On Losing 9 of My Brothers and Sisters in Christ

This has been an insane time in our lives, I am fine and have nothing to be afraid of, but my brothers and sisters are dying. Jesus commands me to mourn with those who mourn and Paul tells us that when one of us is suffering all of us are suffering, but I am fine and have nothing to be afraid of. My brothers and sisters are dying!

This post is flowing from a primal source within me, and I am going to say some things that stem from the loss of too many of my brothers and sisters who are dying because of the color of their skin. At this point I want my friends who have skin tones that are different than mine to know that I am not OK with what is going on and that I am finding it necessary to speak truth from my experience that goes against the popular narratives in most white circles.

Black people are neither dangerous criminal nor helpless victims. They are our brothers and sisters and have all of the capabilities for good and ill that any of the rest of us have. Our African-American, Latino, Native, Asian, Middle-Eastern, etc. BROTHERS AND SISTERS are in danger in our country. I could throw a bunch of statistics around, but we tend to ignore numbers like 9 people killed in a church service, or whatever number of non-white folks have died violently or are incarcerated at higher rates than white folks. Friends, there are systemic problems at work here, and we ignore or try to reason away the plight of our brothers and sisters at our own spiritual peril. Remember that the Jesus who said whatever you have done for the least of these you have for me also said whatever you have NOT done for the least of these you have not done for me.

Like it or not our country considers non-whites to be the least of these and uses derogatory language and cultural disdain to keep people who are not “normal like us” at the margins and our culture has not hesitated to use violence to attempt to “keep them in their place.” This is sin, and not naming this as sin, or marginalizing these actions as “just a couple of bad apples” is also sin. There seems to be more bad apples than good ones at this point. The presence of cameras everywhere is showing us just how messed up things are, and there are some politicians out there who are speaking fear to us in order to maintain their personal power. These politicians are just like the politicians of Rwanda who incited a genocide just to maintain their positions of power. While we haven’t reached genocide yet, I am worried that the rhetoric from the far Right is pointing us that way.

Now that I have offended the Right it is time for me to offend the Left. I am sick of the paternalism I am seeing in the Left in which highly educated white folks think they have to fix things for those “poor benighted people”. Look, I hate to point this out but doing things for people is really doing things TO people, specifically we are sending a message that says “You are not capable, intelligent, or wise enough to come up with your own solutions.”  This is denying the image of God in others. While this makes us feel better because we are “doing something” it is no less dehumanizing to the recipient of our “doing.” If you really want to support people who are different, give them power and authority in their own lives. If you want to make a difference step out of power in favor of the marginalized.

Both Left and Right in this country are operating from the same set of faulty assumptions about the capabilities of people who are different than us or who we have difficulty understanding, and those assumptions are leading to more pain and suffering rather than less. Let’s be honest, this is about power over. The way of Jesus is about power under. It is time to confront our assumptions and repent of the very human drive to maintain power over and accept Jesus’ call to die to ourselves. This will mean things will look different than we want them to, that we will have less control, but honestly are we really doing that great a job with the control we have? Maybe we could experiment a little bit with giving up control and submitting to one another in love.

I love you all, and acknowledge my own complicity, complacency, and ability to check out when I get overwhelmed. Those are luxuries that many of you, my friends and readers, don’t have because you aren’t a middle-aged white male with a wife and kids. I am angry, but my anger is second hand, and comes more because I know too many people who this evil in our society affects.  I am going to ask all of you who are reading this to seek out someone who is marginalized and instead of judging them or attempting to pass on your wisdom, befriend them, follow their lead, and give them space to speak to their own condition.

Over the next little bit I will be inviting voices from the margins to share their perspectives with you through this blog, and I ask that you listen to them and consider their words as having validity, even if they come across as angry or belligerent. Consider that their anger might just be righteous.

To my grieving brothers and sisters in Charleston I pray that your loss is not in vain, that the Holy Spirit will rest upon you with the deepest comfort, and that you find the space and grace to grieve well.

With deep sadness, anger, rage, and a tiny bit of hope,

Gil

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