For days I’ve tossed about words, piling them up like yesterday’s newspapers. At the beginning of the week I began writing about the President’s mandate “to open up all churches, synagogues and mosques, so people can worship and pray.” Instead of writing I started yelling, “Stop acting like you’ve uttered the 11th commandment!” I kept up my rant,”We don’t need a building to pray. All over this world folks have been kneeling, moaning, and crying out their prayers to God or to anyone who’d listen. They sobbed from hospital beds, food lines, shelters of one kind or another and unemployment lines, for starters. And we don’t need a building in which to worship God, nor a set time.” For Christians, The Church is us, which is both good and bad news.”
As if I hadn’t yelled enough, I caught a second breath, which is more then over 100,000 Covid-19 victims have been able to do. I kept on shouting behind closed doors. “To some of you, my brothers and sisters in the evangelical world, as I see it, the one who ordered churches open, so we can pray, is neither our good friend nor The Church’s.”
Then came the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and my yells turned to stunned silence. As a white policeman’s knee pressed into George’s black neck I cried,”Let up! Get off him!. He’s telling you that he can’t breathe.” Then, “Dear Jesus, he’s dead.”
Watching the news, since then, has brought me back to 1968 when murder, riots, protests took our nation to a dark place. Back then, like now, The Church has both opportunity and responsibility to be Christ in this moment. We are called to “Act justly, love mercy an walk humbly with our God.”(Micah 6:8 NLT) That walk may take us to the streets, in prisons in peaceful solidarity with those who have been left behind. It must prompt us to care, share and work to end systemic racism.
Before the murder of George Floyd, there was Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and too many more. And before these recent murders, there was and still is Covid-19, disproportionately killing minorities, especially our black brothers and sisters. Add to that the economic devastation from this pandemic. We could stay on our knees forever, praying for justice. But sometimes justice demands legs more than knees, but knees are a good place to start. I’m reminded of Colin Kaepernick, taking a knee in quiet protest against injustice and police brutality. Contrast that with words tweeted from the President, “When the looting starts the shooting starts.”
If any of you are still reading, I need to state the obvious. Not all who serve on police forces are brutal or corrupt. We are not called to repay evil with more evil. Justice and vengeance are not synonyms. Vengeance is selfish. Justice is sacrificial. Most policemen and women are ones we can safely call on for help. They, like firemen risk their lives, daily. We need them.
So now what? I’m still puzzling how to respond in times like these. Maybe I need to re-read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 to see what matters to Christ. I just did and read, “God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice…God blesses those tho are merciful..God blesses those who work for peace…and God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers.”
There’s been a lot of lying going on in this country. I wish it was because we were being too much like Jesus for folks to handle the truth. So back to how I started this week, trying to find some words. Well, I’ve found more than my usual allotment. I try to keep the blog to around 300 words. It’s like “I’m writing and I can’t shut up!”
Well, if you’re like I feel, sick of words, I’ll be concise in my plan of action.
- Pray. It matters.
- Look in the mirror, Jan, to find the nearest racist. It’s systemic. I pray to become anti-racism and for an old white lady that won’t be easy.
- Wear a mask. It’s not political. It’s one way to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
- Vote for people and issues that promote justice and do good “to the least of these.” They are the ones Jesus identifies with.
Back to where I started. We, The Church, are called to be First Responders, for Christ’s sake. For more than 2000 years we’ve done so in fits and starts, but, thankfully, have never stopped trying to “love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves.” I just want to be one of Jesus’ faithful, courageous ones, not somebody hiding out yelling at a TV screen or writing more than anyone needs to read.
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Thanks for expressing how you feel. I think I knew, but it was good to hear your heart expressed in words.
Thank you for reading, Dale. It was a lot of feeling which I’ll need to move beyond to become a learner, listener and an ally. Thanks for remaining my long time friend and for not giving up on me.
Vengeance is selfish. Justice is sacrificial. How true, Jan. Thank you.
That’s part of why we need God’s help to “do justly.” It’s tough stuff.
I am screaming with you, dear Jan. Eloquent. Amen.
I thought I heard you, Daphne! The tough part will be moving beyond yelling. I’m surprised my TV screen didn’t crack or my neighbors hang out FOR SALE signs on my condo or theirs.
Sometimes words are a gift. As were yours, today. Bless you, Jan!
As you know, words don’t always come when called. That anything I write is a gift to you, thoughtful friend and writer, comes right around to bless me. Thank you, dear Stan.
Thank you, Jan. Our white brothers and sisters who are followers of Christ have to speak for true love, justice and the dismantling of white supremacist thought and action.
A hearty AMEN to all your points, from both of us.
Dear Rita, I thought of you as I yelled and wrote. My granddaughter, Lily, forwarded an article to me after she read my blog. It was written by Courtney Ariel in Sojourners entitled, “For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies.” Working for justice is holy work, but work, not feeling bad or sorry. I took courage from her final words. “Above all,I urge you keep trying. You’re going to make mistakes; expect this. But keep showing up. Be compassionate. Lead with empathy, always. Keep learning and growing. If you do this, I truly believe you’ll be doing the work of an ally.” I love you, Rita. You are a strong, good woman.
Thank you Jan. As He always does, God is going to use these hard, hard times for His good and glory. It’s a time for each of us to look deeply at how we can play a part in helping, and thankfully there are many who are giving us ideas, and doing or saying nothing isn’t one of them.
True, Wendy. There are many voices speaking and writing. Above all, may we listen long to those who suffer and to the Man of Sorrows who will help us through the Holy Spirit within us. We’ll need each other and perseverance. We’ve a long way to go down the road of true empathy, reconciliation and social justice. One step at a time, one day at a time, Sweet Jesus.
Thank you again Jan. Your words continue to strike at the heart of what is happening in our nation. I grieve. And I feel so tired of waking up to yet a new (but 400 year- old) crisis. And this fatigue is coming from a privileged, white perspective. I cannot fathom the continued sense of despair and hopelessness of our black and brown brothers and sisters. Lord have mercy on us all as we attempt to pick up pieces of a shattered nation. Micah 6:8 resounds in my head… Lord, show us the wisdom we need to act and speak personally and rise up the leaders needed here at this time of grief and anger, giving them the words to speak to the hurting community.
I’m old and I’ve never lived through anything that feels or looks like this moment in time. I’ve often said, “We’re better than this.” Now is our opportunity to show what we really believe and who we are, one way or another. We need strong and wise leaders. And the rest of us need to be strong and wise in who we vote for and choose to follow. This is a time to listen and pray for wisdom. I try but can’t imagine the fear, anger and sense of hopelessness buried in our minority population and especially among the black communities in this “land of the free and home of the brave.” You and Ron and two who care. Keep on.