To my white siblings, as we once again have the unfortunate opportunity to reflect on the pernicious power of white supremacy in the United States, as we reflect on the specific injustices done to Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, what are we willing to do to learn about the historic systems preceding their deaths? Make no mistake, these are but symptomatic events. Protesting their deaths is worthwhile, but what is the long slow work of truly good news that we are willing to undertake so that we can understand and empathize as best as possible? And then, equipped with that knowledge and empathy, how will we act? Micah 6:8 asks us “to do justice”, not just occasionally talk about it so we can feel good until the discomfort goes away.
We the people.
We the hidden
We the haunted
We the strong
We the suffering
We your muse.
We you abuse.
We black as night
and yellow as sun.
this year, might we broaden our focus, and create a Memorial Day – dedicated to those now gone due to this illness, and strongly representing our commitment to caring for the living who are hurting, by caring for and remembering all those who have in these months lost their dearest loved ones, and who are grieving so deeply.
I think of the disciples and followers gathered in those pre-Pentecost days with a budding sense of the life-altering importance of the resurrection. What did they wonder, experience, fear, and hope in that “not yet” place”? What do we wonder, experience, fear, and hope in our “not yet” place?
I was nine years old when I first got acquainted with the term “Christian.” Used to going to a cathedral for a church, attending church in an ordinary old building with a married white woman serving as the “priest,” was very novel to me. People joyfully singing worship songs and telling stories about how the Lord Jesus had helped them in their daily lives were all alien to me, yet got me curious and interested. It was also the first time that I heard about Jesus and that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (whatever that meant).
No pretenses. No veil draping my face to separate me from you, you from me. Each word spoken, seen or heard by you, will be more than merely a word. It will be the stumbling of my Self, trying to weave threads, strand by strand, word by word, into the fabric of whole cloth, a shawl worthy to be worn about the shoulders of any who might need warmth. No pretenses, only bumbling efforts to braid difficult syllables together, for your understanding and mine.
Transformation goes beyond adhering to the Ten Commandments and doing things right. As a matter of fact, we can all do things right and miss doing the right thing entirely. Transformation speaks to being and is the process of death and resurrection; of letting go of an old map of reality that is comprised of separation, competition, meritocracy, and me-and-my-tribe for an existence of union-in-diversity, collaboration, grace, love, and compassion (suffering-with an-other).
If death isn’t your thing, re-think that. Because death and grief is all of our thing. In life and in death, we belong to God but in belonging to God, we belong to the realities of life and death. Those realities are present constantly, not just at bodily death, but death/grief of expectations, careers, ideas, understanding of society and one another. My time at the funeral home and other death experiences wasn’t just about death—they were about how we live, love, and have our being.
I spend a significant amount of time on Youtube every few months watching writer/producer/actor/model/unrequited BFF, Issa Rae do press and various interviews. I was deep in one of these YouTube rabbit trails not too long ago and ran across her interview with a correspondent from Variety. The same correspondent to whom she told her now famous line on the Emmys red carpet in 2017, “I’m rooting for everybody black!”. What a line, what a statement, what a vibe (as the young folx say)? The film and television industry has historically been a very white industry where privilege and nepotism reign supreme. I know another mammoth institution that can claim this history, do you?
What lessons can World Christianity learn from refugees’ resistance to border regimes? How might refugees be enacting the Mission of God while living in liminal spaces like camps, detention centers and border crossings? How might migrants and refugees be shaping religion and the next christianities in post-secular societies?