“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once the hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with real pain. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.”JAMES BALDWIN, writer and activist
Violence is violence – and violence begets further violence. Racism is a form of violence, a most insidious form of violence. Racism not only harms a person’s physical being, but it also does violence to the human spirit. Violence is not an accident. Racism is not an accident. Both are longstanding attitudes, modes of being, at the root of conduct and actions we have experienced and witnessed for far too long. Racism is all the things we have ever known it to be. It is alive and well, personal and institutional, damaging and damning. Above all, racism is a denial of the presence of God, the mystery, within human persons created in the image of God.
The ELCA’s social policy resolution, “Condemnation of White Supremacy and Racist Rhetoric,” adopted by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, states: “As persons called to love one another as God has loved us, we therefore proclaim our commitment to speak with one voice against racism and white supremacy. We stand with those who are targets of racist ideologies and actions.” As children of God, we are called to lament and repent the recent murders and the mistreatment of Black Americans. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon (Sean) Reed, and George Floyd were our neighbors. Neighbors killed by not just violence in general but the violence of racism.
Racism is evil. It is a destructive force everywhere and sadly we are not immune to that evil. It has become more evident that the struggle to eradicate racism must play a central role in the church’s mission through individual and corporate transformation. We often remain indifferent to the sins of injustice, racism, and white supremacy. It is also true, however, that where the baptized have come to confess racism as sin and renounce it as a distortion of the Gospel, unity and renewal are experienced in the body.
We can and must begin to live as though our baptism has meaning in our daily lives. We can and we must begin to teach our children by our example to believe the same. If we truly believe that in our baptism we accept our differences in Christ, then we must address the existence of racism and how it weaves itself into the very fabric of our life together.
Talking about racism may be one of the most difficult conversations we can have in this country, and certainly in the Church. It will take a sustained educational effort to open our minds and hearts to the full reality of our country’s original sin, followed by specific actions to change this reality. But it is my hope — and prayer — that by owning and taking action to address and understand the issue of racism today, we can help bring light for all, in the Church and beyond, as we move forward on the journey to racial justice.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jay Eckman