Thursday, June 25, 2015

On Race and Repentance

We all think we are right.  If I did not think I was right, I would change my position.  Duh.  But just because my answers make perfect sense to me doesn't mean that I am right.  Maybe the problem is that I think I have it all figured out.

I have been listening since the murders in the Charleston church last week.  I have heard many different opinions about the meaning of the massacre.

It is a little too late for raw reflections.  It is time for more thoughtful reflections.  But I'm actually still raw.  I thought I had this pretty well figured out.  I've been to Charleston more than once, and I really like the culture there.  That was the last place I expected to see such headlines.

This shooting was the work of a lone psychopath.  He was clearly motivated by racism, and possibly by hate for God.  His actions failed to divide the community.  The public outcry seemed unanimous.  One way or another, everyone condemned his actions.  He should be prosecuted, the Christian community pulls together, and everyone condemns racism.  Boom.  The world puts this ugly chapter behind us.

But this issue has not gone away so quickly. 

Reactions in the black community look different than I would expect.  Instead of recognizing that nearly every white person condemns this horror, the black community seems to screaming, "Don't you see the problem?"  I'm thinking, Yeah, don't we all?  What am I missing?

Suddenly I realize that maybe I don't get it.  I am listening more than ever.  I had all the answers before.  Now I wonder if I have any answers.  OK, I do know that Jesus is the answer.  But how does that translate into dealing with this?

A multi ethnic prayer meeting?
A sermon series on equality before Jesus?
A heart-felt reading of the Declaration of Independence?

I'm now seeing that the American history of racism is a deep, deep wound.  The Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement have only begun the process.  They brought about long-overdue freedom and legal protection for people of color.  That, to me, looked like enough.  The healing would take time.  But time, patience and understanding would fix it.

The wound looked healed.  To me.  The troublemakers kept looking for ways to stir up the race issue.  Why would they do that?  They just want attention or funding or positions of influence.  They could not have sincere motives, because their positions clearly ignored the facts.  Obviously they were opportunists.  They would pull the scab off the healing wound of race relations, only making things worse.

The president seemed to be the worst at this.  Rather than applauding the great strides in our country's history, he kept playing the race card.  Where there was a chance for harmony, he would throw a race grenade.  Of course he is an opportunist.  He's a politician.

But the wound runs deep.  Healing on the surface can conceal deep, toxic infection.  The groundswell of outrage from Ferguson and Baltimore show that there is a deep-seated problem.  Something is tapping into the wells of disenfranchisement, all across the country.  That comes from more than media bias and race baiting.

Now I am repenting.  I am repenting of thinking that I
have it all figured out.  I no longer dismiss the concerns and complaints that don't match my preconceived notions.  There is a problem.  It shows up in hiring practices, prejudices, education, lending, real estate, and law enforcement.  The fact that I have never been able to see it is more evidence of the problem. 

We all think we are right.  If we can step back and question our assumptions maybe we can actually hear one another. 

Jesus is the answer.  I need him to show me what that means.

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