I was supposed to talk about David and Goliath this week, about how we read it as children and how we need to read it as adults. There are themes of abuse of power, the cost of a warrior culture, the providence and protection of God. It’s a great story. I would have been clever and provocative. But something happened this week.
Nine people were praying together in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and someone sat with them for an hour and then killed them. As depressing and awful as that is, I have been even more disturbed by the lifecycle of the story that we see play out time and time again. They were black and he was white. He said clearly that he was there to kill black people. Yet, we see justifications, minimizations, dismissals. We see the takeaways evolve in response to the questions we are willing ask: more guns, less drugs, an isolated incident, really. As a society, we are willing to consider any possibility other than the simple fact that they were killed by a racist with easy access to a gun and a society that practically cheered him on until the act itself. I’m going to talk about that.
I know that this is a progressive church. I don’t have to convince anyone that racism is bad or that we need fewer guns in the world. However, I am convinced that if we as white people do not actively work to confront this racist system of power and the tools of violence that are its ultimate expression, then we might as well pull the trigger ourselves.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll say about it. It is such a large and intractable problem. Maybe I’ll just read Martin Luther King’s eulogy after the Birmingham church bombing that took the lives of four black children; it is eerily applicable. Maybe I’ll show slides of every perceptive meme that has crossed social media or videos of two people struggling with the job of doing comedy in the face of tragedy. Repeating smart things that others have said might be my best course. Or maybe I’ll just scream and weep and cover myself in ashes, take my place with the dead.
I am sure of this: if we don’t start talking about it now, we will be ill-equipped when it inevitably happens again. My black brothers and sisters in ministry have been emailing and posting on social media desperate pleas for white churches to talk about racism and violence, to refuse to let this tragedy stand without redemption – again. I cannot ignore their cries.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Church in the Cliff, as we try to find the hope to heal this deep wound.
Grace & Peace,