Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… Matthew 28:20
I had planned to use this space for some reflections on the Eclipse and the beginning of the school year. But the events of the last few weeks have been so disturbing that I feel that I cannot ignore them and must address them in some way. The white supremacist/neonazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, VA seem to be a culmination of a wave that seems to be sweeping the country. That these demonstrations resorted to violence and that at last count several innocent people were killed is both tragic and deplorable. It seems to me that this needs to be a wake up call for us all. I don’t like to think of myself as racist. But because of my upbringing and the experiences I have had in my life I know that there is inside of me a tendency to sometimes react in ways that are in fact racist. In fact, we all struggle with this whether we are aware of it or not. Anthropologists called it “ethno-centrism” and it is a human characteristic. But when unchecked and when fear, resentment and anger are added to it then it can transforms into racism and can lead to violence. We must all take it upon ourselves to examine our attitudes and priorities and make an effort to address this within ourselves. Something as simple as catching ourselves before we make a statement that generalizes another race or religion or makes fun of another race or religion might be a good place to start.
I want to make it clear, in case there is any question: I stand firmly for equality and justice and against racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism or anything that belittles, excludes or victimizes other human beings in any way. My faith and Scripture teach me that we are all God’s children and that the diversity of culture and race and even religion is one of God’s great gifts to us. We have so much we can learn from others, we are stronger as a church, a people and a nation when we embrace this gift of diversity. I invite you to join with me in making a commitment to follow God’s call to us to reach out and embrace all those who are considered “other” no matter who or where they are.
Below are excerpts from Pastoral letters by our Synod Bishop John Roth and then from the ELCA Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton:
First from Bishop Roth:
“We must be absolutely clear and unambiguously forthright here. We the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) stand against all forms of racism. Let me quote from the ELCA social statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture”: “Racism—a mix of power, privilege, and prejudice—is sin, a violation of God’s intention for humanity. The resulting racial, ethnic, or cultural barriers deny the truth that all people are God’s creatures and, therefore, persons of dignity. Racism fractures and fragments both church and society.”
“Lutherans confront racism with law and gospel. Condemning racism as sin is a word of law. In traditional Lutheran terminology, this is the second use of the law: that word of God that condemns sin and sinners. We need to hear this word of law. The hope is, of course, that ultimately this condemning word of law will drive a person to contrition, to rejection of racism, and to redemption from this sin through Christ.
Creating and enforcing civil laws that protect people against racism is also a word of law. In traditional Lutheran terminology, this is the first use of the law: that word of God that supports orderly community and just government. This is a word of God demanding an end to racial violence, an end to racial intimidation, and an end to racial discrimination and marginalization.
Finally, there is the hope of the gospel. Martin Luther King, Jr., interpreted the Civil Rights Movement of nonviolent love not simply or even primarily as political action on behalf of oppressed blacks, but as redemptive suffering, living out Christ’s love for white, racist enemies, to redeem America’s soul from the sin of racism. Ultimately, we trust not in being able to proudly congratulate ourselves on not being racist (a theology of glory), but in the grace of God through Jesus Christ, that it is Christ’s righteousness and not our own by which we are reconciled to God and to one another (the theology of the cross).”
And the Last word from Bishop Eaton:“The ELCA is a church that belongs to Christ and Christ’s church universal, where there is a place for everyone. The job of Christ’s people today is to celebrate the diversity of God’s creative work and embrace all people in the spirit of love, whatever race or ethnicity, economic status or gender.”