarding the killing of Philando Castile was handed down. Not Guilty. No surprise. And yesterday was the culmination of the #SBC17 drama, where a vote declined the passing of a resolution that resolved to denounce all alt-right and white supremacy groups. It was later found out that the reason for the motion not passing was due to uneasiness regarding the wording of the resolution, as well as some ignorance regarding what “alt-right” meant. Still, black and white evangelicals all over social media took to their keyboards and the firestorm ensued. I was angry at the SBC17 controversy. But after the news of Philando Castile, I felt nothing. Not because I didn’t actually have feelings about it. I remember the video. I remember the words Philando’s girlfriend spoke on the video before bursting into tears. I remember hearing their daughter in the background try to console her mother, as she probably had no real way to process what she just witnessed. When I think about what kind of repressed trauma that little girl might have, its hard to not feel anything. And I felt a lot when the video was first released.
But now, I don’t feel much. I can’t feel much. If I cried every time an injustice toward black skin was overlooked and unpunished, I’d be dehydrated from the tears I could cry. If I allowed myself to get angry every time I had to defend the dignity of my black brothers and sisters to my white brothers and sisters after a tragedy like this happens, I would probably have no ability to have any close white friends. If I allowed the stress to overwhelm me every time I looked to the church to be vocal about these events, when all I get in return is abortion rhetoric used, essentially, to “all lives matter” my hurt, I might not be here today. (News flash: black people care about the unborn too; we just seem to be a little preoccupied making sure those unborn don’t grow up to one day get shot for having a toy gun on the playground).
So no, I don’t always allow myself to have emotions. I don’t allow myself to feel because I’m afraid to. I’m afraid of having to walk around with the pain of what it means to be black in America. So I sometimes choose to not feel, so I can survive. I’m not saying its right, or smart, or the healthy thing to do. But I choose it. And even still amidst the struggle to not struggle, against the backdrop of closing my eyes as the world around me seems to burn, I’m reminded that I must feel. For feeling keeps me human, it keeps me in the fight against injustice and, more importantly, it keeps my need for God in plain view.
There’s a reason why I will always prefer old gospel music over any genre of Christian music to come out. Gospel music was cooked in the furnace of struggle, oppression, and unwavering hope. It is the only genre of music that allows me to struggle with both despair and hope. And when I listen to it, when I hear the struggle in the beauty, when I can feel the hope fighting through the despair, when every note climbs up and down like the path of struggle for freedom itself, I’m reminded of three things: God is good and will always be, injustice is sin and sin must be destroyed, and this will not be how it always is. Gospel music helps me feel again. Gospel music helps me hope again. Gospel music lifts my eyes off of my struggle and onto the One who will one day do away with injustice. Gospel music helps fight the feeling to not feel.
There will be another Philando Castile. I pray to God it won’t be so, but I can’t put hope in that. There will be another SBC controversy (they are 0-2 this year, so far). There will be another argument with a white friend who just can’t get it. There will be another instance of indifference in the church on this issue. But God is good; and so is the music that talks about Him. So, I’m fighting to feel.