I’m someone who, though I love words (oh do I love words) routinely feels like words can’t get at the immensity of the situation. I often feel like this when talking about God, strange as that may be for a preacher to say.
I definitely felt like this after I heard the news about Charleston.
I was particularly turned off by the performative posting happening on my Facebook feed, and was internally struggling with what it meant to stay silent in our social media infused world versus contributing to the frenetic buzz that followed Charleston (and seems to have been quickly replaced by posts about Father’s Day).
I was both comforted and challenged by my colleague in Houston, Brad Fuerst’s post:
- You get caught up into a visceral divine compassion when the pain of others has a purchase on your life. IMHO maybe set aside the opportunistic punditry. For now, set aside the quibbling over semantics. Set aside platforms and broken agendas and finger pointing and conjecture…for as long as it takes to be tuned into God’s sweet and painful song of compassion. This, I think, might be what the pained and grieving and accused need most from you now: to listen…with compassion…with your heart.
I, too, decided to stay silent.
Instead I’ve been listening, to the still small voice in me that I trust is Spirit, and to some very thoughtful pieces that have been posted. I’ve been talking with those I love and respect, but mostly just praying. Because I feel sad. So sad. And I feel paralyzed. And hopeless. And angry.
Racism is indeed a gaping wound in this country that refuses to heal, and that we pretend doesn’t exist. It is a structural sin, and we who are complicit need to renounce that sin. It’s present in our church in so many ways. This young man’s family is a part of an ELCA church. It’s present in white lives in so many ways.
We have work to do, brothers and sisters. I have work to do.
I differ with John Stewart on one point, and that is his hopelessness. I watch the way Mother Emmanuel church is responding – the way the black church is responding – and I find hope in their witness. Forgiveness and Justice Seeking happening hand in hand. I’ll take my cues from them, and encourage you to do the same.
When one of us suffers, we all suffer. And when one of us experiences healing, so do we all. Let that admonition from Paul be our sustenance and guide in these days.
When the frentic posting has stopped, that’s when our long, slow work towards healing begins. Listen. Pray. Simmer. Get angry. Stay focused. Talk to people you know and respect, especially people of color. Keep your eyes open for ways to act, and then do it.
We are the only hands and feet and beating heart that Christ has on this earth. Let’s use ours to the glory of God, for the reconciliation of God’s people, and the healing of God’s good earth.
May it be so.