Pastor’s Friday Reflection
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.“
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When my daughter, now over thirty, was about seven years old, she asked me one day if she could invite a new friend from school over to play. I agreed, and a few days later she arrived home with her friend. To my surprise, the friend was black. I welcomed her and the two girls had a good time together. Later, after her friend had gone, I asked my daughter why she hadn’t told me her friend was black. Jenny looked up at me with a puzzled expression and said, “I wouldn’t tell you if my friend was blond, why would I tell you she was black?” That brought me up against my own racism.
This week we have watched in horror as first two black men were killed by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and then, just in the last 12 hours, eleven police officers were shot in Dallas, with five dead, during a Black Lives Matter rally. The details of the Dallas shooting are still under investigation as I write this. These shootings all have one thing in common – race. In his press conference after the St. Paul shooting, the governor of Minnesota asked, if the occupants of the car had been white, would the result have been the same. Answering his own question, he said probably not. And I wondered, if the police officer had known Mr. Castile was a Montessori School administrator, would he have felt as threatened as he must have felt when he shot the man? Did racial profiling play a role?
Paul coined that wonderful phrase, “speaking the truth in love.” As a society, we must examine our practices with an objective eye, recognizing where racism has been so ingrained in our systems of governance that we who are not persons of color no longer notice the discrimination. In order for us to be a “whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament,” we have to be sure that those ligaments, those connectors, are just, fair and supportive rather than destructive. We need to work strenuously to eliminate racism and all “ism’s” from our society. We need to speak the truth about our society.
In the aftermath of Dallas, the good news is that most police officers are honorable people who work for the good of their community. But the time has come for us as a nation to rise up and demand that we speak the truth in love – that some people should no longer carry a badge and gun, that racism exists and must be addressed, that justice is the right of all Americans regardless of the color of their skin. Let none stand on the sidelines saying, this is someone else’s fight. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor called those who experience such visible racism the “canaries in the coal mines, whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere…Until their voices matter, too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.” (dissent opinion in Utah v Strieff, last month) Paul’s words take it one step further, making it clear that we are one body. When any part of that body is unhealthy, the whole is unhealthy. We must work together to create a society that reflects the love of God and the recognition that every human being is a beloved child of God.
Here in the suburbs, we are shielded from much of the blatant challenge of racism, but that doesn’t give us a pass on action. Our affluence also means we are people of power, people who have the ability to demand change at a governing level – better community policing in underprivileged neighborhood, better training of police officers, body cams, community oversight, but also fair wages for police and responsible efforts to increase their safety. Let us act within our own sphere of influence to eliminate racism. Let us speak the truth in love to one another – not firing shots at those with whom we disagree as in Dallas, but lovingly and hopefully pointing out places where racism exists and working together to make changes. After all, even those who are filled with racism are children of God who deserve our love, not our hate. Speaking the truth in love, asking God to change our hearts, we can create a world that reflects the love and justice that God intends.
Prayer: O loving God, I come to you this morning all to aware of my own biases, my own proclivities to judge people by external criteria like race. Help me, Lord, to see instead as you see. Let me recognize injustice when I see it; let me act to correct inequity. Give me a heart that is both demanding of justice and filled with love as I seek to bring our world one step closer to your kingdom. And, Lord, help me to examine myself to find those places where I fail to love my neighbor because of race or other isms. Change my heart wherever that occurs, so that I may grow more into the likeness of Jesus Christ, who both loves me and challenges me to be better. Amen.