“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
Dear Pastor Jay,
Thank you for this message.
I think it’s so accurate that “racism. . . weaves itself into the very fabric of our life together.”
I have to be aware of that truth and also be aware of the best ways to prevent that from continuing to happen.
I will read your message again and again, and I will share it with my “kids” and friends.
Thank you again,
I find terms like ” White Supremacy”, “Black Lives Matter”, as derisive, and therefore not helpful.
There is surely enough fault to go around, as I firmly believe “it takes 2 to tango”.
As a manager, I had to deal with the underling hate that existed between two minorities(Blacks & Hispanics) who had to work together.
While in the USAF, I saw first hand, reverse discrimination.
As a Christian, we must always remember we are all “God’s children”. So to come together, lets remember that, and deal with trying to find solutions, not fault.
Ken, Thank you for your response and willingness to share your experiences with the community. I realize that terms can mean different things for different people depending on life experiences. To help aid our conversation, here is how I understand White Supremacy and Black Lives Matter.
White Supremacy is the idea that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Most of the time, we have associated white supremacy with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Still, white supremacy is ever-present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that often assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless, immoral, bad, and inhuman and undeserving. These assumptions play out in overt and subtle ways, which can make it difficult for communities to address. I would also argue that “white supremacy” refers to a political and socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantages and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both collective and an individual level.
Black Lives Matter is a movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, their contributions to this society, and their resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
God loves all God’s creations and desires unity in God’s love. As God’s children, we do fall astray from God’s will intentionally and unintentionally as we sin in word and deed. I believe that as a church, we are to confess racism as sin and renounce it as a distortion of the Gospel; however, it takes form in our lives (intentionally and unintentionally) so that we can live more fully into God’s love. This will take all of us. I believe all are called to engage in this work in the church and out in the world individually and communally. Be acknowledging these terms and addressing them as a community, my intent is not to blame or place fault but to recognize there is a severe problem that we are called to address. A problem that impacts how we love God and neighbor. Again, thank you for your willingness to engage in this conversation. I am open to listen, share, and work through this together. Thank you for your service to God and country!
Amen and may God help us to move forward to an understanding of and commitment to true and lasting racial justice.
Hi, Pastor, Yours is a needed message as is the Church’s as a whole. I’m curious if there are plans to have such conversations, to develop ways to take action. If so, I would certainly like to be part of it. Thank you.
Sherri, yes we are working on that right now and we will provide opportunities for the community to think through efforts to work more deliberately towards racial justice. These will be shared on the website, Church Chat (weekly emails), and the Crux (monthly newsletter).
I would like to be involved in any way I can. Jill Schumann
Jill, Thank you for your willingness to be engaged in this work. If you have not done so already I would encourage you to sign up for our racial justice task force https://christgettysburg.org/racial-justice/.