This is a long one, but it’s important. It’s urgent…
The original concept behind “Heartbeat” was on my mind for years.
I wrote a song called “Hear His Heart” a while back that speaks of wishing people would get to know the kids labelled “bad.” I saw this in my family and later as I worked at the YMCA. People are quick to yell at these struggling kids who usually just need someone to find out what the problem is and guide them in how to make better choices. The yelling and constant punishment actually served to make them act out more often, and hate authority. This is one of the many times I learned the value–the necessity–of learning to listen.
I knew for a while that I wanted to write a song with a similar concept in an upbeat version so I could play it at casual community events. Late 2015, as racial and political tensions rose, I finally knew what needed to be said through it.
It’s not going away either. I strongly believe this song has a prophetic message for such a time as this. (Lyrics below video. Music starts at 1:25)
Divided colors are surrounding me
black and white and blue and red are all I see
Stick to their sides and never cross the line
shouting at each other ‘cause they know they’re right
They know they’re right, they know it all, and that they’re right
We’ve all got a lot to say but who’s gonna listen?
I will hear your heartbeat
So quick to anger and so quick to speak
Arguing with brothers like an enemy
We all have scars that show our share of pain
If we cut them open we all bleed the same
We all bleed the same, from our share of pain, from the other side…
What if I listened instead of trying to change your mind?
What if I took the time to see life through your eyes?
How can I love my brother if we don’t understand each other
and help to heal the pain?
Friends… brothers… sisters… We don’t know the complete and thorough truth of any matter. Only God does.
Our worldviews have been developed by our experiences and the voices around us. Your experiences are not the same as other people’s.
If you think you can sum up the truth of a matter from one perspective, without seeking to fully hear about the experiences of that of seemingly opposing perspective, you are mistaken.
I grew up as a white middle-class female in a small town filled with mostly white people in upstate New York. Every part of that sentence informs my worldview. As do the facts that I’ve dedicated my life to following Jesus, obtained a graduate degree in social work, lived in 3 very different states, and made close friends with people from all sorts of races, ethnicities, and cultures.
Chances are, my worldview, experiences, and therefore perspective on problems (especially without my cross-cultural experiences) vary incredibly from a black male who grew up in a poor urban environment in the South.
How did you grow up? Whose cultural voices spoke into your life? What are your experiences? How many friends of vastly different cultural backgrounds do you have? Actual friends, not “token” acquaintances. Friends that you know well and are real with you about their experiences. Would they be afraid to say something about their experiences and perspectives out of fear you’d be defensive or not understand? For your own sake, be honest with yourself; don’t get defensive about these questions.
I’ve been listening for a long time.
The following is not meant to be my opinion adding to the noise, but a summary of the insightful parts of what I am hearing from beloved ones from various perspectives. (I say these things with the utmost respect and love. I just want to help shed light on “the other side” and how there really doesn’t need to be opposition, or sides at all. Through empathy, we can love better.)
When people say “black lives matter,” remember to add the “too” if that helps set your mind at ease–“black lives matter, too.” They say it because they feel black lives have not been protected and valued equally to other lives, but rather feared and attacked. They fear losing loved ones and they’re crying out for help. Responding to a black person’s death with “all lives matter,” denying racism because you can’t see it as a white person, blaming a victim, or saying you’re colorblind and race isn’t something at all, isn’t helpful or loving. Listening to why they feel unprotected–until you understand and empathize–and trying to do something about it, and working toward racial reconciliation is.
We are all human but our beautiful diversity means that we don’t all have the same experiences. Even if race is a social construct, that doesn’t make it any less impactful on circumstances. If you can’t see overt racism, can you consider that some prejudice/stereotypes/assumptions may exist at a subconscious level that leads to fear-based treatment? Can you consider that some racial divisions in treatment and opportunity/privileges may exist systemically as a result of the history of our nation and how society is set up? Can you consider that white culture may be the norm and expectation that people must fit into to “get anywhere” in the US? There is research out there to support these claims… let alone individual experiences of black people.
When people say “I’m with the police,” it’s because they respect the people who serve in that way, and they fear the safety of loved ones on duty. Assuming all cops are corrupt, responding with “F* the cops,” violent uprisings or rioting protests that disturb the peace, or not following crowd control instructions and claiming police brutality when they act in an escalated manner to protect themselves and those around, isn’t helpful or loving. Listening to concerns–until you understand and empathize–and trying to do something about it like modeling respect for authority and laws, teaching how to avoid “spooking” a cop, advocating peacefully through established orderly means, and empowering law enforcement with things like positive cross-cultural experiences and de-escalation techniques is.
Can you imagine what it’s like to be a cop? To put your life on the line to protect people, event those who don’t respect you? Even when you don’t expect to be walking into a dangerous situation, but suddenly everything gets out of hand? Can you imagine what it’s like to love a cop and pray he/she comes home safe each night/day? Even while acknowledging the unwise choices that are made and that cops, as humans, can become corrupt, can you also acknowledge that if there comes a day that your loved ones are being attacked, you will want a trained professional available to help protect them and to help justice to be served?
I believe it is possible to stand with both police and black people.
We can pray for the law enforcement and the courts to do their jobs with wisdom and righteousness, pray for people to follow the laws and show respect for authority, and mourn, hold them accountable, and peacefully advocate for change when these things don’t seem to happen.
You guys… I’m still listening. I’m not done listening. I know that I don’t get it fully yet. Can you honestly say that you do?
When people talk about politics (or religion, for that matter), whatever the subject–be it refugees, the election, poverty, healthcare, war–remember we’re all doing the best that we know how. Our perspectives will vary tremendously because of our experiences. I know you think you’re right and I think I’m right, because of our experiences. Every argument made is loaded with assumptions, background views, theological perspectives, some knowledge, and again, experiences. One political party is not more Christian than the other. Jesus ain’t democrat or republican. He’s King ya’ll. It’s our interpretation of what it looks like in each circumstance to follow him that will vary some, until we understand it all when he returns.
In the meantime, how do we show love? Is it by platitudes, backing one side, and minimizing the pain of the other?
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-12
Let’s stop the “us” versus “them.”
We have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). Yet we’re really good at division. Division and debating and yelling. The first step of reconciling is to listen–really listen. Listen to understand. Listen to connect. Listen to hear the heartbeat of our brothers. So we can learn from each other and love well.
But we can’t really listen well or love well over social media. Or across dividing lines of our home communities, churches, schools, workplaces, social clubs. Let’s start by befriending those not like us. (1Charleston is doing good work in regards to this this.) Jesus wants us to be united as one body, with beautifully diverse members of all cultures and with all sorts of gifts (John 17:22-23, Romans 12, Revelation 7). He sees race, and thinks it’s beautiful.
There is an enemy to overcome, and it isn’t our fellow man (Ephesians 6). We only overcome as one. We are one when we love. We can only love when we listen to understand. God makes our role very clear:
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. – 1 John 4:19-21
Dear children, let us not [just] love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12