Walking The Streets With Sanchez Fair – An Interview – Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

 

The Jewish scriptures of the bible always bring attention to the cry of the oppressed. As a pastor of a local church, and a pastor of the city, what connections do you make between the cry of the oppressed in the scriptures and the cry of injustice taking place in our city and our nation today?

The cry of injustice is something that I wrestle with on so many levels. It’s hard because I naturally want to cling to the hope we have in Jesus, however, it’s not that easy. I live in a world and world of systems that weren’t created for folks like me to really thrive and be true to who I am.

Oppression looks very different. Am I enslaved and beaten? No. Am I poor and hungry? No. Am I free to be myself and valued for that? No. Am I known for being Sanchez, or have I learned the game and art of being what my surroundings dictate? Yes. Have I learned to say the right things and use the correct language in order to be heard and accredited? Yes. Do I still feel like African Americans have to give 200% to Caucasians 100%? Yes. Do I feel like this is reflected in the church and government? Absolutely. The church and government, during the reformation particularly, paved it to be this way. It’s unfortunate that the two most influential and powerful entities paved the way for this chaos.

From what you can tell, how has the local church responded to the racial tensions and social crisis? How can we improve/change our response moving forward?

I think that for the first time some churches realize that it’s an issue. The local church has responded better, but if I’m honest, it’s not been a great response. Have we focused so much on “reaching the lost” and becoming “seeker sensitive” that we have ignored the voice of those hurting in our care? Do we truly get discipleship? Do we get the simple things, like loving your neighbor as yourself? Do we get what it means to be a “mother and father” to those who have no home? Have we chosen us for them? Have we made what was once a conviction our comforts?

It’s easy to share the gospel, but to mean that and exercise that on a practical level is another thing. It’s time for us to do less preaching and more living. I don’t see many churches giving up their program to walk the streets or get in the trenches. It’s time to wake up and get dirty!

It’s time for us to do less preaching and more living. It’s time to wake up and get dirty.

Looking at the scriptures again, the Gospel of Jesus Christ affirms the equality of all humanity and the power to rise from the grave of struggle and suffering with hope and courage. How does the Gospel influence your current outlook and future dreams for the city?

The gospel is everything and the only thing keeping me in this fight. It keeps me loving the poor, homeless, and broken well, while tolerating and loving church people. I know that’s harsh but the gospel points me to the brokenness in myself and it motivates me to fix my attitude. I have to allow love to be unconditional and let it lead me. Love is the only answer to mending the hurt and pain that runs deep.

What are some simple actions steps we can take as individuals and churches and neighborhoods for healing and wholeness?

We have to display unity to this world. How will they know what it’s supposed to look like if we don’t lead them? It starts with us uniting with other churches locally. Challenging our people to build authentic relationships with people different than them. It doesn’t have to start with skin color. When we address the pattern and fix that, then will we see change. We, as the Church, need to be the voice that changes some of the systematic racism, meaning we get it out of our institutions that are supposed to be churches. Church should be a safe place where ALL people are welcomed, not just the ones that look and act like us.

Unity is the key that unlocks healing and blessing for our community.

-Anonymous

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Sanchez is one of the pastors at Center City Church in Charlotte, NC. Visit their website at centercity.church or their new location at 2225 Freedom Dr. Charlotte, NC 28208.

Bonus Plug: Sanchez just dropped a new EP, One Voice, a couple months ago and you should check it out. It can be purchased wherever good music is sold. Here’s the title track, a powerful vision for a people and city unified with God and one another:

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Walking The Streets With Sanchez Fair – An Interview – Part 1

As we all know, tensions are high in the United States these days. If you’re like me I not quite sure how to respond or engage. I feel like I freeze more often than not. That’s why I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine.

Sanchez Fair and I know each other for almost five years and his passion for God and people inspires me and those around us to step out of our comfort zones and engage life in all its complexity and beauty head on.

And that’s what he did. When Charlotte was set into a social frenzy because a police officer shot and killed a black man, Sanchez hit the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina to gain a perspective and offer some hope.

I asked him to share his experience. Here’s what he had to say about walking the streets. Read it with your eyes and hear it with your soul. Grace and Peace.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Sanchez Fair. I’m from Greenville, SC. I was born in a Christian home where both parents were Pastors. My family was split at an early age. My mother left my dad because of verbal and physical abuse, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. Both parents would re-marry. My mother to my step-father, who would become more of a father figure to me. I was one of eight kids (some being half and step siblings). Music has always been my passion. Both of my parents were musicians and they started me out playing music at church on Sunday from a very young age. I would grow up and travel the world playing music and it’s a blessing to call it my vocation. My interests and passions are religion, people, music, and creativity of all kinds. I believe the four are beautiful and important to everyday life.

Neither of us are native to Charlotte but we share a love for the city. With all the racial tension going on locally and nationally, what is your objective perspective of all that’s going on?

My objective perspective about what all is going on locally and nationally has everything to do with the four things that interest me. My passion for religion, people, music, and creativity aren’t a coincidence. I believe we are all bent towards the four subconsciously, without even knowing it, and they’re expressed in every facet of our lives.

My heart breaks for everything going on. Being African American in general right now is tough because there are so many mixed emotions going on. There’s hurt, there’s fear, there’s frustration, there’s uncertainty on how to move forward, and it seems as if it’s harder to unify.

After Keith Lamont Scott was shot by a Charlotte police office just a few days ago, you made your way to center city Charlotte to wade into the thick of it. What motivated you to do that?

I was motivated by love. I have a deep desire to reconcile, bridge, and be in the trenches with people who are hurting and in pain. There was and is a lot of hurt and I don’t just mean the angry black people. I saw the hurt in the ordinary and in the eyes of our police. Looking at a cop, asking if I can pray for him, and he fearfully asking for me to pray for him and his family because they are scared, hurts on so many levels. It’s easy to pray in the church for our broken and fallen world, but it’s a different thing to walk in the middle of it.

I’ve lived in the suburbs over the last five years, and I found it to be almost unnatural for me. Key word, ALMOST! When I walked/walk these streets now, I come alive. I was made for this. I was created to love those different than me. I was created to love, and love casts out all fear and insecurity. There’s so much beauty in Charlotte, and Charlotte is singing a beautiful song. I deeply desire to be a part of the song of Charlotte.

What were your top take aways from walking the streets of downtown Charlotte and having conversations with protestors and bystanders?

I probably talked to over 500 people and the emotions were all over the place, but everyone, in their own unique way, wanted to peace.

Whether it looks like justice or for racism to end. I felt true, authentic love from the folks on the streets. I saw unity in different ways. I saw the media twisting the story and trying to cause emotions to flair, but I saw folks respond in love. I met angry protestors who threatened a guy because he was washing Black Lives Matter off walls, however, the white guy didn’t allow that to taint his deep desire and longing for peace. (I actually ended up walking the streets with him a good bit of the day).

It was great seeing some pastors drive from the surrounding areas, particularly white pastors, asking African Americans how they felt. They were committed to learning how to listen. It was incredible to have the opportunity to pray with a vast variety of people. The last thing was praying for two older black ladies. One worked for the police station and the other owned her on funeral business. They were hurting but they were extremely proud and encouraging. They thanked me for what I was doing and said that it was refreshing to see a young black man walking the street, bringing peace and healing to our city. There were so many take aways.

To be continued…

HB2 and Me and You (and Them)

HB2 is driving me crazy.

For those unfamiliar with HB2, it stands for House Bill 2 that places a couple restrictions on transgender individuals, specifically when it comes to using the bathroom of their gender identity. It came to a head after the state of North Carolina repealed a nondiscriminatory ordinance in Charlotte.

Issues like these really bring the best out of us, don’t they? We listen more, argue less, engage in level-headed conversation.

Far from it.

Our differences and disagreements rise to the surface and bubble over. We split and take sides, each new issue pulling us farther apart as a united nation.

And right smack dab in the middle of our division are humans. People–flesh and blood and bone, soul and spirit, with divinity marked on their DNA.

Three people in particular.

The transgendered.
Women.
Children.

HB2 is about me and you, and them.

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Is discrimination always wrong?

Is safety always right?

These appear to be the polarizing questions that lie at the center of the  HB2 debate.

Our nation has come a long way regarding discrimination. We still have a ways to go. It would be nice if we could end discrimination overnight, but as with any change, it takes time, progress, and cooperation.

Discrimination is an issue because it puts limits and restrictions on people’s rights.

As I understand the HB2 issue, there is a population of people who feel that their rights to equality are being violated, specifically when it comes to using the bathroom of their choice, because of their sexual orientation.

I think we all can agree that everyone should have the right to use the restroom. We have a right to hygiene and privacy. But with HB2 it’s not that easy.

The tension that exists is essentially two-fold:

  1. Religious reasons.
  2. Safety reasons.

Some people discriminate because their conscience won’t permit them to approve of certain behavior.

Some people discriminate to protect the vulnerable and the innocent.

Just the notion of discrimination ignites certain people and groups with contempt and disapproval. The ACLU has called HB2 the most “anti-LGBT measure in the country.” Equality North Carolina will be seeking legal action. PayPal and the NBA have taken action of varying degree to remove their business from the state. Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and Boston all canceled tour shows in North Carolina because of HB2.

From my vantage point, there looks to be some discrimination in those reactions to HB2.

The right to religious freedom is being condemned and the right to safety is being ignored.

I will be the first to say that religion can be ungodly and harmful when it wields its holy texts and interpretations to shame and exclude. Religion is a form, a structure, that organizes and assists a person’s faith. If religious practices produce hatred and cruelty it is anti-Christ. If religion bears the fruit of care and compassion, grace and peace-making among all people, it is to be esteemed.

The transgendered deserve this sort of care and compassion.

So do woman and children. The ones that the nondiscriminatory ordinance of Charlotte overlooked.

Though I’m not comfortable with a man having rights to a woman’s bathroom, I choose to believe that transgendered individuals would not have caused problems. It is the perverted and ill-motivated that HB2 guards against. The women and children who would have been violated or sexually harassed by men feigning to be transgender.

The issue is discriminatory in nature. Either a people group will be discriminated against or safety will be discriminated. All people deserve equal rights in the workplace, equal payment and the right to work. Everyone also deserves to be safe in the bathroom. Some rights need boundaries to prevent maltreatment, and some laws need to be amended to maintain human rights.

It impacts more than just the transgendered, it involves all of us.

Me.

For me, I feel a great deal of heaviness around the issue. I feel conflicted and free. Conflicted for those who feel discriminated against and free to affirm safety as the upmost importance. I am religious and I often struggle with the tension between what I believe and the social issues that challenge or contradict my belief. I’ve talked about it in blogs before, but I don’t have clear answers all the time but I do want love to dictate my attitude and my behavior. I can allow the tension to force me into fear or I can allow it to move me to respond with prayer and reflection. Fear will always choose control and close-mindedness. Prayer and reflection open us to the mystery and merciful presence of God.

You.

Me + you = we. We have two tremendous opportunities to seize in light of the social issues we encounter.

  1. We need to redirect our energy away from disapproval and anger into creative ways to find common ground. Since we’re on the topic of rights and privileges, we have the right to disagree, but we must figure out healthy ways to coexist amidst our differences. We must exert the effort to affirm the good and beauty in one another while standing for and with one another despite our divisions.
  2. We need to stop making arrogant statements that isolate, and start having  healthy dialogues that include. Statements are impersonal and static. Dialogue is relational and cooperative. Statements are like grenades, they’re easy to throw and they’re guaranteed to do some damage. Dialogues that are mature and empathetic, take hard work and commitment. They’re like a garden that have the potential to bear good fruit with time.

Them.

I’ve mentioned the three parties that are most impacted by HB2. It couldn’t be more clear how women and children would be threatened, especially in large, vacant public restrooms, and school locker rooms. They’re the them we need to remember.

The other them are the transgendered who face harassment on a daily basis. Specifically when it comes to transgender teens. They’re the ones who currently have very little protection from ridicule and hatred in their schools and the locker rooms. Even if granted the right to pick a restroom of their choice, our culture doesn’t quite know how to guard and affirm the inherent dignity and worth everyone possesses. We need to be more proactive in the ways we defend the youth and teens in those threatening situations.

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At the end of the day, we need greater protection for the vulnerable and threatened in our society. Everyone needs a safe place. That may be the takeaway, as I process this whole topic as I write. Homes, schools, sports teams, workplaces, churches, and states need to be safe places for people to thrive as human beings.

It may be the only way to mend the rift our social issues create.

The tension is good, if we’re willing to engage it. Every challenge has the potential to strengthen us.At the same time it can reveal our weaknesses–our fear and our cruelty. No one has it figured out and both sides have legitimate and helpful contributions to make. We really are better together.

Let’s face it head on because our issues and challenges aren’t going away and won’t get any easier. We all possess to ability to do good to and for one another, no matter who we are.