My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn. (Canticle of the Turning, from Mary’s song in Luke’s Gospel)
If you’re at all interested in hearing a more personal message from me about race in America, you can see a short video from yesterday here.
For today, I wanted to offer a couple thoughts about the culpability of religion in the history of race in America.
Q: Why is it that at the beginning, America got the Puritans and Australians got the convicts?
A: Because Australia had first pick.
My experience has been that when there is a large gathering of people in Australia, it is a common practice to begin, not with their pledge of allegiance or their national anthem, but in what’s called, an acknowledgement of country.
A leader addresses the gathered people by saying "I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional lands of the (for instance, Ngarro) people, and pay my respect to their elders both past and present.”
I cannot imagine this happening with any regularity in America. Why? Because from the beginning of this country, Christians have done evil and called it good. We have used God’s name to commit horrible sins and rather than repenting, just repackaged the evil. (slavery -> Jim Crow -> voter suppression -> redlining -> police brutality -> school to prison pipeline)
I am persuaded that the venom of white supremacy runs deeply in us as a country and a people, for a very specific reason: because the fangs that delivered it were given not the devil’s name, but God’s. When slavery, genocide and land theft is established as “God’s will”, it delivers a poison that can infect the deepest parts of a country while exonerating evil. Because messages that are transmitted to us in God’s name imbed far beneath the surface, all the way down to our original place, our createdness, our source code. And that shit does not just go away because we read a Ta-Nehisi Coates book or happen to have a Black grandchild.
Wokeness and policy change and celebrating diversity are start, but not nearly enough to dig out the full infection. We must repent of the original sins of this country. Christian sins. Because the toxic heresy of God-ordained domination is a spiritual malady, not a cosmetic one.
This is why when people ask me, “why are you still connected to the institution of the church?” I can only answer, “because I believe that scripture and theology and liturgy are too potent to be left in the hands of those who only use them to justify their dominance over another group of people”
I also believe:
that God is powerful enough to guide us in the dismantling of the evil that has been done in God’s name.
that this is holy work and
that God’s Spirit will accompany us.
So here are my prayers today:
God whose name has been used to enslave those who bear your image,
God whose name has been used to steal this land and kill those who bear your image,
God who raised up prophets to speak truth to power, and poets to speak truth to stupid,
We call on your holy name to give us what we need to undo what has been done in your name.
We call on your name to bring your fierce mercy upon us and remove our complacency and our complicity.
We call on your name to heal the wounds of those whose daily reality we do not understand.
We call on your name to give us a holy curiosity about what being Black in America is really like, Lord.
We call on your name to free us from our cherished notions of being “good” that keep us from hearing this truth,
We call on your name to give us this day our daily truth, our daily humility, our daily rage, our daily hope.
This country is burning Lord…may is be a cleansing Holy Spirit fire.
Guide us to believe that the true name of God is stronger than what has been done in God’s name.
Come, Holy Spirit.
For what or for whom do the people of God pray?
Comments are open.
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