It’s been a while Shadow Lovers… I haven’t written anything in 6 months. Life has been moving and each day that goes by that I don’t write makes it harder to sit back down to do so. It’s funny though – not writing makes me feel some type of way. I feel like things are shut up in my bones and my mind won’t stop racing. Writing has always been a release but I’ve been putting it off and I feel the difference it makes in my life when I don’t do it.
So I’m back. And unfortunately, my first post has to deal with the never-ending phenomenon and sin that is racism. Leading up to last Monday, I had intentionally stayed away from social media and the news because I didn’t want to see what I know to be true: racism is a thread in the fabric of society that we continue to ignore to the peril of human life. And I’m not just talking about the deaths of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin and numerous other lives taken too soon. I’m talking about our collective humanity. Every time we reject the reality of racism and we choose to continue to be complicit, we kill each other. I worry what this does to our souls, because we are murderers. What does this do to the souls of black, brown, red and yellow folks who not only are on the receiving end of racism but to those who perpetrate it? What does it do to the souls of those who refuse to acknowledge it and cry with indignation, “I’m not racist!” What does it do to those of us who have lived with the reality of internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism? I wonder what it does to us all when we can repeatedly see how racism seeks to divide God’s humanity and we do nothing about it.
Immediately after the Ferguson decision, I took to Facebook and posted this message in the Clergy Group of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
PASTORS – People who look like me need a word. A word from the Lord. A prophetic word. One that says that there is more to this office and call than talk. That there is something to being a part of a community of faith that shows up in these times. What say you preacher? What say you to the black and brown lives that society says don’t matter? What say you to this daughter of the faith that laments the absence of our church in the face of grave injustice? What will you do, with me and with others, to show that the God of all creation weeps and howls at the injustice that we perpetrate against on another? Please do something. Please say something. Please act like you are called and gifted and empowered by God to DO SOMETHING. Please be the church so many of us need you to be. Please lead this church. Oh lord, I need a word.
I technically don’t have voice in that group since I am not clergy but I was invited a while ago because of my ministerial role in my denomination. I often observe the conversations that unfold in that group, and as I watched the news with many others who we waited for the announcement of the Grand Jury’s decision, I knew that I had to share my thoughts there.
I’m not a politician. I’m not a media critic. I’m not a celebrity. I am a practical theologian – one who studies people’s lived experiences in order to make sense of who God is and how God is active in their lives and in the world. I am pastoral in nature, meaning that I begin with the intent to provide compassionate care. That being said, I can’t talk about Ferguson or racism without talking about God, how we understand God and how this reality impacts our humanity.
When I posted in the clergy group, my soul was in need of a word, of the Word. When I talk about needing a word, I talk about needing to hear the reality that we are broken and seek to separate ourselves from God. I needed to hear the prophetic word that becomes flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. I needed to hear that Michael Brown was a walking image of the Divine and that Darren Wilson killed that divinity. I needed to hear that we are still a church deeply divided by race and that our fear has led to the death of people, both literally and metaphorical. I needed for the pastors of my church to hear my lament, to lament with me and to share a word that this isn’t the final reality. I also needed to hear that people cared and that I mattered.
To date, 174 people liked the comment and 92 responded. I was overwhelmed by the positive response in this mostly white group. I also read in the comments that many people are feeling the sting of the sin of racism. And no one knows what to do about it. I’ve been thinking a lot about what can be done from a faith perspective. Protesting is important, but it’s not enough. Preaching is important, but it’s not enough. Praying is important, but it’s not enough. It’s time for prophetic action. It’s time to organize and create a movement of people who are done with losing their humanity. It’s time to do something.
There are outlets for people to get connected within our larger society to responses addressing what happened in Ferguson. Colorlines, in concert with Ebony Magazine and others, has launched #FergusonNext. The Ferguson National Response Network has been launched that compiles protests happening around the country. There is a petition on Change.org asking for Ferguson and St. Louis County and City police to we are body cameras. There have been some efforts by the faith community, namely the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and Sojourners Magazine to address the issue. My presiding bishop released a statement as well. What I have yet to see among our communities of faith is a broad-based movement, one that invites people to create change motivated by a deep desire to see humanity flourish.
It’s not lost on me that so many people are writing about Ferguson and I am no doubt adding to the already saturated pile. I hope to move beyond words to action and I’ll make sure to keep you updated as I do.