14 Sep Lamenting racism on the dry, cracked ground
Note: This post is directed at white evangelicals. It is done so because I believe we bear a great responsibility for speaking out against racism. We participate and benefit from a system designed for whites, so for that privilege and access we bear great responsibility. This is written gently and in love.
My dear white evangelical, please come here. Come and sit with me here on this hard, dry place. Feel the bare ground and dry dirt beneath your body. I want you to take your hand and run it over this dry, cracked ground.
Now take a handful of that dirt and put it on your head in mourning. We are sitting on the dry ground we have neglected and ignored for our own comfort. It is ground that in our access and privilege we thought we did not have to tend to.
Friend, it is time for us to enter into a time of lament.
We are not good at this for our existence in our broken nation was created for us. We have allowed ourselves to be taken in by Satan’s lies that our skin color is superior and more valuable than that of others. This lie is insidious and woven into our society.
It is not just women and men wielding torches but it is the quiet lie we have allowed it to be woven into our society from its birth from denying the rotten roots of our nation.
We have acquiesced to powers and principalities that have told us the lies of white preference and access in our schools, our health care, our political system, our churches. We have ignored the disparities in education, health, mass incarceration, deportations, income, infant mortality, housing, and much more.
Whoa to us for assuming these disparities were based on character and not a system designed to benefit us.
We have ignored the truth and real history of redlining and segregation in our schools far after Brown v. Board of Education.
We have ignored how we (through our white ancestors) benefitted from the Homestead Act and GI bill, even if indirectly.
We have ignored how we as a nation interned thousands of fellow image bearers in internment camps.
We have never admitted that our church buildings and homes are built on land that is not ours. A land that was stolen through Indian Removal Act and genocide.
We have ignored the truth that our ancestors enslaved millions of Africans. We have ignored the truth that our church planting was based on the separation of the races and not on the fulfillment of uniting God’s diverse church. We have ignored the truth that we would not allow people of color to worship with us so they created their own churches.
We do not truthfully admit that the “moral majority” was based on racism – a push against school and societal racial integration. My friends, it was not built on saving lives from abortion. It was built because white evangelicals did not want to integrate their schools.
When our sisters and brothers of color cry out for justice, we say “let’s not get political now….” when their literal lives are being threatened. Instead, we minimize their real lived experiences and do not believe them because we did not experience it first hand.
We stay silent when politicians use racism and xenophobia as a platform for campaigns. We say things like “politics divide but the gospel unites!” We say that because we have access and comfort surrounding us like a soft blanket.
It insulates us from worrying about going to the grocery store because we might get racially profiled or deported. It insulates us from worrying our child will get pulled over by police for no real infraction and may lose their life to police brutality. It insulates us from worrying about defending our religion because of fringe groups. (We have our own, by the way. One is called the KKK).
We can go through our days without feeling oppression or injustice. We live in our comfortable lives and attend our comfortable churches with comfortable sermons of individual salvation that do not challenge us to live out the social, collective gospel of justice. Our white pastors coddle us and “…They didn’t face you with your sin so that you could repent. Their sermons were all wishful thinking, deceptive illusions.” Lamentations 2:14 (The Message)
Our white pastors coddle us because WE demand it and will not stand to hear the hard truths. At the root, we bear most of that blame. We ignore systemic racism because we lie to ourselves and say that racism is an individual sin fixed only by individuals.
But friends, hear me now. We have engaged and benefitted in the collective sin of systemic racism. It is in our churches, our cities, our neighborhoods, our states, our justice system, our police departments, our schools, our nation. For this we must enter into a period of lament, mourning, and repentance. We have to open our eyes to the truth and our complicity in a system designed to favor us.
God does not center the favored, God centers the marginalized. God centers the ones society oppresses. God centers not the powerful but the ones the powerful exploit.
Friends, we are the ones with the power we did not earn and for that we must lament and repent. It is time for us to sit on the parched ground and
“Give out heart-cries to the Master, dear repentant Zion.
Let the tears roll like a river, day and night,
and keep at it—no time-outs. Keep those tears flowing!
As each night watch begins, get up and cry out in prayer.
Pour your heart out face-to-face with the Master.” Lamentations 2:18-19a (The Message)
Friends, this is what is required of us at this time. We always want to get to reconciliation part but never reckon with the hard truths about our role and part in systemic racism. We want the unity without doing the work to understand our broken system that benefits us.
Sit with me.
Let the tears roll down.
Cry out to God in lament for our complicity, unbelief, and willful ignorance.
This time of lament is not just a time for weeping and wailing, though. It is a time for learning and understanding the hard truths we have ignored for so long. The Holy Spirit is moving now and She does not bless the powerful but goes to the wilderness and finds the ones the powerful have pushed outside the camp.
Our place that we need to begin at this time is in lament.
Friend, come sit with me on this dry, cracked ground. This is our place for now.