|Posted by communications on June 3, 2020 at 3:10 PM|
The past week has been an incredibly painful one for our nation. There’s a lot I could say, but as a white person and a Christian, the posture I am trying to take right now is one of listening more than talking. This can be challenging, because I have thoughts and feelings and opinions (lots of them!) about it all. But sharing my thoughts/feelings/opinions (which I am happy to do over a socially-distanced beverage if you really want to hear them) is not my calling. My calling is to proclaim the Gospel. And I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks powerfully to this moment. But to proclaim the Gospel faithfully, I first need to listen…to God, and to those whose voices have traditionally been silenced. If we don’t do the hard work of listening, it is too easy to stay comfortably in our own echo chambers or to be baited into unproductive discourse and get distracted from our mission as followers of Jesus. The prayer attributed to St. Francis says it so well: “Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.”
One of the people I am listening to carefully is Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Not only is he the spiritual leader of our denomination, but he is also a black man who has experienced racism firsthand. So today, I want to cede the remainder of this space to amplify his voice. He recently offered these words to the Church:
“In the midst of COVID-19 and the pressure cooker of a society in turmoil, a Minnesota man named George Floyd was brutally killed. His basic human dignity was stripped by someone charged to protect our common humanity.
Perhaps the deeper pain is the fact that this was not an isolated incident. It happened to Breonna Taylor on March 13 in Kentucky. It happened to Ahmaud Arbery on February 23 in Georgia. Racial terror in this form occurred when I was a teenager growing up black in Buffalo, New York. It extends back to the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 and well before that. It’s not just our present or our history. It is part of the fabric of American life.
But we need not be paralyzed by our past or our present. We are not slaves to fate but people of faith. Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone.
That work of racial reconciliation and justice – what we know as Becoming Beloved Community – is happening across our Episcopal Church. It is happening in Minnesota and in the Dioceses of Kentucky, Georgia and Atlanta, across America and around the world. That mission matters now more than ever, and it is work that belongs to all of us.
It must go on when racist violence and police brutality are no longer front-page news. It must go on when the work is not fashionable, and the way seems hard, and we feel utterly alone. It is the difficult labor of picking up the cross of Jesus like Simon of Cyrene, and carrying it until no one – no matter their color, no matter their class, no matter their caste – until no child of God is degraded and disrespected by anybody. That is God's dream, this is our work, and we shall not cease until God's dream is realized.
Is this hopelessly naïve? No, the vision of God’s dream is no idealistic utopia. It is our only real hope. And, St. Paul says, “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Real love is the dogged commitment to live my life in the most unselfish, even sacrificial ways; to love God, love my neighbor, love the earth and truly love myself. Perhaps most difficult in times like this, it is even love for my enemy. That is why we cannot condone violence. Violence against any person – conducted by some police officers or by some protesters – is violence against a child of God created in God’s image. No, as followers of Christ, we do not condone violence.
Neither do we condone our nation’s collective, complicit silence in the face of injustice and violent death. The anger of so many on our streets is born out of the accumulated frustration that so few seem to care when another black, brown or native life is snuffed out.
But there is another way. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a broken man lay on the side of the road. The religious leaders who passed were largely indifferent. Only the Samaritan saw the wounded stranger and acted. He provided medical care and housing. He made provision for this stranger’s well-being. He helped and healed a fellow child of God.
Love, as Jesus teaches, is action like this as well as attitude. It seeks the good, the well-being, and the welfare of others as well as one’s self. That way of real love is the only way there is.”
I am listening to you, Bishop Curry.
I am listening to you, beloved people of St. Alban’s.
I am listening to you, Jesus.
I am listening.
Yours in Christ,