Look, I’m just glad that I don’t have to keep convincing people that racism exists and that there are substantial sized groups willing to arm themselves and fight for their rights to oppress and subjugate others. As hateful as these incidents are, in my mind I want to shout from the rooftops, “I TOLD YOU SO!” because people like me get tired of trying to convince even themselves that things really are that bad. Hate does not just go away. It never will. Hate doesn’t end when a treaty is signed. Hate doesn’t dissipate when everyone is forced to turn in their guns and uniforms. Hate isn’t shot dead in its tracks. It hides. It regroups. It comes back. And sometimes, too many times, stronger.
I also always look for the bright side because that’s my nature. I’m Pollyanna even when I don’t mean to be. I see a nation – or at least a majority from what I can tell – agreeing on something for the first time in years. This, or rather these people – those people – need to be stopped. We agree, most of us, that white supremacy is extreme, extremely wrong and hateful. On first blush, we all nod vehemently that it is wrong – believing the white race is superior to all other races – and we’re collectively disgusted by any act of violence trying to wipe out a race and sympathizers to that race.
But even Pollyanna had her moments of cynicism, and I’ve been facing mine dead on for the past few days. I honestly, deeply believe it will get worse – and by worse I don’t mean that it didn’t exist and now it does. I mean the hate that is already deep in the hearts of mankind will continue to manifest itself and be visible. It’s already there. Like a pot of cold water just waiting to be boiled, sinful arrogance is always waiting to be stoked and coaxed into position. Positions of hate-driven acts of violence and retaliation.
I refuse to launch into political rhetoric. I just am not the person to engage in that. What I can engage in, what I make time for is, first, personal repentance – checking my own heart for the roots of bitterness and anger against those who are “other” to me – and then a call to corporate repentance for those who have ears to hear. The part of repentance I am trying to understand, the part we too often forget, is the turning around. I get the admit our sin. I know to ask for forgiveness. How do we commit to change and walk away from those tendencies in our hearts and minds? God is good and gracious and slow to anger. He gives us time to work it out. I’m needing more time, God. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to give more grace. I don’t know how to make any difference at all. You know I don’t always believe there will be any difference, years from now, decades, centuries. If You tarry, I fully see a future of disaster and wars. You said there would be, so I can’t be surprised. I’m increasingly discouraged. I’m looking to You. Tell me, what do we do? What does the Church do?
I think we’re at a time when we just do what we’re supposed to be doing all along. We’ve always been at that time, and we have failed so very often, which I know contributes to why we’re here at all. Let’s get back to it, then. Fatherless and widows. Poor and sick. We attend. We be Jesus for them, and we bring Jesus to them.
But we can’t miss the part of Jesus who struck down the merchants at the temple gates. We can’t miss the Jesus who was enraged by the treatment of the outsider, the Other, the poor. Jesus who drove out the animals and their sellers because it was a system of abuse and oppression, impeding the poor and foreigner from entering the very House of God. If we aren’t going about removing the impediments to people worshipping God in spirit and truth, then we aren’t doing our jobs. If we aren’t making all efforts to show people a Jesus who stands for them, with them, AND in their place, then we aren’t really showing Jesus at all.
It begs the question what hoops have we thrown up in American Evangelicalism today – the hoops we make people jump through in order to be fully accepted into the family of Jesus Christ? What impediments do we have on a Sunday morning – the most segregated hour of the week – so that everyone knows their place? What hidden caste system have we instituted, not even knowing it, not even thinking about it for one moment? It is deplorable.
Jesus, make us whips and teach us to use them. Jesus, give us the strength to drive out our own arrogance, our own wealth if need be, our love of comfort and convenience and money and power and status and goods and services. Drive out our sin and enter in… so that ALL may enter in to your presence. Oh, the joy and lasting grace of ushering in a new soul to your presence! Oh the true comfort we have in sacrificing and giving up our own desires, goals, ambitions, so that another may taste of your grace and goodness for them. We are a selfish people. We are self-absorbed. America is defined by the individual. America was built on and continues to be driven by commercialism, greed, and convenience.
American Churches are no different. We must be different. The Gospel is different. It is the antithesis of the American system.It came at a great cost so that it can be given freely. It frees the prisoner. It breaks down walls. It heals the wounded. It gives to the poor. It makes new the old and broken. It never discards. It always recycles. It always makes clean. I would love to see more predominantly white churches get smaller and smaller. There, I said it. I want us to do church differently. I want us to stop kidding ourselves that our church is doing well because it’s meeting budget and more and more (predominantly white) families are members. Don’t get me wrong. I want churches to grow. I just don’t want us to continue cloning. I want us to change. I want us to reflect the Kingdom of God. This is the time. This is the time to throw open the gates.
Oh, friends, let us be about the work of the Gospel. In our own lives, hearts and minds. In the lives of our families. In our marriages. In our churches and communities. Let us be about the work of driving out the systems – first in our own hearts – that oppress those not like us. Let us break down the walls we built with secret passages that only those like us can navigate. Let us find ways to build more bridges, leading us out of our comfort zones and into real redemptive relationship. Let us hope more. Let us love more. Let us peace more. The verb of peace – the Shalom – we desperately need. How do we live at peace as far as it be with us? How do we fight for peace? We make more whips. We drive back the enemies of peace, even when – especially when – they are us.