If your calendar is free please, please, please, give yourselves to this night. You will hear inspiring words from a mixed palate of area clergy from varying faith traditions. There will be times of great praise and song, along with deep confession, and the night will culminate in an invitation to take action by committing yourself and your congregation to ERACCE training. Again the event is the Service of Racial Healing and Action hosted by ISAAC at 2nd Baptist Church this Wednesday September 2nd at 6:30pm. The doors open at 6pm. Learn more on the Facebook Event page here:
Now some more about anti-racism. On June 26th I preached a sermon following the shooting in Charleston in which I stated that America, particularly white America, has submitted ourselves consciously in some cases and unconsciously in others, to the idolatry of racism. Idolatry as we learn in the Old Testament is the sometimes conscious and sometimes unconscious arrangement of one’s life or community around the belief that our salvation is found in something other than in the living God.
For most if not all who are reading my words it is very likely the case that we can locate ourselves in the category of those who participate in this idolatry unconsciously and my thoughts are directed primarily to those of us who fit this category. With that in mind I want to elevate the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he wrote “Not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act.” When it comes to most issues (I struggle to use this word because we are talking about people and real lives) of injustice we own that speaking about the issue is an important step in bending it towards justice. Oddly when it comes to racism we have made the overt choice not to speak because we believe that not speaking about it will suppress it. This is simply not true however, because evil thrives when a community fails to name it. The truth of the matter, I believe, is that our failure to speak of racism has everything to do with our fragility; we are afraid of speaking about it because of how uncomfortable it makes us feel. We are afraid to speak of it because we feel ashamed or even embarrassed when we speak about it.
But there is a real thing called white privilege that those of us with white skin benefit from everyday. It is evidenced by the out of proportion mass incarceration of black males to white males in America. It is evidenced by the inequity we see in between schools in middle class white neighborhoods verses schools in mostly black lower income neighborhoods. It is evidenced by the truth that I will never have to sit my son down for “The talk about how to talk to a police officer to be safe” When nearly every black parent I know has given their children that talk. Every example I have given by the way is an example in which most of us are indirectly involved meaning they have zero impact on our lives and we make no obvious contribution to their perpetuation. Emphasis on no obvious. I would submit that that we do contribute and our contribution to the perpetuation is our silence and our inaction. A commitment to anti-racism is a commitment to having our eyes opened, and a willingness to explore the ways in which we can bring an end to the perpetuation and break the cycle of the unconscious participation in the idolatry of racism in which we find ourselves.
So what then does it mean for a congregation to become anti-racist? In part it means setting our fears and assumptions aside and attending events like Wednesday’s service of racial healing and action. It means laying aside our anxieties and attending an ERAACE introduction to anti-racism one-day training event. It means taking a real hard and critical look at our community asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the racial injustice around us. It means asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to ways in which we participate in this idolatry of racism. These steps are just the beginning. They are careful and yet bold first steps. The steps to follow are surely the more difficult steps of examining our own policies and practices and traditions that may or may not serve as barriers to the full welcome and inclusion of people of color in our congregation. The journey will require honesty, and vulnerability but I believe it will be a journey full of blessed discovery and it will lead us one day to becoming a congregation who reflects God’s beloved community of diversity.
I hope you will join me, Deacon Cara, and our family on the journey beginning this Wednesday, September 2nd at 6:30 2nd Baptist Church 609 North Rose Street.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Matt