Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garnerl, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile
Just a few of the names we carry on our hearts. Others we know by places.
Baton Rouge, Dallas, Pulse, Charleston, Newtown, Aurora
We are scarcely aware of many more. Over 30,000 people die of gun violence every year; twelve of them last year here in New Haven alone.
Mary Townsend, age 48, Sanjay Patel, 39, Jericho Scott, 16, Lyndell Moore, 29, Jerome Myers, 48, Francesca Ratchford, 25, Lawrence Allen Atkins, 35, Antoine Heath, 29, Maurice Richardson, 19, Davante Baker, 21, Jonathan Aranda, 19
Reality can be immensely discouraging.
Family systems theory has observed that the anxiety, the disfunctionality, the dis-ease in a family often is expressed in the neurosis or psychosis of an individual. Sometimes that root of the family’s anxiety is found generations earlier. Healing occurs through coming to terms with this underlying dis-ease.
This model can apply as well to national “families.” We can understand today’s discouraging violence – gun violence, along with many other forms of destruction and disfunction – as supported by the unresolved anxieties in our national system. By understanding the core anxiety, we can hope to reduce its expression.
The core anxiety in the United States’ system is racism. Consider these words from Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow. (written as she was learning about the Dallas shootings.)
We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers — rather than a domestic military at war with its own people— we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.
Perhaps we’d wish for more nuance. The point is that many people see themselves as living with a domestic military at war with its own people. Is that acceptable?
To reduce gun violence in this country we need to come to terms with racism. Racism is a very heavy topic for a hot July Sunday. I did not choose it; somehow it has chosen us at this time.
Racism is part of the foundation and formation of this country. It built our economy. Even if addressing it would reduce the violence in our society, can anything be done about it?
Feeling discouraged doesn’t help. We are, after all, people of hope. Jesus empowers us. We know this! Each of us has some ability to respond – perhaps in the course of our regular daily activities, perhaps in more specifically intentional efforts. With all the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love found in this congregation, and indeed in New Haven’s communities, we can make a start on making a difference.
Thinking locally, here in New Haven, speaking honestly, too little racism work is happening, particularly among the faith communities. Good work is being done. We in this congregation are doing some of it. But so much more is needed. A year ago June, the faithful of New Haven were invited and challenged to get involved when, following the Charleston atrocity, we joined in lamentation and worship at Bethel AME Church. With the gifts and skills and connections in this church, we are suited to this work. Every time we empathetically engage in the work of recognizing racism, we do the work of healing. My question for us is, can we develop meaningful relationships with our neighbors in faith? We would all benefit from them.
Keep in your prayers all the victims of violence, of racism, and their families. Pray for each other, for this community, this congregation and its leaders as together we seek ways to be reconcilers. Pray that we find the way to get going!
22 hrs ·
We need a critical homiletic free from a European lens that falsely denies Africa as a central place in the formation of Ancient Christianity.
We need a homiletic that sees Jesus as a victim of state sponsored torture, incarceration, militarized policing, and execution.
We need to see Jesus not as a European, but as a Black brother falsely accused by authorities.
When we decolonize our faith our faith will join the struggle.
Michelle Alexander, also on Facebook:
- I’m afraid I don’t know enough. I still find out most of what I know about race and racial incidents in our country from my black friends. And I am embarrassed by that. I feel like I should know more than I do by now.
- I’m afraid I don’t “get it”. Even after I read the links and listen to the reactions and responses of my black friends, I am afraid I don’t really “get” what is happening and its societal implications. I am afraid I’ll make a comment that leaves my ignorace showing.
- I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong. I always get tied up in what is the best article to link to, whose voice I should elevate, the vocabulary of reconciliation and race relations. And I am terrified to do it wrong. This is important work. And I don’t want to do it poorly. But if I am honest, mostly I don’t want to make a mistake and have to be corrected. I am afraid to admit I am still learning.
- I’m afraid I’ll be more offensive than I am helpful. Whew. This is a biggie. I care deeply about my friends of color. I do not want to be salt in their wounds. When they are hurting and grieving and angry, I do not want to say something that will make that pain worse. I am more willing to offend with my silence than I am with my voice. And that leads me to ask a deeper question, “Why would that be?” The next part of this list answers that.
- I’m afraid of what it might cost me. I live in a foreign country. I do not have an opportunity to engage the conversation about race outside of social media. So when I do speak up, I am opening myself to a lot of vitriol I’d rather not face. I hate conflict. It makes me sick and anxious. I hate social media conflict even more. And I know there are holes in my arguments (see above), so I worry I won’t stand up to the criticism that will inevitably be launched at me. I am afraid it will hurt to stand up for my black friends. And if I am honest, I am selfishly unsure if I am ready to pay the cost.
- I’m afraid of my own sins and prejudices. There. I said it. I am slowly undoing the thoughts and associations I grew up with. I am diversifying the voices I listen to. I am thinking and praying and responding differently to issues of race. But every time I really dig in to the conversation, I have to confront myself again. And name my own sins and prejudices. It is hard soul work and sometimes I want to get tired and give up. Which is embarrassing as hell, because I know the fatigue of my friends of color and I feel like a sad, little white girl wimp.
- I’m afraid it won’t be enough. I can do little. And so little seems to ever change. And what if what I can do seems not enough to my friends.
- I’m afraid of your anger. Not because I think you are wrong for feeling it. But because I do not know what to do or how to respond and constantly saying “I’m sorry” feels just plain stupid after a while.
- I’m afraid of your pain. The history of race in America and where your pain comes from involves in some way or another where I came from. I do not know how to face that well. I do not how to move forward with you given that.
- I’m afraid I’m in it for the wrong reasons. I’m a late ally. I showed up late, learned too slowly and have said not enough. And all that makes me wonder why now? Am I guilt-laden? Socially motivated? Looking to save face?