We who live in the United States of America often leave out the scary parts of our history. We almost always leave out the gory parts.
Talk of being “the greatest country in the world” is heard more frequently during the Olympics and election season. National holidays – especially the ones honoring veterans and those who’ve died during military service – move us to cheer. USA! USA!
I love my country. But we are not the greatest in every way. Some nations offer better health care. Others offer better education. We are – disturbingly – first in prisons. And then there is the systemic racism.
As much as some of us want to leave out the scary parts of our nation’s history, it’s essential that we own it, that we not leave out the scary parts. My family – historically – owned slaves and I was always told that my ancestors were, themselves, poor and that they treated slaves well. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. The myth of happy slaves is just that. An enslaved person is an enslaved person – even if they are “well fed.”
The Church has some unspeakably scary parts too. We in the Western Church are corporately responsible for perpetuating slavery, for turning our backs on racial-ethnic minorities, for shaming the divorced and remarried, for condemning LGBTQ people – sometimes to the point of taking their own lives or contributing to violence against them. This is part of our history. It’s scary for many reasons including the fact that it shines a light on who we have been and who we are now.
Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
The world, our nation, our church, and the totality of human history all involve both the glorious and the excruciating, both good and evil. When we turn away from the scary parts we allow them to continue. We cannot fight what we do not acknowledge.
And so, as hard as it is, let’s not look away at the sight of evil. We need to know what we are up against.
Note: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is a great read that includes some scary parts. I strongly recommend it.