A few months ago, in response to the movie “Selma”, my initial reflection was that we have not come far enough; that the racism that was remembered in the movie is still alive today. Often not as blatant but still alive. There was no way to know how true those words would be in light of the events of the past couple of weeks. The shooting at Mother Emanuel AME church was horrific. The fact that since then 7 or possibly 8 predominantly black churches have been burned reminds us of a time that we thought we had passed. It is time for us to look seriously at the world around us, to look seriously at ourselves and humbly admit that race equality is still a dream in the United States. The phrase from our constitution that “all men (sic) are created equal” has not been fully realized.Our Response Must Be Love
For some time now, I have recognized a simple yet powerful truth about myself and about the people in the world around me. The truth is that we feel better about ourselves if there is someone below us, that we actually benefit from the inequality around us, whether socially, economically, or by the other means which we separate ourselves. Slavery was comfortable and racism continues for many because there is a clear separation of people. When the Irish came to America, they were considered the lowest. Today, we use the term “alien” for the same reason. An alien could never be equal to us. Discrimination can be traced all the way back to the beginning. The American ethos that “you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is fine as long as not too many people do it. Although our words seem to cry for equality, our hearts don’t want it to come true because we might be made lower instead of the other raised up.
The stirred tension in our nation today may actually be from the growing gap in income equality. The middle-class is scared because the “middle” is disappearing. And, if you aren’t going up in society then you must be going down. And so what was once a strong percentage of the American population is now a fledgling group trying to hold on at all costs. What we lose in all of this, in our trying to raise ourselves up and place others beneath us, is that in God’s economy, in God’s world, there is indeed enough. There is enough for all people to be equal, enough so that there is no us and them, there is no one above and no one below. There is simply the infinite power of God, and all too often, this power of God, this equality from God has always been a stumbling block:
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. ~Galatians 3:23-29
In our baptism, when we are reborn children of God, we are born into an economy that is infinite. If God’s grace drips, it will pour, if it pours it will flood because God’s grace is not constrained by the things of this world.
We need to continue to look at the racism that is present in each of us. We need to look at how the concept of equality actually scares us. We need to shift our focus from the finite to the infinite. God doesn’t see the barriers that we as humans construct. God doesn’t love us because of the things that we do or achieve. God loves us because God is love. Our response cannot be hate; our response cannot be fear; our response must be love. We all know John 3:16 but verse 16 is nothing without verse 17 which so often gets overlooked: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’