Happy Easter Monday!
I don’t know why, but for some reason this season–first Lent and now Easter–I am stuck with thoughts about Peter. As I’ve mentioned before, I have never found him to be very compelling. In fact, I find him most annoying in terms of his character. He had such a clear vision of whom the Messiah should be and how the Messiah should act that he constantly challenged Jesus throughout his ministry and then abandoned him in the most desperate of times. And then later, we are supposed to believe that he was the best choice for ‘founding’ the church??? To be clear, I think the entire understanding of the ‘how and who’ started the church is questionable, but I think you get my point.
This year I’ve been thinking–while I have no doubt of his profound grief– I find myself wondering if Peter wasn’t a bit relieved that he wouldn’t have to be so on top of things now that Jesus wasn’t pointing out all the ways he still had to grow and learn and think outside of himself and his understanding of the world. He, and the others, must have been exhausted, constantly being taught that they had much to learn and sacrifice and do, if they were to be disciples. There must have been some relief, even in the loss– don’t you think??
As we come to the end of our Lenten dive into racism and white skin supremacy and all that other fun stuff, I imagine that you, too, are finding some relief. Perhaps you are emotionally drained. Or confounded and overwhelmed by all you didnt know. Or maybe you are just annoyed at the topic and the time spent on it. Or offended at the prospect that you/we aren’t as ‘woke’ as you/we think we are. Or maybe you just never engaged at all, for various and sundry reasons. Maybe you just need a break…
I want to make something perfectly clear: I am grateful for your trust as we have begun our journey toward becoming a Racial Justice church. I am grateful that you have shown up in whatever capacity you did. I am grateful that you engaged the material from week to week. And I am grateful that if you didn’t engage the material I sent, that you will take the opportunity to do so as we go forward. But honestly, for as grateful as I am, this has never been about me or my ‘passion’ for racial justice. This is about all of us recognizing the profound and toxic evil genius of white skin supremacy and all the ways it has infected all of us.
This journey will never be over. Just as Peter’s journey was never over. Just as all of the disciples journey was never over. But, we will take breaks so that we are ready for the next leg…
I will be offering more information and direction over the next couple of months before I leave for Sabbatical. Mallory and I will craft this time so that you can rest before the next leg of the journey. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to get in touch with me any time.
This is hard work. This is sacred work. This is the work of discipleship. This is the work of recreating–perhaps even re-founding– a church of inclusion, flourishing and equality as Jesus had intended. We rest. We work. And we also find rest in the work. Alleluia! Alleluia! THIS IS RESURRECTION!
PS-I was just informed by Kayan that the cable was cut and that someone took down our BML flag. This is a small reminder of why this work is critical!!
Mar 29 – Apr 4
Dear Holy Week People,
To be clear, I have never been a big fan of Peter. I found him to be very annoying–more so in some of the gospels than others. He was always questioning Jesus in terms of his message and methods. I also can’t stand how his legacy of ‘founder of the church’ has been the theological weapon used by the church to maintain male supremacy. In the little known/read Gospel of Mary, one gets the idea that these two were at odds with one another as to who was really supposed to be ‘the rock’ upon whom the church would be built.
But, that’s a whole other discussion. Suffice it to say, Peter was the problem child, often missing the lessons and always second-guessing Jesus’ mission and unorthodox approach to being the all-powerful militaristic messiah Peter was hoping for. But to be fair, in the stories we have, Peter stuck with it even as he stumbled over his flawed humanity. And if I’m going to be honest, he broke my heart and continues to do so, every time I come to this place in the story.
For all his flaws, he remained constant in his devotion for his best friend. That is until this week. This last week, he responds to the impending torture and arrest of Jesus by falling asleep, over and over, while Jesus was in great despair. And then, while lurking in the shadows after his friend is taken away, he blatantly denies his relationship with Jesus, and all Jesus represents, 3 separate times. Now you might see what Judas did as more of a betrayal, but I would offer that in the narrative of Judas we all know who he was and that his motives were suspect. He was the ‘enemy you know’ character.
But Peter… Well, he was ‘in love’ with Jesus! This bromance was authentic and constant in the gospels. I think this is what makes the heartbreak that much more painful. How can someone who professes his devotion and loyalty and love for his friend, deny him when his friend is most in need?? It continues to trouble me, just as it has since I was first old enough to understand the implications of what was happening. If I have to be really honest, it is because, I can see/have seen myself doing the same exact thing–more than 3 times…
When we declare our devotion, loyalty, and love for The Brown Skinned, Palestinian Jew, Jesus, there is a good chance our flaws will also be revealed. It’s easier to just say we believe in someone without actually committing our hearts to what that person represents, what that person, though his life and message, calls us to do in a world that needs us to do as he did. When we claim that we are seekers of our Beloved’s justice for all, we must know that there will always be times when we are called into the garden to stay awake in the unknown, the despair, the literal agony of recognizing the cost of discipleship. There will be times when we are called out of the shadows to attest to our own identities as followers–not by proclaiming statements of belief but by standing up for those whose voices have been ignored and whose lives have been shoved into the shadows.
We will fail.
But that isn’t the point of the story. The point of the story is that redemption is Always possible with our Beloved. The point is that even if we find ourselves hiding in the shadows, there will Always be an opportunity to come out. There will Always be a chance to begin again…
My friends, do not be afraid of entering this week openly, with vulnerability and humility. Listen to your hearts. Let the spirit fill you. And let yourselves live into the depths of Holy Week. Easter is not yet here. But we are.
Once again, I invite you to engage in ALL the following resources. There is one podcast and two videos and while appropriate for all ages there is some ‘language’ in the last video. This very understandable given content but this is for parents to decide.
- podcast—Robin DiAngelo and Resmaa Menakem: In Conversation | The On Being Project
- video–Rx Racial Healing | Dr. Gail Christopher | TEDxCharlottesville
- video–GLINT Talk Series: Stephany Rose, “Recovering from Racism: Journeying to Truth and Conciliation”
Mar 22 – 29
Dear Beloved Community,
It may seem counter intuitive to read/talk about the crucifixion of Jesus before we even get to Palm Sunday. Bad enough we have to address it towards the end of the service but really, we prefer to not have to address it at all. This is often why services on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday are not well attended especially in progressive churches. We like to just get to Easter Sunday and breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have to face the reality of what happened and can instead just jump to the good part. Just give us the ‘hope’ without the despair and we are good to go. However, this not only deprives us of living in solidarity with those who do not have such a privileged, it also denies us of being able to claim true discipleship with Jesus. How can we possibly understand injustice and suffering of those on the margins if we ourselves cannot even take the time to listen to the stories, hear the despair, understand our complicity, and find the courage to take a stand?
We who recognize the horror of the crucifixion still have the privilege of remaining outside the story as observers. But, Jesus asks us to be a part of the story, to have starring roles even!
“Simon! are you asleep?? Could you not keep awake one hour??”(Mark 14:37b)
James Cone makes the terribly beautiful connection between the Cross and the Lynching tree, in his book by the same name. The lynching tree, like the cross, was designed to humiliate, decimate, annihilate, and torture the body of the victim while at the same time warning those around that this form of punishment was/is always on the table if they crossed some superficial line. Most, if not all marginalized people, have been threatened with some version of the cross, and thus, numerous kinds of lynching. If we are to confront those sins of the past which continue to spill into and inform our present, we must know what they are.
And so once again, I offer these videos, a podcast and articles
- African Descent Video ( For more information look up Billy Holiday and the song Strange Fruit)
- Native Descent Video
- Article–“Indigenous women are preyed on at horrifying rates. I was one of them” by Brandi Morin
- Article–“New Colorado Springs mural addresses plight of Indigenous community” Pikes Peak Courier
- Asian Descent Article–“Hate crimes against Asian Americans: What the numbers show, and don’t”
- Latinx Descent (NPR) Podcast “The ‘Forgotten’ History Of Anti-Latino Violence In The U.S.”
I leave it to parents to decide if they are appropriate for your kiddos.
And, beloved, I ask you again, if you are choosing not to engage, why not?
Mar 15 – 22
“When you suffer emotional discomfort, remember that it’s your resistance that hurts. The idea that you want to resist, or escape the pain is precisely what makes it unbearable. Your thoughts interpret discomfort as suffering, which in turn triggers irritation, anger and even panic. These are all defense mechanisms. And your defenses come up simply because you are unwilling to allow the experience. But these defenses only make things worse because resistance contracts, consolidates and makes you dense. And when you are dense, emotions cannot pass through freely. Instead, they hit your shield hard, slam into your dense ego and fire up your defense arsenal. But you are actually free to change your whole idea of discomfort. If you shift your approach to it, you transform your experience. And just as resistance consolidates, surrender dissolves. Therefore, surrender from defense into presence. Pure presence is intensely focused in the now, and yet transparent and formless. Stay as presence, so that the pain can pass right through. Allow it, welcome it, enjoy it even. Breathe. Pay perfect attention and tell yourself, love the fire.” (author unknown)
Good Morning Beloved Community,
I wish to begin by once again thank you for your willingness to enter into unchartered territory. You remain a visible example of what it means to be actively living your faith even when it is really uncomfortable.
In her book, ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’, Isabel Wilkerson offers: “Dehumanization is a standard component in the manufacture of an out-group against which to pit and in-group, and it is a monumental task. It is a war against truth, against what the eye can see and what the heart could feel if allowed to do so on its own.” (bold, mine) We have been lied to about how to view, treat, understand, feel about the ‘other’. Racism is in the water we swim and the air we breathe.
To reverse the adverse effects this lie has had on our beliefs about the myth of race we must listen to stories, be in relationship, de-center ourselves and our feelings. This is a lifelong journey to which we have been called. These short videos will give us a glimpse into how the experience of racism has affected our beloved siblings. These are by no means representative of all those affected by racisms nor do they reflect the exact views and experiences of all identified groups. But they are a beginning. They are approximately 5-6 minutes each and are appropriate for all viewers.
- A Conversation With White People On Race | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- A Conversation With Latinos on Race | Op-Docs – YouTube
- A Conversation With Black Women on Race | Op-Docs – YouTube
- Being Multiracial in America | The New York Times – YouTube
- A Conversation With Native Americans on Race | Op-Docs – YouTube
- A Conversation About Growing Up Black | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- A Conversation With My Black Son | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- Opinion | ‘A Conversation With Asian-Americans on Race’ – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Friends I am so thrilled to announce and share the establishment of Nurturing Justice, a new non-profit co-founded by yours truly and my colleague Rev. Dr. Kris Watson. This is what I do in my ‘spare time! Our tag line is ‘Nurturing Racial Justice through Relational Transformation’. I invite you to go to our website and our Facebook page and become a friend!
I am available for any questions of course!
Mar 8 – 15
“One: We are gathered for a sacred purpose. The sacred purpose of building community in love and justice.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: We are confronted with false narratives and outright lies, and have been led astray by those who seek power and mammon above all else.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: We feel unmoored by deception and yet would rather return to the bliss of ignorance.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: Keep us on your path, Holy One, no matter how much we want to go back to the comfort of unknowing.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth
One: Beloved, help us to say grounded in your justice and your desire for all creation to flourish.
Many: Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
One: We are gathered for a sacred purpose.
Many: The sacred purpose of building Your Beloved community of love and justice.”
Dear Sacred People,
So I am guessing by now most of you are feeling ‘unmoored’ (as reflected in our call to worship above). Mostly, I am assuming that there is an overall sense of extreme discomfort–not just because of ‘racial justice content’ but also because there has been little comfort or solutions or actions made available. This is what is meant by sitting in the muck, the lament, the extreme discomfort that comes from being confronted with the truth. We want to flee from these feelings, turn them off and distract ourselves. I’m guessing you will try to avoid watching/engaging in the material I send, or in the conversations in worship, or maybe avoid worship all together. And, my Dears, that is your right–or perhaps more accurate, your privilege.
You see, our white skin allows us to avoid, ignore, or even just take a rest from the discomfort of these conversations and the realities of racial injustice. But here’s the thing: those of our siblings of African, Native, Latinx, Asian etc. etc. etc. descent do not have this privilege of leaving behind who they are, the skin they live in, the injustices that follow them 24/7. Perhaps, just perhaps, our discomfort is a gift, a gift that allows us for just a split second, to understand what it must feel like to live in a racialized and uncomfortable and dangerous world every moment of every day.
Please listen, Dear Ones. Lent reminds us of a story of a man whom we claim is our brother and teacher. A human–one of many–who was the example of the incarnation of our Beloved. A man who stood for the inclusion, flourishing and justice for all God’s people. And a man who lived with the discomfort that not only was he one who was oppressed, but he was probably going to be executed for his troubles. If he is indeed our Example, our Messiah, our Savior, whatever name you wish to call him, then can’t we who say we are followers, sit for just a while in the garden of discomfort without falling asleep or trying to escape the truth?
This is literally a small ask of us: to walk with those who have been living in the garden of Gethsemane their entire lives, asking for the cup to be removed while also knowing that the soldiers are approaching…
Here is the resource for next week: Robin DiAngelo is a consultant, educator and facilitator for over 20 years on issues of racial and social justice. She holds multiple advanced degrees including a PhD in Multicultural Education and is a renowned author for her work on social justice and racial justice.
Mar 1 – 8
“You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Holy One. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Holy One.” Leviticus 19:16-18
Good Monday Racial Justice Seekers,
The central message in the above passage is “Justice and peace come when you love your neighbor. Conversely, a lack of love leads to a lack of justice and peace…Holiness is predicated upon relationships between individuals. Justice unravels when injustices are perpetrated on the bodies, minds, sprouts, and livelihood of our neighbor.”(SC2ER)
Whew! No doubt last week’s ‘homework’ and yesterday’s conversation offered a small glimpse into the difficulty of trying to recognize and dismantle racism and white skin supremacy. You will learn very quickly, if you haven’t already, why we say this is a life-long journey. Thank you for showing up and engaging in the dialogue and thanks to those who stayed on a bit longer for further discussion.
Personally, one of the most difficult and disappointing realizations of how the myth of racist was constructed and sustained by the Church/Christianity. Our tendency as progressive Christians is to dismiss this history as belonging to “those other Christians”, thus denying our current complicity in racism. While it is disturbing to face our religious ancestry, we must if we are to embrace the humility necessary to do this work. The following videos are from Mark Charles.
He is a Native activist of Navajo Descent, speaker, a Reformed pastor consultant on the complexities of American History, race, culture, and faith. He was an independent candidate for President of the United States in the 2020 United States presidential election.
You are again invited to watch these resources with intention–take notes, wrestle with the info, pray– and bring observations, questions, etc to worship. These videos are appropriate for all ages.
- Mark Charles – The spiritual price of the Doctrine of Discovery – YouTube
- ‘We the People’ – the three most misunderstood words in US history | Mark Charles | TEDxTysons – YouTube
Feb 22 – Mar 1
Good Morning Beloved Community,
And so it begins–Our Racial Justice Journey.**
The bottom line is that we have been confronting the pandemic of racism as a congregation for a while now. As my colleague Rev. Kris Watson, who co-facilitates these conversations with me nationwide will tell you, “Racist ideology /white skin supremacy, is in the air we breathe. We are all affected and we all suffer from it. It is imperative that we do this work if we are to truly follow the brown skinned Palestinian Jew we say we love and trust.”
So let’s go! Over these weeks you will receive links to videos which will prompt thoughts and questions for you. The following Sunday we will incorporate the content of those videos into the worship service and dialogue sermon. Bring thoughts, question, frustrations, etc. There is no way we will be able to get all in, but we will start the conversations. You are encouraged to journal, talk to a spiritual director or friends about your process, or touch base with me.
You will note I snuck in 2 terms that probably made you squirm a bit: racist ideology and white skin supremacy. We will unpack these over the next few weeks. And, I promise, there will be more that will make you feel discomfort, unmoored, perhaps anger, guilt and even shame–which will probably make you angrier. While the goal is not to evoke these emotions, they are predictable reactions. You may even want to step out of this journey given the level of discomfort.
I implore you to stay in it.
I wouldn’t challenge us to move toward becoming a Racial Justice Church if I didn’t believe in my core that this is one of, if not the, most important work we will ever do and that we are ready to do it! This work takes courage and authenticity, honesty and willingness to be wrong, and an immense amount of trust and willingness to listen and learn. Everything you already do on a regular basis in this community.
So here are your first assignments. Watch the videos–they are appropriate and understandable for all ages. Give yourself time to digest, question, wrestle with the material. Call if you have any technical difficulties or concerns. I am so proud to be on the journey with you.
- The myth of race, debunked in 3 minutes – YouTube
- A Conversation With White People On Race | Op-Docs | The New York Times – YouTube
- Africas-Great-Civilizations-ep.1 – video Dailymotion
** Clare is a nationally certified Racial Justice Facilitator thru the UCC, Sacred Conversations to End Racism program. She has been and continues to be involved in national and local anti-racist events and trainings. She is also co-founder of Nurturing Justice, whose mission is to encourage the dismantling of white skinned supremacy and racism in American society through education, action, community building and engagement. We provide a safe and supportive space for racial justice activists and educators and educational opportunities for those interested in learning how to dismantle systemic racism in America. We encourage accountability through relationship and community building, providing tools for sustained engagement.
Feb 15 – 22
Good Morning Beloved Community,
I wanted to send you a copy of yesterday’s reading so that you have it as we enter the Lenten season. I hope you will join in for our service Wednesday evening.
From Thresholds by John O’Donohue
“Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter, a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges. The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it. Change arrives in nature when time has ripened.
There are no jagged transitions or crude discontinuities. This accounts for the sureness with which one season succeeds another. It is as though they were moving forward in a rhythm set from within a continuum. To change is one of the great dreams of every heart—to change the limitations, the sameness, the banality, or the pain. So often we look back on patterns of behavior, the kind of decisions we make repeatedly and that have failed to serve us well, and we aim for a new and more successful path or way of living. But change is difficult for us. So often we opt to continue the old pattern, rather than risking the danger of difference. We are also often surprised by change that seems to arrive out of nowhere.
We are also often surprised by change that seems to arrive out of nowhere. We find ourselves crossing some new threshold we had never anticipated. Like spring secretly at work within the heart of winter, below the surface of our lives huge changes are in fermentation. We never suspect a thing. Then when the grip of some long-enduring winter mentality begins to loosen, we find ourselves vulnerable to a flourish of possibility and we are suddenly negotiating the challenge of a threshold.”
Feb 8 – 15
Good Monday Dear Ones,
I am exhausted this first day of the week. This is ridiculously ironic coming off a beautiful weekend, worship with you, a nap on Sunday, and sacred time with family (we won’t talk about football!). It brings me back to this whole concept of what healing means. What does it mean to heal and be healed these days, while actively seeking social justice?
Pastor, author and theologian, Bruce Epperly, in his book “Prophetic Healing: Howard Thurman’s Vision of Contemplative Activism, offers us some direction with this.
“This dynamic spirit of spiritual wholeness, joining contemplation and activism, is what I describe as prophetic healing. Prophetic healing involves our willingness to challenge the injustices of our time while maintaining a sense of God’s presence in ourselves and in those with whom we contend in the political and social arenas. Prophetic healing reflects the profound sense of interdependence in which saint and sinner ,and oppressor and oppressed, are ultimately joined in God’s beloved community. The prophetic healer recognizes that healing must embrace all of us if it is to be lasting for any of us”.
This quote may seem to contradict the notion of being able to “dust our feet off” when we cannot be authentic with everyone with whom we are in conflict. But I don’t think so. This isn’t’ about what we would call spiritual by-passing, that is, jumping to the end game in that “we all need to be friends and like each other” in order to assume unity. This is a false peace which does not realize justice and it is useless and not sustaining. Rather, this quote offers us a way forward on a journey that will not be complete in our lifetimes. It invites us to recognize not just the presence of God but the path of the Divine. It reminds us that everyone in the ‘conversation’ is a beloved child of God (this one is the most difficult for me). It helps us to recognize that we aren’t inviting our Beloved to journey with us but that our Beloved is inviting us! And it reminds us that we aren’t supposed to assume all of this on our own.
“Participating in the holy adventure Thurman envisaged for humanity must have at its heart an affirmation of diversity, a commitment to anti-racism, love of the earth, and preferential care for the most vulnerable. The moral and spiritual arcs of history bend long and lean toward justice, but the hope for personal and national transformation comes when we choose to push the moral and spiritual arcs forward as God’s Companions, God’s hands and feet, in healing the earth. We protest and pray, knowing that God’s vision of shalom is the ultimate source of hope for persons and nations.”
Feb 1 – 8
(from Wikipedia) Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often translated as “I am because we are”, or “humanity towards others”, or in Zulu “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” or in Xhosa, “umntu ngumntu ngabantu” but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. This more than 2000-year-old philosophy is found in every country of Africa south of the Sahara.
Good Morning Beloved Community,
WOW! What an amazing Sunday we had yesterday!
- Thank you Kayan and Council, for your leadership and an exciting and productive annual meeting.
- Shout out to all our ministry teams and supporters for all you were able to accomplish during this unprecedented year!
- Congratulations to Mallory! Next step Ordination!
- Gratitude to Covenantal Partners of Vista Grande UCC, for your vision to call Mallory as our Associate!
- Welcome to Timotheous, Eilisia and Josiah; Denise and Dave; and Jerima! Your presence has made this community that much more beautiful!!
- And, Thanksgiving for our Sabbatical grant so that we can continue to work for justice!
This brings us to the term offered above, Ubuntu. Specifically, “I am because we are”. In a nation which upholds rugged individualism, this community continues to strive for interconnectedness and interdependence. We are because we recognize the Divine in each of us and all creation. We are because we strive to remain open to the needs of the world even in the midst of uncertainties. We are because we continue to trust our Beloved and seek strength and courage from one another. We are because we remember that we belong to one another.
Jan 25 – Feb 1
Good Monday Beloved,
I find that this morning I seem to be at a loss for words. (insert snarky comment here!). In all seriousness, I am stuck with my own words from yesterday, stuck in the “in between space”. That space which acknowledges the need to discriminate between those with whom we can be in authentic relationships and those with whom we find no way. Truly, sometimes I confound myself!
But, upon further reflection it occurs to me that perhaps removing ourselves from toxic relationships is indeed a form of being in relationship. The well known physician pledge to “do no harm” is perhaps our best approach. If we can recognize that this means no harm to others AND no harm to ourselves; embracing empathy for others AND ourselves; loving others AND ourselves; seeking peace and justice for others AND ourselves, then we can embrace our human limitations while also remaining faithful to acknowledging the indwelling of the Divine in all.
So I offer you today’s “aha” moment about discipleship: Perhaps, living in the tension, the in between space, of striving to be the best human we can be while longing for relationship with the Divine is our greatest calling.
Jan 18 – 25
“I and many others, we have been hollering Trump is a racist,” she said. “Trump is a dangerous racist who stokes and speaks to those impulses in his most ardent followers. This isn’t economic anxiety that he appeals to, that he speaks to in his voters. It’s white supremacy. And, until this nation really deals with white supremacy and how dangerous we ought to know that it is, there will be another demagogue who eventually rises in his place.” Dr. Carol Anderson, Emory University Professor and author of “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide”
Good Monday Dear People of God,
Let me begin by thanking all of you.
Many of my colleagues, here in the Rocky Mountain Conference and nationwide, would never attempt to state, post or send out the above quote to their congregations. They would be afraid of repercussions from their folx claiming separation of church and state and preaching politics from the pulpit. You, however, understand that justice issues- especially racism-have been politicized in order to keep us afraid and to uphold white supremacy. It’s ok to mention MLK in church but not ok to pick up the call to dismantle racism and racist structures. Kind of like its ok to mention Jesus in sermons but not ok to actually hold ourselves accountable to pick up his call to dismantle unjust systems! But you get this, which makes my job that much easier! AND, it also makes you leaders in this work.
I know it is exhausting hearing about racism (imagine what it must be like for those who have to live with it 24/7!). I know that the bulk of my sermons, at the very least, make reference to racism as the original sin of this nation. I know it’s uncomfortable, annoying, and painful to be confronted time and time again with our complicity and denial. And I know that we must endure and do the work if we are ever to allow ‘justice to flow like a river’.
The COVID-19 pandemic is continually presenting us with myriad of challenges: it is invisible; affects some more and differently than others: it mutates unexpectedly: it exists in all places around the globe: it puts all people at risk of its symptoms: it is transmitted to all who are exposed whether they know it or not; it is DEADLY whether one is symptomatic or not; it tends to affect, dis-proportionally, those who are most marginalized; it cannot be contained until all take it seriously, receive the vaccine, follow all safety protocols, and consider the well being of others. And even with all of this there is always a chance of recurrence. This is more than just a good metaphor for racism. It is a parallel virus–presenting with similar symptoms and with the potency to kill–physically, psychologically, spiritually- whomever it infects.
A new administration will not solve this issue of this particular ‘virus’. Increased military in our cities will not solve this riddle. Reading books and having conversations will begin the journey but it won’t be enough. Signs on our lawns will state our intentions but will not in and of itself make us anti-racists. It is true that all of this is certainly necessary. And, what will keep us in this journey, what will move us in the right and just direction is our penchant for compassion, empathy, humility, desire for Justice, willingness to listen, perseverance, love of God and all creation–everything you said yesterday!
My friends, let me finish as I began: Thank you: For your willingness to be on this journey; for recognizing this is a more than just one day, one month a year issue; for allowing me to push us outside and away from our comfort zones; for recognizing that while we are working for inclusion and equality, many of our siblings will not experience this until we all are free; and for also realizing that our own salvation is woven into the liberation of all God’s people. As always, it is humbling to be with you in this work.
Jan 11 – 18
Good Morning Beloved,
Well, last week was not the week off for which I had hoped. But I’m guessing you know this already. For many people in this country, and in others for that matter, what happened in our nation’s capital came as a great surprise and head spinning shock. We expect this to happen in other countries with histories of unrest, but never in ours. Not the U S of A. But, to be clear, I was not surprised at all. In fact, the only thing that shocks me is that the level of violence we saw didn’t happen sooner. And believe it or not, in this historical event which has unmoored so many of us and left so many bereft of any comfort, I find hope.
Let me explain…
For those of us who have been on the path of seeking justice, we have been listening to and watching those who have historically held the power: those who have never been pushed to the margins because of the color of their skin; their sexual orientation; gender and gender identity; or religion (other than Christian nationalism). Even with evidence to the contrary, many in this country still point to the white nationalist march in Charlottesville in August 2017 as a ‘one off’ event, or an event that only happens “in the South”. However, for those of us paying attention, who are committed to learning our real history, who have been listening to voices in our own city and congregation speak of injustice, we shouldn’t be surprised. We have seen white supremacist militia show up with sniper rifles to racial justice rallies right here in downtown these past years. They’ve propped themselves atop parking garages here in our city and focused their little red dots on any of us who spoke at these protests. We, as a church, have been on the receiving end of emails, phone calls, FB posts, and even attacks on property and persons by those who are incensed by our signs, our flags, our vision and our mission seek justice for all. There is nothing new here other than the voices have gotten louder and those of us with privilege are starting to pay attention.
So where is the hope in all of this chaos?
I firmly believe that what we are witnessing is evidence of the death throes of a dying evil which has been at the heart of who we have been as a nation. If John Pavlovitz is correct, and I believe he is, “this nation was first founded on genocide, erected on colonialism, built upon slavery, and maintained by racism”, and is now on the cusp of a re-birth. I see this as an evolutionary process which is attempting to shed the old, undesirable skin of injustice and become what we have always thought we already were! In Christian terms, we are on the precipice of entering into a closer realization of the Kin-dom. This will not come easily. All of us will be afraid to let this holy change occur, desiring instead to hold onto the mythology that we are already the greatest nation in the world. But truly, if that is our proclamation we are very off base, for we cannot serve two masters. Sadly, I do think we will see more violence as this death knell continues. And I don’t think we will see the full fruits of our faith and labor in our life-times. Still, the tide is shifting and as with all tides, this one is one its way out!
So, hold tightly to your faith: to that which sustains you, challenges you, wraps you in the knowledge that all we do, we do for our Beloved and for her creation. Knowing you all as I do, I can unequivocally state that we were called for such a time as this. I am so very honored to be with you on this part of our journey.