The Matrix: Expanding the Story of Race, Justice, and the Gospel — Part 2
Why the red pill?
Scripture commands us to take the red pill. Paul walks us through the intricacies and the interconnectedness of the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12, by reminding us that every part of the Body belongs (v. 14), and that every part is needed (v. 21). Yet there are some whites that honestly say, “Why do I need to celebrate and study black history? What does it have to do with me?” Such a mindset reveals some obvious things:
For one, it highlights the opinion that blacks and black history don’t really “belong” to the American narrative or to the narrative of the American church. It dismisses their contributions, wisdom, perspective, experiences and their voice as irrelevant. Secondly, it suggests that blacks and black history hold little “value.” It iterates that the American narrative is sufficient as it is and that the African American narrative does little to enhance the current story that is already so prominent.
But if Paul states that every member of the Body matters, then it stands to reason that their history and their contributions to history matter just as much. But not only do they matter – they provide the very truths, wisdom, and insights that we in fact need. Paul says, “And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an ear where would be the sense of smell?’”
A physical body needs every appendage and the abilities that appendage provides to truly flourish. The Body of Christ is no different. A healthy and complete history must also include every part and participant of that history if it aims to be truthful.
God, in all of his omniscient benevolence, gave us four distinct Gospels in order to better understand His Son Jesus. Matthew, a Jewish tax collector, did a great job of introducing us to Christ and the gospel. But what if he was all that we had? God determined that we also needed to read the perspectives and history of a Jewish fisherman (John), a traveling companion of Peter (Mark), and a Gentile physician (Luke). Each of these men provide unique stories and insights on the same historical figure – Christ.
This is why black history is not supplemental. Black history is American history.
And the black perspective, the black contributions, the black wisdom, and the black narrative are every bit as crucial to understanding the American story as any other cultural contribution. This is why Sojourner Truth, George Lisle, Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Fannie Lou Hamer, Crispus Attucks, Phillis Wheatley, Angela Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, Tom Skinner, and many many others are to be studied and celebrated far beyond the month of February. These individuals did not just make random cameos in the American narrative (as only a few of them did in my history books). They helped forge and write our American history as much as anyone else. This is obvious as a truism, but sadly it has not been embraced by much of majority culture.
Introducing our young people to the lives and histories of these significant people is a good starting point. Most people have heard of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ronald Reagan. But few have taken the time to study some of their black contemporaries listed above. These men and women’s contributions were every bit as relevant and significant. It is crucial to introduce our young people to these historical figures and their contributions at an early age. The red pill can be harder to insert into our lives and digest the older that we get.
As Bryan Stevenson says, “We cannot get to the reconciliation without the truth.” Perhaps one of the greatest reasons that lasting and deep reconciliation is stunted in this country is because we do not have an accurate archive or understanding of the American past. On one hand, some historical sins have been abridged (and others have been omitted altogether). On the other hand, important image-bearers of God and their stories have been largely ignored. Until those things are pulled out into the open, and respectively analyzed and repented of, we will likely not experience the robust reconciliation that many of us long to experience.
Everyone needs the red pill
What Morpheus offered to Neo that day was the truth. He wanted to liberate his friend from his delusions. Morpheus knew that this truth would come with a cost, but he also cared enough about Neo that he was willing to disrupt his life to save him from the myopia of his own mythology.
At the end of the day, is this not what Jesus did for all of us? He offered us the Truth.
We were lost in our sins, in love with ourselves, and convinced that our delusional view of ourselves was in fact reality. We found ourselves cast as the lead characters of our own story. Yet Jesus offered each of us the red pill of grace, which was beautifully disruptive. Before we could embrace the grandeur and wonder of the gospel, we needed to see the heinous and hideous side of our present reality: ourselves.
Jesus cares about our own individual stories and He knows and cares about the intimate details of our own personal history. But even more amazingly, He invites us to participate in His Story. Each of us, regardless of our background or backstory, are recruited to join in His magnanimous plan to bring life, light, and shalom to a world suffocated in darkness. May we and our children awaken to the fact that there is so much more to reality than ourselves, and that part of Christ’s invitation into His story is His instruction to invite the stories of our brothers and sisters into our own.