Tag Archives: Racism

Taking a Knee

Living in the Spirit
September 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-14

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. –Exodus 12:12-14

We cannot imagine worshiping a carved image or even a natural phenomenon ascribed sacred status like the gods of Egypt. Much of the Hebrew Bible deals with the challenge of idols mostly those of other nations distracting the Hebrew people from their monotheistic commitment to God. The interesting thing about idols is that one can project onto them whatever properties one desires of a god as idols are void of purpose or meaning.

I fear, idols, by other names, are just as confounding for us today.The collection of things, materialism, is a current idol that has existed for some time and is easy to identify. We must have the latest phone, TV, shoes, etc. We tsk, tsk ourselves about it as we hand our credit cards to pay for our latest “Just gotta have it.” What about the idols that are so much a part of our lives, we do not recognize them?

I was surprised by the NFL’s position and much of the public’s response to the football player, Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in protest of the rampant racism in our land. Taking a knee in most cases is a sign of humility, not an insult. Could Mr. Kaepernick have been saying in his action that racism goes against everything for which our country stands? All [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness*. When we do not subscribe to the basic values of our country we are dishonoring it. Have we reduced the flag of our country to an idol, an empty shell with only the meaning we chose to give it rather than our country’s defined identity?

Racism might not be an epidemic, had faith communities followed the tenets of God recognizing that God created all humans in God’s own image and all humans are thus God’s people. God who commanded us to love God and to love one another set the standard for living within the framework of our creation.

Do we imagine Joshua doing the ancient equivalent of taking a knee when he spoke these words recorded in Joshua 24:15:

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

Perhaps we all need to take a knee whether in the stadium to support the defined identity of our country or in our houses of worship regarding our relationship with God as we decide who we serve.

Prayer: Lord, open the windows of our hearts and help us to see that which is so ingrained we accept it as normal. Forgive us of our sins of commission, when we discriminated against any other. Forgive us of our sins of omission when we stand idly by allowing racism to exist. Empower us to do justice. Amen.

*From the US Declaration of Independence

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

A New Tradition of Justice

Living in the Spirit
September 4, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord. –Exodus 12:1-11

Tradition, I love the song from Fiddler on the Roof; love the movie too. Traditions remind us from where we came, who we are, and whose we are. Such relationships and memories matter. I surprise myself how often I will respond to something saying, for example, “My Mom would say that is cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Many nights I went to sleep to my Dad singing and playing his guitar in the living room. I learned most of country-blues singer Jimmy Rogers’ songs and many World War II songs by osmosis. We draw from our pasts seeds of wisdom and culture that broaden our understanding of the world in which we live from the traditions that pass to us. Some are sage thoughts for the ages; others may be distorted or just wrong. We must filter through them to find what works for us today that we can pass to the next generation for tomorrow.

As I worked through my genealogy, I have stumbled on threads of faith that run through most of the lines I track. My heritage includes families that came early to the shores of what became America in search of religious freedom and families that took their faith across the nation to homestead on land previously seized from indigenous people. I found a record that one of those ancestors held the first worship service among white people at his new home. He was following in his father’s footsteps who working with others procured the land on which the first Methodist church his Pennsylvania community was built. I found Anglican baptismal records and Presbyterian roots and the man hosting that first worship service was called a Campbellite. I found where some of these good folks were slave owners.

We are not the first to deal with racism we need to work with all our hearts, minds, and strengths to be the last. I can envision my ancestor as a young man reading a flyer about free land in the west that said the land was yours for the taking if you work hard and build a home on the land and grow crops. I might have jumped at that enticement too. He may never have known the land first belonged to the Sauk and Fox or chosen to turn a blind eye to that fact or not cared. My ancestor who own slaves perhaps read the Bible interpreting it to sanction slavery or believed the views that black people were not fully human or just saw slavery as a way to enhance his own well-being.

Loving as Jesus loves invites us to envision whole pictures accepting all people as God’s children and thus our siblings. We are called to work to bring justice to all, a tradition upon which not only our faith but our country was founded.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us of our sins of commission and omission as they relate to our interrelations with the diversity of your children here and around the world. Give us the courage where needed to initiation new traditions of justice as Moses did at the first Passover. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Ethnocentric

cannanite_womanLiving in the Spirit
September 5, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 7:24-37

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. –Mark 7:24-30

Ethnocentric:
1:  centering upon race as a chief interest or end
2 a:  inclined to regard one’s own race or social group as the center of culture
   b:  exhibiting an incapacity for viewing foreign cultures dispassionately*  

Do you remember learning words when you were in school that you thought at the time you might never use again? Ethnocentric is such a word for me. I was a sociology major in college. Now, I try not to use jargon specific to a discipline only people in that field would readily understand. Recently though I have added ethnocentric back into my vocabulary for it is a word with which we all need to become acquainted.

Our scripture today tells us of an incident in Jesus’ life when he was being ethnocentric in the sense of the definition 2a above. He perceived his own race or social group as the center of culture. Was he teaching his disciples who were observing this transaction lesson about seeing the essence of God in everyone or was he, indeed, having his own Aha moment having spent his days in relative isolation from people of other countries and races. This state of being is not bad or good it just is. It is a natural response to the world until we have opportunities to share with other cultures and social groups. It becomes harmful when it results in definition 2b: the incapacity for viewing foreign cultures dispassionately.

I like to think of Jesus being as fully human as you or I and I imagine what a joy he received from having this Syrophoenician woman stand up to him basically saying “I know what you can do and my child is worthy of your love too.” In all honesty that might have been an Aha moment in his experience with women also.

Prayer: Lord bless us with the joy of experiencing your presence in the diverse people that population our world. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Ethnocentricity

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Armor of Worth

oversized-armorLiving in the Spirit
August 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. –Ephesians 6:10-17

When I read this scripture the vision of the boy David getting ready to face Goliath flashes through my mind. The adult armor with which he was outfitted was so heavy he could barely move much less fight. Instead, he chose to put his faith in God and left the heavy armor laying on the ground. Ephesians may be trying to tell us not only to put on the armor of God, but to shed the heavy baggage we carry that limits our ability to serve God fully.

One of those heavy bags is the need to feel we are better than others to feel our own worth. This attitude simply says we do not feel good about ourselves. To make a difference in the world, one must have the confidence of competence, trusting when God calls us to a task, God will also enable our work. We are also called to celebrate the good in all that God created and in every way possible undergird each person’s confidence. There is no place in a world of beings created by God for racism, sexism, or any of the other isms that proclaim I am better than you are.

Freed from our heavy burden of self-doubt, we can take on the whole armor of God: truth, righteousness, the proclamation of peace, faith, and finally salvation. When all of us do this we indeed, as Jesus said, can conquer the world. (John 16:33)

Prayer: Lord, help me lay my burden down as I pick up the tools of your service to work toward peace and justice throughout the world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Learning to Love like the Lord

Police BrutalityEastertide
April 28, 2015

Scripture Reading: Acts 8:26-40 The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized? –Acts 8:26-40 

There does not seem to be a lot of good news in our world today. As I write this, the world is responding to a terrible earthquake in Nepal with many dead and most without homes. A few days ago several refugees fleeing from Liberia were killed as the boat they were on capsized. And one more city in the United States has broken out in chaos this time following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody. There does not seem to be a more important time for the Body of Christ to follow Philips example and proclaim the Good News of Jesus.

We, of course, can do this and are doing this by responding in every way we possibly can to help the people of Nepal and to assure that our nation as a whole does what it can.  The same could be said about the Liberian situation although it is not a natural disaster but one brought on by humans. The racism that is ripe in our own country is something we must deal with directly.

I do not know the actual facts about any of the cases that have flared up regarding the police and racism within the police. I do know that these are just the public showing of the undertow of racism across our land. I have had the privilege of working with police officers and know that the vast majority of those with whom I had contact were dedicated people with integrity. The problem is that it only takes one or two to light a fire when people are at the edge of their tolerance. I also know that racism is endemic.  Our behaviors have been so deeply woven throughout our beings that we probably do not recognize our own racist’s actions or reactions.

We need to all join together in, first, seeking God’s forgiveness when we have been a part of furthering racism even when we did not know that was what we were doing. And then we need to take that road less traveled of exploring our own attitudes and actions and changing the ones that are detrimental to the flourishing of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Prayer: Lord, help us confront that which is uncomfortable and change our ways of being to more closely match your way of loving. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Made in God’s Image

BigotryLent March 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
   and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them,
   and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
   and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. — Psalm 107:17-22

I believe that sin is separation from God. The Greek word often used by Jesus in regard to sin essentially means missing the mark*. In modern language we might talk about being out of synch with God. The word “iniquities” used here seems to relate to guilt and punishment*. These words are being used in this Psalm to describe actions of one against oneself. Apparently those being addressed had lost all hope and were starving themselves to death. Most of us probably do not relate care-of-ourselves or lack of care-of-ourselves to sin. Yet Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:31) Now Jesus is not talking about having an overinflated ego. I think he is calling our attention to the fact that all our neighbors are made in the image of God as are we. We should not take that lightly.

The United States has experienced a flood of racial bigotry recently, with people using words that kill the hearts and souls of our neighbors and setting horrific words to music they probably learned in Sunday school. It is enough to make Jesus weep. I wonder how much of this need to be better than another is a result of people not recognizing that they do not have to be better than anybody else to receive the full love of God. In fact their lives will be so much richer in love when they share fully in the love of God and the love of all of God’s children.

Prayer: O God, forgive us for not loving with dignity and worth all your children made in your image including ourselves. Amen.

* http://biblehub.com/greek/264.htm
**http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5771.htm
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.