Written by: Arian Augustus
Following the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Union Coffee hosted a public event called “The Conversation,” and community coordinator Rev. Mike Baughman pledged that “Dallas Will Be Different.” As the national discussion on the relationship between racial justice and policing in America continues, Union is doing its part by talking with leaders in Dallas within its worship community.
On Sunday July 17, guest speakers at Studio included Jim Schutze and Chequan Lewis. Schutze is a beloved, long-time columnist for the Dallas Observer and author of the now illicit history of race relations in Dallas, The Accommodation. Lewis is a Harvard educated attorney, a former member of Dallas’ Mayor’s Star Council, and a southern Dallas native known for his passionate advocacy for initiatives benefitting his community. (Not to mention, Lewis’ recent column in The Dallas Morning News went viral for its eloquent call to action.) Lewis and Schutze joined the stage with Baughman for an informal panel discussion in lieu of the usual sermon. Local thespian and host of Bar Politics, Josh Kumler, led the discussion.
In navigating how to move forward in response to recent tragedies, Lewis noted that, “Otherness makes [people into] a different creature than you are. … We have to fundamentally change the way we treat each other. If we're going to pretend to be the kingdom of God on earth, let's start looking and acting like Jesus.” Such a statement is bold, to say the least, as Sunday morning has often been nicknamed “the most segregated time in America.”
Still, Baughman shared similar thoughts stating, “You have to look for the presence of God even when someone is being an asshole.” That is hard to do. Because some people make you look really hard for the God in them. Really, really hard.
Fortunately, there are people like Schutze who have a surprising answer for the difficulty of finding the good in people and in the current racial climate of our country: “You really need to talk more old, white people!” Shutze also stated that for he and his wife, many of their relationships with old friends are “fracturing over politics.” It seems that more Facebook friends are lost than made over each life that ends in a hashtag. Yet, despite his historical understanding of race, Schutze remains optimistic. “Hope doesn’t hover out there,” he says. “We can do hope. We can make hope.”
Baughman also shared his enduring hope as a religious leader. “I want the church to be involved in [change], but I want it [to stop doing it] on the church's terms. ... We assume that we know what needs to be done, and we don't turn to others.” Indeed, churches alone cannot take on the responsibility for systemic change. If we are going to be truly #DallasStrong, all of us, regardless of church affiliation or background, must start exchanging our knowledge and experiences and working together.
Finally, Lewis provided sound advice on how to combat our country’s race problem at the individual level. “C.S. Lewis smuggled the gospel through fantasy. White people, I need you smuggle the message [of the complexities of racial injustice] to people that look like you. [And] as black people, we have to extend incredible grace. Let people make a mistake or two as long as they're coming at it the right way.”
Union will be continuing the Dallas Will Be Different series with guest speakers Dennis Dotson and Larry Randolph at the Kuneo service on Tuesday July 19. Worship and conversation begin at 8:00 p.m.