Often, when I am talking to privileged church folks about stepping beyond their walls and following Jesus into the broader world – a world where people are hungry, homeless, and without friends – the heads are nodding and everyone is on board. But then somebody will bring up safety.
“If we go into that neighborhood, will we be safe?”
“If we let those people on our property, will we be safe?”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with those people, because it makes me feel unsafe.”
Of all the idols the American white church loves to worship, none frustrates me as much as the worship of Safety. This isn’t the same thing as taking precautions to protect yourself, or your community. Rather, the fetishizing of safety prevents you from ever leaving the church building itself.
“Let’s feed the hungry!”
“Is that safe?”
“We should get to know people in that neighborhood downtown!”
“That neighborhood isn’t safe.”
“That Muslim woman is being harassed. I am going to go intervene.”
“Don’t – that isn’t safe.”
Our preoccupation with safety prevents us from being our best selves, from making the world better, from taking risks that matter, from making the world as it is into the world as it could be.
Don’t mishear me: There are legitimate concerns about making sure people are safe. But that often isn’t what we are really talking about in these conversations. More often than not, when we say we don’t feel safe, what we really mean is that we don’t feel comfortable. And if that is what is holding us back, we have some reconsidering to do.