My Statement to New Hope Church about the Yanez/Castile Tragedy


Here is the statement I made this weekend in our worship services at New Hope Church in Minneapolis:


“Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”

These are the words uttered in the ancient days by Samuel when he discerned that God was trying to get his attention.

“Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”

People will be debating the verdict in the Officer Yanez/Philando Castile matter for years to come.

Shortly, the headlines that have captured this tragedy for the better part of a year will fade away.

Most police officers, some of whom are in our church family, will continue the difficult task of providing brave and extraordinary service to all people with our community.

Many of us who are white will simply move on, and should the matter of this tragedy enter into our conversation well down the road, we will be too tempted to respond with, “Are people still talking about that? I thought that was over.”

But it is not over for our African-American friends and other neighbors of color.

In His kindness to me, the Lord has allowed me to enter into meaningful relationships with a handful of African-American men and women from across the region, a number of whom I have spoken with throughout the last few days. Some of these are ministry leaders like myself. Others work in the marketplace. Some of them are as far to the political left as one could go, and others are, surprisingly, rather far to the political right. Some have modest platforms of influence, and others have national platforms. Some are rich, and some are not. Some are young. Some are old.

While they are in so many ways quite diverse, what they all—without exception—have in common is deep pain. And it is not merely the pain that comes from a momentary traffic stop gone bad. It is a pain that permeates their community from generation to generation.

It is a pain that flows from the pervasive feeling that having black skin is too burdensome in a largely white society.

It is a pain that flows from the utter exhaustion they feel for having to navigate two worlds—a black world and a white world—while we in the white culture need only think of one world; and, in fact, we hardly comprehend that there could be more than one world.

It is a pain that flows from deep and abiding fear—fear forged on the awful anvil of systems that always appear to work against them.

It is pain that is very deep, and likely not to disappear soon.

As your pastor of a church aspiring to be a Christ-centered community for all people, and who loves you deeply, I must make a request. I ask all of you, and especially those of us who are white, to go to the Father and ask Him what He wants to show you about the world that our African-American friends live within. Approach Him with a teachable spirit; a willingness to see that your own box is not the sum of the world, and that there are many complex dynamics beyond you that need to be seen and understood.

Approach Him with a desire to be driven by Kingdom-politics and not American politics. Approach Him with a desire to listen more than speak. Approach Him with a hunger to have your heart softened and made empathetic. Approach Him with a yearning to surrender your assumptions about how our neighbors of color should process life.

In short, say to Him, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”

Then listen for how God will help you think, feel, and respond.




  1. Michelle says:

    First and foremost you are in no way inferior in intelligence or goodness in respect to anyone else and do not allow others to make you feel that way. That is a lie from Satan himself. You are created in the image of God.
    It is not only people of color who have to be aware of their surroundings and breaking laws. We all have to be respectful of those who are to protect the public as well as those in authority. In this specific case both were in the wrong, unfortunately it cost the life of one and another who has to live with the aftermath. The victim did not proceed as he should have and the officer pumping with adrenaline because of the situation reacted too quickly with the use of deadly force. This is why we should not bring this situation into our church. It is not a race issue. Both parties are minority. I don’t understand why the pastor even got involved with this without knowing all the facts first. They are both guilty of sin and in need of a Savior period.

  2. T. Cher Moua says:

    As a minority myself who experienced, over the years, discrimination and in the community as well as in the ministry settings, as I reflect on the Yanez/Castile event, this could have been me. I could have been the victim who “defy commands” of an officer, someone who has been delegated the power and authority to protect. I could have been Philando Castile.

    We have been living with a sense of inferiority because we are not as “good” or as “smart” as others. Now this sense of inferiority and fear is heightened because justice can only be “served” once the damage has already done – a life has already been taken, people who are affected have already been traumatized and families have already been fragmented.

    I am now more cautious of my surroundings when I drive. Always look around and on my rear view mirror, wondering if flashlights will beam and sirens will sound on me because I may be going too fast, or too slow, or stay on the wrong lane.

    Since this and other recent events involving Law Enforcement Officers and citizens of color, how should we, citizens of color live? How should we go about our daily lives without fear of our lives end up like that of Mr. Castile? These are questions I ponder more often than in the past. How can we in the minority communities put our minds at rest as we live and work and contribute to the well-being of our communities?

  3. Michelle says:

    I was talking about the examples of people of the past who made change happen because they rose above the blame game and did not fall Into a trap of self pity and turn to violence. I did not say that in reference to people who are hurting. My point was the church is a place for us to focus on the things of God. Yes there will be times of hurt do to society’s ills and we need to talk about those things with one another at times but the focus of the congregational setting needs to be Jesus Christ, the word being preached and not focus on the all societies ills. We can’t fix it with our words, only God’s words can fix societal ills.

  4. Janet says:

    “Blame and self-pity” is a terrible thing to say to someone who’s suffering a pain you will never know about.

  5. Janet says:

    Michelle, I would challenge you to read 10-15 accounts by Black people talking about these issues. See what you might not have considered, see where you might rethink, where you might learn something new.

    I used to believe what you did, but I see now that I was extremely ignorant and arrogant and simply had no comprehension of the world outside my small bubble.

  6. Michelle says:

    It is indeed a tragedy but it is not just a “white” issue. It is a heart issue. Yes our country has been dealing with racial issues since the Indians were forced off their land and slaves were brought over to the colonies but it is due to those who chose to see someone as beneath them rather than as an equal made in the image of the same creator, they were ignorant, self absorbed and greedy, only out for their best interests. Unfortunately that small majority had the most sway of the times. But look at all those who opposed it black, white, red and yellow alike who chose a different path, some relied on Gods strength and wisdom to guide them, some out of the simple desire to help those around them. What about those in the minority who were beaten down and pushed around who chose to work hard and make something out of themselves despite what was happening around them working to make it possible for those who follow to have a better time? They did not use blame and self pity. Then there are those who would rather choose the path of bitterness and blame the culture around them, fight and make trouble, make bad choices then blame others for their problems, cause more division and be discriminatory towards those different than themselves and I am not speaking of the just the white class here. I grew up in a church that did not see color, we were raised to see people. We accepted each other for who you were and the cultural differences were part of what made each of us unique and having something new to contribute to the community. In a church family there should be no division by race or color nor should it be continually stressed. We all have differences but the color of our skin or our race does not need to be pointed out all the time as the reason we are different. That needs to be dropped. We are God’s people and that is that. No matter who you are or where you come from, you need to step out show who you are and what ever it is you have to share and continue to make a better world for those who come after not keep stepping into the pain of the past unless it is to learn from it and stress the positive movement forward. Yes bad things have happened but look at the progress that has been made and continues to be made. Keep your eyes on Jesus and be an example of Him. We were all created equal with different unique gifts from our Heavenly Father. We need to stand up for our brothers and sisters no matter who they are and fight for that equality pointing out their strengths and contributions, building them up not stooping to violence and blame. Help guide those who are on the wrong path to the path of freedom in Christ so He can help them change their ways as we stand along side them. This may not come across as intended and I apologize for that but I am sick of seeing skin color or race being brought up every time I turn around in our church in reference to division. That should not be in the Church family. If people are injuring people in the church due to color or cultural differences it should not be and if it is happening outside of the church the church needs to step up and get out there in the community and back it’s church family members with fierce love and support. Color is not the difference it is a heart condition and a mind condition that is the problem here.

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