America Is Our Neighborhood

“I press towards the mark for the prize….” Philippians 3:14-15

As a newly elected co-chair of the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) I knew that this was not to be taken lightly. Particularly in the past five or six years up to and including this very moment much has happened that requires our constant attention to the social fiction of race and race relations, which all too often goes unnoticed by the average eyes in our society. This past weekend is no exception. I think constantly about the Christian mark both physically and spiritually and am reminded continually that if I am not pressing on then I am not making any headway. Giving up is not an option. Complacency is not an option and certainly, for the ARC and my own personal relationship with God, pressing on towards the mark of justice and equality is the only option.

As Sunday turned to Monday, the news was already out about the protest in Charlottesville, VA, but I hadn’t yet heard all of the story. I’d only heard about two groups, one protesting and the other counter-protesting over the removal of a statue. But we’ve heard this kind of thing before except this time someone decided to drive a car into a crowd of people and before it was all over three people were dead. By the time I had some down time in my day, I and the rest of the world are waiting for our President of these United States to say something – anything to condemn the actions of the identified white supremacy, neo-nazi group that made a decision to march like militia on the move through a somewhat progressive town and neighborhood of Charlottesville, Virginia. Okay, I for one can certainly understand needing some time to gather one’s thoughts – but ultimately the reality at least for me is that hatred, bigotry, and deep-seeded racism can sometimes go hand in hand with violence when it is met with any kind of opposition. And at times – opposition is exactly what is needed. After all, what would any of us have done, had our relatively quiet neighborhood was suddenly invaded by a scene of marching torches? This is no time for blame. We have only to look at the actions, the horrible things that were aimed towards, Hispanics, Jewish and African American people. Try to understand the frustration and anger of a community that is trying to grapple with its past and do the right thing so that everyone understands that we should not be glorifying the treason acts of this nation’s past but begin to move towards the mark of a society which actually reflects the justice of which this country’s constitution was written to uphold.

We get to that mark by not standing idly by, while those who trample on justice, equality and truth stomp boldly and brazenly through the neighborhood that is America. Slow to speak is one thing, but quick to ignorance is usually destructive to self and to others. If we are to get to that mark of justice, equality and truth we can no longer be complacent with any acts of racism. It is incumbent upon us to get at the depth of understanding this country’s history and privileged ignorance towards a disintegrating physical and spiritual health of humanity particularly among minority communities and the poor. These of course are not interchangeable. All minority communities are not poor and – all poor people are not minorities. If we are to get to that mark of justice, equality and truth we must oppose and call out those cowardly hiding behind the selectively applied second amendment. Our inaction is equal to complicity, which helps to perpetuate the lies that give strength to these hate groups and continues to oppress the mark of justice that this nation has set, albeit far after the Civil War. Electing our first Black President is a baby step trying to find balance that is easily plummeted if we don’t rise as a community to oppose racism, bigotry and white supremacy. It’s events like the one in Charlottesville, not the violence but rather the response to the invasion that gives some light to the systemic imbalance of justice of which that community was trying to right. If we are to get to that mark of justice, equality and truth we must name racism, white supremacy, privilege and bigotry for what it is at every moment, take action to oppose every revelation of it and protect every neighborhood from itself and others in order that everyone can fearlessly experience this seemingly elusive right of justice, equality and truth.

Too many people miss the mark, forgetting that true justice and true equality is not achieved solely on dollars and cents but rather with compassion, community and love. We must eat live, breathe, celebrate and suffer with the neighborhoods. Each of us is closer to Charlottesville than we realize. Every neighborhood in America is our neighborhood and what happened to the fine people of Charlottesville could happen anywhere. Charlottesville’s protests and counter-demonstrations cost us three lives and we are losing thousands daily to poisonous ideologies of severely broken systems in this country. Acts of racism, bigotry and white supremacy are dramatic and will always get the headlines. Unfortunately, this kind of drama typically trumps thorough, systemic, environmental and comprehensive inspection and action. If we continue to refuse to see the true impact of these acts, as the next drama plays out, you can be assured that racism – its deadly, destructive, divisive, and diminishing poison – will be coming to a neighborhood near you.

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Don’t Take It Personal

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. Luke 18:1-8   Someone once told me that one day all of my enemies will be gone. At the time it was rather difficult to believe. The problem as I saw it was I didn’t know who all were my enemies. If I had to make a list I was fairly certain of who I thought they were but that was only because of the negative experiences I had with these people. What I’ve realized is that by making the judgment of who they were based on my experience alone, I risked placing myself at a disadvantage by attempting to avoid those people. There are countless stories of God using “enemies” for his glory and it was by God’s hand that those enemies were changed. As difficult as it may be the negative experiences we have with others shouldn’t be taken personally because while their actions adversely affect us, in reality their actions are against God as well. Through every joy and hardship we must endeavor to be servants of God, free our mind from those who choose not to by their actions, and persevere as we wait with expectation for God’s justice and not our own. If G0d is for us, there is no experience that will keep Him from granting justice to those who remain faithful.

In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice…  And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:1-8