Crossing the Bridge of Racial Reconciliation in Baton Rouge
What does it look like to cross the bridge of racial reconciliation in Baton Rouge? Friend and Pastor of First Presbyterian Baton Rouge, Gerrit Dawson, shared a gospel vision for what reconciliation could look in the city.
Listen to Pastor Gerrit Dawson’s interview on The Reconnect Tuesday:
His friend, Pastor Albert White, who is black and serves on the North side of Florida Avenue – symbolic of the racial, economic and social moat that divides Baton Rouge – said to his white brother in Christ, Gerrit Dawson who serves on the South side of the moat, “I want 50 on 50.”
“Look,” he said, “It’s not going to work until people begin to have what we have: a real relationship. Only God’s people can show this city a better way. I want my people and your people to meet together.” He went on to explain his vision of his people with Dawson’s people, in each other’s homes, sharing a meal.
There it is, a vision Pastor Albert and I have together: 50 on 50, A Face to the Race. That’s really just 20 to 25 couples or groups. Commit to four dinners over four months. Two in our homes, two in their homes. What do you think? A Face to the Race. There is already a connection between those who know we are the same, created and called. There is a bridge. It’s just tangled and overgrown and seldom travelled. Could we clear it out? Could we walk across to each other? Beneath politics. Beneath difference. In Christ?
So the plan was crafted: each pastor would challenge his congregation to be a part of a first step onto a bridge that had not been crossed in many years – a bridge toward racial reconciliation in Baton Rouge built by Jesus Christ.
50 individuals, couples or groups from the north side of the moat would join 50 individuals, couples or groups from the south side of the moat for a meal in one another’s homes. No grand political agenda. No bureaucracy. No government funding. No program. Just dinner. 50 on 50.
What difference will it make? There’s quite literally no way to know. But people who are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, people who know that every person is created equally in the image of God and called equally in Jesus Christ also know that things aren’t right in the nation where justice is unequal and hatred abounds.
Many of live in a bubble. We may not realize it. But we live and move around within our bubble of comfort, unaware of the concerns and realities facing our neighbors.
That bubble in Baton Rouge has now burst.
Alton Sterling is dead.
So too are law enforcement officers Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola.
Gavin Long, the man who shot the officers, is also dead.
There is no retreat from this national conversation. Walls of separation have been obliterated and we’re all standing exposed, “I can see you and I know you can see me!”
But what do we do about it?
Putting “50 on 50, a face to a race” is one example of what pastors and churches across America are doing. Will it resolve racism overnight? No. But resolution is the wrong goal. Reconciliation must be the call we issue and the reality into which we live, together.
This is one effort to clear away the brambles obscuring the bridge between black and white, rich and poor, privileged and disadvantaged, powerful and powerless in one city. But imagine if others caught the vision. Imagine what might happen if 50 of “us” connected in friendship over fellowship with 50 of “them.” What might God do in us? What might God do among us? What might God do in spite of us?
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is the greatest condensation that could ever be imagined. Once here, His life in our flesh, He put His life on the line and constructed a bridge from Heaven to earth through the Cross. He crossed chasms for us we could not bridge. In Him and through Him, we are now invited to cross the bridge He builds to others.
We have a bridge to racial reconciliation in America. We need only cross it.
What are you seeing where you live? How is your church putting feet to the faith and walking across the bridge over the differences that divide, in the unity of the Spirit, toward the bond of peace?