July 2020 Tidings

Pastor’s Pen

It’s time to listen

Well, what a difference one Tidings issue makes! The last issue I wrote for, everything was about the pandemic. And while that’s not exactly off the table (not even close, Tulsa rally notwithstanding), another pandemic has reared its ugly head, and this one surpasses COVID-19, in my estimation. That pandemic would be racism.

There are many other factors competing for our attention, of course, from burning to looting to statues taken down to renaming military facilities to talk of defunding the police, etc. And this has all been happening on a global scale! But the underlying factor in all of this tumult is a cry from people of color that has come to the surface from the depths: We are being treated like we don’t matter! We are not being heard! We cannot breathe!

Say what you might about property damage and looting, if Black communities are being silenced and oppressed this widely, that’s the real story here. As Martin Luther King Jr., said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” So, do we want to focus our attention on the property damage or the human damage that results from racism?

As one of our members posted:

Here’s an example of how white privilege sounds

You keep saying, “It’s horrible that an innocent Black man was killed, but destroying property has to stop!”

Try saying, “It’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing innocent Black men has got to stop.”

You’re prioritizing the wrong part.

I think that gets it right.

We who follow Christ are aligned with a different kingdom where such treatment of God’s children is not tolerated. Yet, in the kingdom of this world, certain tribes and races “win;” they assert power and control over others. It seems virtually certain that this has happened with our African American brothers and sisters for centuries…and it continues. The kingdom of God and God’s people say, “No!”

And so, for so many of us white folk who follow Christ, it is time to focus our attention less on the disruption of public order and damage to our material world, and more on the human cries of pain rising up—cries from which we are so isolated, so largely unaware.

We are being called to listen now like we’ve never listened before, because there are stories that need to be told from our black brothers and sisters.

We are being called to learn about American history, and, most importantly at this time, the history that has rarely been told: Black American history. For instance, who knew about the monstrous actions taken by white Americans and the military in Tulsa on June 19, 1921? We don’t want to hear about such things because it might require of us all to look in the mirror.

We must listen, learn and finally act. This is what love does. It pays attention, honors the other, then becomes a champion and advocate for their well-being.

It seems clear that the racism we are facing in our country is more than a few “bad apples.” It’s much deeper, in systems, institutions, community values and mores. It’s embedded in our culture. So, we must all work together to re-imagine how we can be more supportive, just and fair with all members of the American experience.

God give us courage to listen, learn, act and thereby forge a new sense of community with our black American brothers and sisters.

God’s peace to you all,
Pastor John

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