How should we respond to the growing boldness of white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers, hate purveyors, domestic terrorists, and other racist groups in the United States? The large demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, in mid-August and other similar rallies since have been sickening. One of the demonstrators was so inspired by the hate mongering in Charlottesville he drove his car into counter-demonstrators, killing a young woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring many more. To see people in this country who are willing to be filmed marching like the Brown Shirts of Adolf Hitler, spewing hate in shouted slogans, raising their right hands in the Nazi salute is shocking and ought to raise fear and disgust in all of us. But what are we to do in the face of such growing and overt racism and intolerance? The Disciples of Christ Minister of Reconciliation, Rev. April Johnson, has provided the following pertinent comments and suggestions to help us sort through our thoughts and determine possible actions to take:
Silence is Violence
A Word of Lament for Charlottesville, VA
August 14, 2017
Words fail when I attempt to describe the despair that engulfed me upon the learning of the tragedy of violence and murder in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. Labels such as domestic terrorism, religious extremism, racism and bigotry, all which are fitting, do not serve to assuage the painful reality that hate’s death-dealing behaviors prevail in our society and nation. To denounce it is an important response but in no way completes the cycle of what is needed to diminish its power. The events of this Saturday call all of us to the sober reality that our words must be accompanied by action. Hate rallies are intended to show the vulnerable that they are powerless against wiles of “white supremacy and white supremacists.” The death of Heather Heyer who was mowed down by a young man drunk on the vile rhetoric and persuasion of white supremacy heightens the fear and anxiety it is intended to impose by the rally planners. Nineteen other people were variously wounded.
My soul hurts. It is painful well beneath the skin. It is the pain described by the prophet Jeremiah, “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted.” (Jeremiah 31:15 NRSV) Jeremiah is describing the sense of overwhelming sadness associated with the cycle of prolonged captivity and brief moments of release of the Israelites. Rachel’s weeping is metaphoric for a collective grief over the entrenched nature of violence and hatred against the children of Israel. Similarly, in the aftermath of the events of Saturday morning in Charlottesville, the grief is palpable and unable to be consoled. New York Times reporter, Hawes Spencer attending the rally described the violence in this way, “. . .the air was filled with the sounds of fists and sticks against flesh.” That was a visceral reminder that we are all conscripted into a false narrative that to be non-white in this nation is a deficiency and there are those who are willing to pound our flesh to instill that perspective as reality.
To be clear, this is our historic and our current reality. Intimidating words and physical acts of violence are the foundation stones of a nation built on principles of economic expansion and white exceptionalism. This is the harsh reality of our past. It is not, however, who we are. To ignore the reality of our past is to keep a silent vigil to the forces of evil that misrepresent our identity as children of God. What happened in Charlottesville should raise the ire of every Christ-following, peace-loving disciple. What can we do?
Pray. Pray with your hands, feet and heart. We need to consult the Founder of our Faith for guidance and discernment toward overcoming the sin of racism and bigotry. If possible, dedicate both individual and corporate prayer time this week and the weeks to come to listen to the voice of God for healing.
Learn. Read articles and books, again individually and collectively to prepare for fruitful dialogue about ways to overcome the false understanding that racism is an individual preference. I commend to you this article by the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas. Also, host an introduction to anti-racism
workshop in your congregation or small group. Caution: be sensitive to the experiences of non-whites so as to not re-injure them by inadvertently forcing them to lead the learning process by sharing and baring their pain.
Act. Do the work. Opinion will not be the vehicle that will last the entire journey to our destination of freedom and justice for all. Our anti-racism training is designed to walk us through the history that has shaped all of us into a racialized identity that is counter to our identity as Christ’s human family. However, it is not always the starting point for a sustained conversation that leads to action. I commend to you our “One Bag of Tea, One Conversation, One Relationship” program for getting to know your congregation and/or community.
Be different. Because we offer an education and a granting program, we have learned in Reconciliation Ministry the importance to nurture our own capacity to “be the change we want to see in the world,” as coined by Mahatma Ghandi. This means go to the rally, aware of your surroundings but determined to be Christ to someone who needs your advocacy and power.
Donate to Reconciliation Ministry. Funds support grants for institutional programs that address the root causes of racism and leader development for long term change.
Like Rachel, while listening to the report of the events in Charlottesville, I sat in my car weeping unable to be consoled. Afterward I resolved to trust God’s leading and not the leading of intimidation by keeping silent. As I consulted the scriptures, I was emboldened by God’s promises through the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites in this, “Thus says the LORD: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the LORD: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the LORD: your children shall come back to their own country.” (Jeremiah 31: 16-17 NRSV)
With the help of God’s children, may it be so…
Now is the time for all of us to stop weeping and begin to do something – to pray, to learn, to act, to be different, and to donate, as Rev. Johnson suggests. Change begins with us, so let’s get started. We can write letters; we can contribute our time, talents, and resources; we can stop being silent when we hear inappropriate stories and racist comments from our family and friends; and we can pray for healing. Let’s get started!
For peace and justice for all, Steve
Check the bulletin board for updated information about our congregation and the Disciples of Christ organization.
"A Caring, Welcoming Community of Faith"
The Mount Vernon First Christian Church gathers together as a community of faith, declaring Jesus our Christ, the one who reconciles us with God and with each other. We provide a place of traditional worship in a forthright, supportive, and open atmosphere. We are a congregation committed to serving local and global outreach ministries.
September 1-6, Colemans on vacation, office closed. Monday, September 4, Labor Day observed. Sunday, September 10, Sunday class resumes/General Board Tuesday, September 19, Men’s Breakfast at 7:30 am.
Sunday, September 24, Elders meeting following worship. September 24-30, Family Promise Week, sign up to serve today. Wednesday, September 27, Gal’s Night Out at 6:00 pm. Friday, Sept. 29, Friendship House Meal prepared & served.
*Coming Event: Ending hunger one step at a time. The 3.4 mile Skagit CROP Hunger Walk will take place Sunday, Oct. 1, 2:00 pm beginning at the Mount Vernon Christian School on Blackburn. Register beginning at 1:00 pm at the school or go online to crophungerwalk.org or call 360-708-0113. Our team captain is Wilma Reeves.
• Labor Day, September 4, 2017
• National Grandparents Day, September 10, 2017
• Patriot Day, September 11, 2017
• Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15–Oct. 15, 2017
• First day of autumn, September 22, 2017
A taste of heaven
When an admirer asked renowned pianist Vladmir Horowitz how he could play so beautifully, he’s said to have replied that anyone could play the notes, but the true music lay in the pauses between them. The same can be said of life.
Rabbi Evan Moffic (Shalom for the Heart) writes, “It is in the pauses — the rests, the spaces in between — that meaning is made and that holiness is felt.” Nowadays we keep so busy there’s hardly a pause or space in our day.
“But that’s not the way God created us [or] the world,” Moffic continues. “God worked, then rested. God created, then paused. … Thus, our Sabbath is the day when we can marvel at the beauty of the world God created. It is the day we enjoy what the ancient sages called ‘a taste of heaven.’ It is a day when we stop thinking about the what of life and remind ourselves of the why of life.”
Joyce Leak shares a story from Harriet Michael of Louisville, Kentucky:
It’s that time at my house again! My husband and I have another teenager living under our roof. We’ve been here before. Our fifteen-year-old son, Taylor, is the youngest of our four children. Some of the things that used to bother us when our other children were teenagers, we now take in stride. One thing that we have come to realize is just part of being a teenager is the constant use of headphones. Just this morning as Taylor was collecting his books for school, I wanted to remind him that I would be picking him up a little early for an appointment. He was just across the kitchen from me, but he couldn’t hear me talking. So I did what I have now learned to do with teenagers who are wearing headphones. I began to wave my arms in large motions to get his attention. It worked, and he took the headphones off so he could hear what I was saying. In Revelation 3:13 is the helpful reminder: “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” This passage makes me think of our son. He has ears, but he can’t hear what I am saying because his ears are distracted with other messages that are pouring into them from the earphones that he wears. I have to ask myself: What is blocking my ears from hearing God? What are the other messages to which I am listening? Are they keeping me from hearing what God is saying to me?
May today there be peace within you.
May you trust God that you are
exactly where you meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing
you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom
to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of you.
(St. Teresa’s Prayer)