(The Church) does not identify limited progress with the kingdom of God on earth . . .
My denomination is 91% white, which is an admission that will make some of my brothers and sisters feeling pretty good about ourselves (“People of color make up 9% of our denomination!“) and others of my brothers and sisters to be embarrassed that – in a nation in which white folks will be in the minority in a mere four years – our congregations do not look much like our country. Chances are – however – that we who are white don’t think about it much.
This Holy Week – as we move through the paralyzing physical and spiritual pain of Jesus into resurrection – is the perfect time to consider our own paralysis before we celebrate that Christ is risen.
- Are we overwhelmed with the notion of connecting with our neighbors – especially if they don’t look like us?
- Are we anesthetized to the evils of systemic racism?
- Do we congratulate ourselves when a person of color or two joins our church as if this proves we are not racist?
Yesterday and every day, I was/am struck by the need for deep story sharing. Larissa Kwong Abazia brilliantly addresses this here. And then, shortly after reading Larissa’s article, I saw this article about a white police officer who was shot and killed by a 17 year old black man in South Carolina who then turned the gun on himself. This is a familiar story that begs for details. Yes, a young officer is dead which is unspeakably heinous. And yet it is also heinous that a black teenager would run when two police officers tried to stop him “for a field interview” in the Nicholtown neighborhood in Greenville, SC. He is identified as “confirmed and self-described gang member” in a neighborhood with a high crime rate in a lovely southern city. The layer of issues here are complicated and difficult.
Imagine caring enough about the layers to uncover the stories behind these stories. We seek them out not so that we can congratulate ourselves for reaching out. We seek them out because we follow One whose story is not what it seems at first look.
Some saw Jesus as a rabble-rouser set on turning over the powers. Some saw him as their rabbi. Some were ashamed of him. By Friday nobody was lining up to claim they knew him. But the truth is that Jesus was the embodiment of love.
Call me crazy, but I believe that when we listen to each other’s stories we will find the same needs and hopes. We want to be respected. We want to be loved.
Loving The Other is not something to congratulate ourselves for doing. It’s our life’s purpose in the name of Jesus (who was brown, by the way.)
The quote at the top is from the PCUSA’s Confession of 1967, 9.55. The image is by Nyle Fort.