It’s becoming much too normal to stand alongside other clergy, stole around my neck, and join many others standing behind people speaking the Truth in Love, speaking Truth to Power.
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Again I am sitting in this little farm house on the banks of the Choptank River, just outside of Easton, MD. The calm is as amazing now as when I was here in February for a few days of writing. There is no snow today, but the water is glass. Hardly a sound breaks the still, humid air.
It’s as if all is well in the world.
It all went dark.
My eyes instantly began burning and my throat felt like I swallowed a flame. I was able to open my eyes just long enough to see a hand reaching out for mine. Rachel, a young African American whom I befriended on my walk toward city center, had one hand covering her eyes and the other reaching out. I grabbed on tightly and assured her I was there.
Speaking from a perspective of enlightened self-interest, it’s clear that in a capitalist economy the stronger the lower and middle classes are, the more money those at the top are going to have.
And speaking from a perspective of faith, God’s concern is not those whose hard work and unmerited advantages put them at the top. It is the well-being of all – especially those whose hard work and undeserved disadvantages have put them closer to the bottom.
Foolish idolatry! Can you imagine, wrapping up some little stone statues to keep them warm, while a child lies shivering in the very same night air? We good Americans, schooled in the virtues of Christian orthodoxy, have been gratefully enlightened beyond such silly, abusive hypocrisy. We would never do such a thing.
Or would we?
Being a successful neurosurgeon is apparently no guarantee you won’t embarrass yourself in the national spotlight. I’m not sure which constitution Dr. Carson had in mind when he opined that no Muslim is fit to be the President. The US constitution guarantees freedom of (and freedom from) religion, and specifies that no religious litmus test shall deter anyone from holding office.
I think of my nation, still divided, still judging one another not by the content of character, but by the color of skin. I think that there are a lot of very complicated factors in this case, but what I know is that this mostly comes down to America’s Original Sin, and unless and until we can finally own it and engage the very hard work of healing we’ll always be waiting on a jury…
Amazingly, Park Road has stayed together, committed to the idea that uniformity of belief is not what should hold us together - in fact, such a conformity would be contrary to that Baptist spirit! As a result, Park Road exists as a Christian community, dedicated to openness and individuality, and committed to being community, even within a community that is diverse in theological and political convictions.
But something has changed. I believe this. I believe that we are about to engage in a critically important, and extremely difficult, national conversation about the racial injustices inherent in our society. I am not afraid of the conversation that is coming. And it is coming – and all churches need to be involved in it. It’s too important, and the integrity of our faith will require it.
It is the job of all parents to teach their children about faith. And those who are members of churches have chosen to tackle that job in community,. I believe that is the best decision you could have made. And I wonder, when your children graduate, will you be able to list all these things in which your children have participated that have helped to guide and mold them into faithful disciples? I hope so. Parenting is the most important job you will ever have.