At our Zoom meeting last Thursday afternoon, we all shared the heaviness on our hearts over the still-unfolding, tragic events in our country. The unjust death of George Floyd is just the latest in a seemingly unending cycle of violence against our brothers and sisters of color. One thing I hope we are all getting from this is that we, as white people, cannot really fathom the depths of racism’s legacy. Slavery in this country existed from 1526-1865. Segregation existed from 1865-1964. The social ills from these terrible legacies will not resolve until we commit to fight racism wherever we encounter it, including in ourselves.
If we say, “I’m not racist,” then we are kidding ourselves. All of us have likely been raised under the influence of racism. The messaging in my own family and formative community was awful. I am recovering from it only by intention and commitment. The American writer Ijeoma Oluo, who wrote the book “So You Want to Talk about Race” said, “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend you are free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself, and that is the way forward.”
One of the ways I am fighting racism is by reading the gospels with fresh eyes. I know some are resistant to the Black Lives Matter movement and prefer to say that All Lives Matter. Yet if you really look at the words and actions of Jesus, He repeatedly calls us to pay particular attention to the ones being marginalized. He never says that we don’t all matter, but there are contexts—places and times—when some need preferential attention. In the long wake of slavery and segregation, I would invite you to reread Luke 15:3-7 or Matthew 18:11-14: Both passages tell the story about the shepherd who leaves the 99 to search for that one lost sheep. Yes, the 99 are important, but we see what lengths Jesus goes to restore that one who has experienced trouble! For the Christian, Black Lives do Matter. Saying so and fighting racism are acts of restorative justice, which are sorely needed in the long and unjust legacies of slavery and segregation. Let us continually examine our hearts as we expose them to the light of the gospels.