Sitting in my office, I was wondering what I was going to write about for this blog, when the obvious hit me - Charlottesville.
Isn't it funny how one minute we have no idea about or connection with a word, or place, and the next - usually because of some tragic and traumatic event - that word or place has become loaded, and all we have to do is say it, and everyone in the room knows what we mean. Katrina. Oklahoma City. Aurora. Sandy Hook.
Charlottesville. I'm sure the mayor is not thrilled with the new connotations his city's name now brings to mind: Hate. Anger. Racism. Neo-Nazis. Murder.
Not quite what the chamber of commerce had in mind.
Are we really back to the 1930s? How can we have allowed this? And I say 'we', and 'I' is included in this, because we have. I have. As a middle-class white American, I have not had to face racism. I have not had to be the recipient of slurs and assumptions because of the color of my skin. I have not had to teach my children how they should speak, act, and be when confronted by such hatred. I have not had to worry about whether or not my child, when walking out the door, will return unscathed. I have not had to worry about being pulled over by law enforcement simply because my skin is dark. But this is the reality of all who are not 'white' - whatever that means. I live in privilege, even though I sadly don't recognize it often. And so do you.
What is 'white', after all? I remember hearing the term 'melting pot' as a proud metaphor for the US, back in high school. And is it an accurate term, because none of us (and DNA testing is proving this out) is 'pure'. Why are we buying into some myth? What are we afraid of?
As disciples of Jesus - I mean, if we really honestly want to follow and abide by how God wants us to live, this is all nonsense. Nonsense. Jew or Greek, male or female, black, brown, or purple... It does. Not. Matter. It doesn't matter to God, therefore it doesn't matter to us. Jesus did not make determinations on who to hang out with or love by the color of their skin, nor by their gender, nor by their language, intellect, or income.
It is past time for us to speak honestly about who we are, and what is going on. As Pastor Martin Niemöller* wrote,
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.
There is no room or place for hatred and vitriolic rhetoric in our lives as Christians, and in fact we are called to work toward the elimination of these (i.e., toward "justice and righteousness"). As a fellow clergy wrote, [Racism has no place in our community.] "Also having no place in our communities: even 'low level racism'. I have no tolerance for racist 'jokes' or comments. People of different races, ethnicities and cultures are not less than, they are my sisters and brothers. Full stop. As a pastor and as a Christian, I believe that racism is sinful, as it denies the beautiful image of God as reflected in God's children. I have repented and continue to repent of ways that I have acted in this sinfulness in the past, and continue to seek to do better and be better in my own life."
May I, and hopefully you, do so as well.
I continue serving in Christ,
*Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.