Connectedness

The Sin of White Supremacy, Again

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Mother Teresa Belong to Each Other QuoteI was driving in for worship Sunday morning and thinking about St. Paul’s words from Colossians 3, one of our readings for the day. I was reflecting on the shock and pain of a weekend full of death and injury from more gun violence in our country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a Sunday when I was preaching, so I had to wait and write a blog.

Colossians 3:8-11

8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

The El Paso shooting in particular highlights the growing problem we have with white supremacy in our country. Of course, racism is always there, and the groups who ignorantly fear people of other ethnicities, religions and cultures will always be there, but in today’s U.S.A. we see see them marching safely in our streets, openly propagating their murderous philosophy, and we see their disciples taking action to murder in our shared places of public life.

As Christians, we must stand united to say without any equivocation or hesitation, that there are not very fine people purporting that ideology. Fine people simply do not support racism or white supremacy. White supremacy, hatred of others, fear-driven ignorance and xenophobia are not virtuous or benign. These ideologies foment hate and killing, and drive wedges between us.

St. Paul taught us the theology which debunks white supremacy and hatred, that in Christ, in the knowledge of God, we see that there is no difference in the value, worth or dignity of people, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, culture or socio-economic standing. It is an old way without knowledge of God that allows one human to view another human as a hated enemy because of those differences. 

When speaking to the Galatians, St. Pauls points out to them that their baptismal waters wash away that unlearned manner of viewing people as less than valuable, beloved or worthy based on ethnicity, socio-economics or even gender issues. All those things are sublimated under the intrinsic value of a human being.

Galatians 3:27-29

27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

We are a diverse and amazing species, never to be all alike. St. Paul’s theology does not just include a warning to put aside the hatred, malice and slander that can be engendered by differences, but goes on pushing us to embrace compassion and kindness as a response to difference. We are God’s people and, in seeing Christ within all, we are moved to humility, grace and love.

Colossians 3:12-15

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

As people of faith we have to stand up and be heard that demonizing language directed toward our neighbors and fellow human beings will no longer be tolerated in the public arena from our leaders. Rhetoric which incites violence and casually laughing at threats of violence have no place in our public discourse. White Christians may not feel particularly threatened by the racist rhetoric and may find it easy to debate and argue the nuanced meanings of tweets and statements, but we cannot stand quietly by while that rhetoric becomes deadly episodes of gun violence against our brown and black neighbors, family and friends.There’s no room for debate when guns are in the hands of white supremacists in our streets.

The shooting in Dayton this weekend points to a more general problem we have with gun violence across the country, and access to weapons of war that have no place in civil life. We need more laws to protect us from those who would show such violent hatred and casual disregard for others. We need fewer guns on the streets and in our public places. We need common sense laws such as we have in place to govern the ownership and use of many other things in civil life which pose a threat to safety: chemicals, vehicles, etc. A peaceful and safer way forward will not be more guns in our public places, but fewer. How do we achieve such a goal? We demand action from our elected representatives and we speak out loudly against the waves of hatred, racism and white supremacy, especially when coming from our highest offices.

This is our official statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and the Washington National Cathedral, demanding better leadership from our President: https://cathedral.org/have-we-no-decency-a-response-to-president-trump.html

This is a long post for me, but we have to keep saying these things aloud, over and over. It is painful to keep confronting this in our own society, but we cannot forget the burden laid on us by our rampant gun violence and the racially motivated mass killings, like we saw just four years ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Poway Synagogue shooting in April, or the shooting at Young Israel of Greater Miami last month.  Just try keeping up with our gun violence pandemic. We are a broken people, but our leaders in DC refuse to even begin to offer us ways to help us heal, to help us move forward, to bind us up, or to protect us. Giving up and giving in is simply not an option.

AMDG, Todd

 

A Chilling Historical View of Racism in the US: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/04/adam-serwer-madison-grant-white-nationalism/583258/

Hate Crimes: https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/hate-crime-statistics

Hate Crimes Against LGBTQ: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/06/28/anti-gay-hate-crimes-rise-fbi-says-and-they-likely-undercount/1582614001/

Why Campaigns Matter

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me its on us imageI have to admit that I have not always been a big campaigner.

I guess I’m missing the activist gene, because it just doesn’t come naturally to me. My genetic code seems heavier with apathy and procrastination. But, you know what? When I stop and pay attention I have to say, campaigns do matter.

We talk a lot about civility here at this blog, and I’m not at all apathetic about our need for civil discourse. As a person of faith I am convinced that our kindness, our gentleness and our support of all people’s value and dignity are at the core of being who God has made us to be, in both our words and our actions. Campaigns often help bring important things into focus and remind us of how we are to do life, how we are to do life well.

Someone just today on my Facebook feed shared something from the campaign to get us to stop using the word “retarded” as a humiliating insult or degradation of someone or something. I agree and I shared it along. I hate the word. It sounds and feels like a hit from a baseball bat. We need to do the same with the word “gay,” just like we need to stop using “hit like a girl” and various male and female genitalia as descriptions of negative and inadequate human attributes or behaviors.

Why does it matter? Isn’t this just all “political correctness” gone too far? I’m really done with the idea that we can use speech to offend, hurt and degrade, and then cry “political correctness” when we are held accountable for the destructive qualities of our verbal choices. I’ll tell you why the words we use matter:

1) Words have meaning, history and power. We cannot simply use a hurtful word and claim innocence by the fact that we have decided what it means for ourselves regardless of the word’s meaning and influence in the lives of other people. Retarded is a great example. The word has been used to degrade, hurt and humiliate people for years. It has, as many words do, both denotation and connotation. We do not have the right to ignore it’s negative impact on people around us.
2) We cannot use a word as an insult without insulting that to which the word refers. “That’s so gay” is an insult to gay people. “Hit like a girl” is an insult to girls, not a scientific measurement or expression of applied force. Using phrases like “He’s a real douche” or “Don’t be a dick” attaches negative meaning to things which are not in themselves negative. Feminine hygiene and male genitalia are not bad things. Our thoughtless words and actions can lead us to unintended consequences of meaning and perpetuation of hurtful meanings.
3) We have an obligation to listen and care. When our neighbors are injured by our words and/or actions, we have an obligation to care. There is no healthy philosophical, religious or spiritual system which separates one person’s well being from the well being of the world and people around her/him. We are connected. We should care.

Also…

  • Joining a campaign doesn’t fix the problem. We don’t signal our participation with an anti-bullying campaign believing that to be the solution to bullying. What we hope is that within the sphere our friends and family we might increase the conversation and awareness of a problem, and thus we would hope to participate in concrete steps toward a solution.
  • Joining a campaign does mean you’re thinking about something. Thinking is a good thing.
  • Joining a campaign does mean you’re listening. Listening is polite.
  • Joining a campaign does encourage campaign creators. That’s just neighborly.

Here are a few campaigns I’ve valued over the years and in recent months. I was excited to have had a chance to run in a local ONE Campaign 5k earlier this year and I just got my “It’s On Us” t-shirt a few weeks back. I believe that these kinds of campaigns are hopeful and reflect a lot of positive thinking and action in our world. I just might be becoming an activist…

Spread the Word to End the Word (retarded)

It’s On Us (combatting sexual violence)

He For She (solidarity for gender equality)

Hollaback! (you know, stopping street harassment)

I Choose (anti-bullying)

Human Rights Campaign (civil rights and equality)

The ONE Campaign (ending poverty)

Let’s keep it real. Endorse and support the campaigns you believe in, and let’s make the world a better, shinier, happier place for having supported us through the years of our lives.

AMDG, Todd