“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” -Matthew 22. 36-40
Much has been said and written about the shooting of Michael Brown, and hopefully, as the news cycle begins to pick up other stories, we will not turn away and forget this. The issue of racism has been raised, yet again, as has the militarization of our local police forces. The problem is that we do not delve deeply enough into the rampant racism still holding our culture and our country hostage. We protest, we post on Facebook, we write blogs and preach sermons, but rooting out racism will require a major shift in the thinking of white America.
White Americans are going to have to look carefully at ourselves and ask the questions we don’t want to ask. What are the privileges that I have simply because I am Euro-American and my skin is fair? What are the benefits that I have as a white/Euro-American that are not afforded my sisters and brothers who are people of color and who are ethnic, national and religious minorities? What am I going to do to shift this unspoken privilege so that all can be treated with respect and honored as children of God?
In short, this work of shifting our culture to one of radical inclusion is going to require effort on the part of all of us: personal reflection, personal commitment, personal courage.
Richard Rohr offers what I think is an important insight from his book, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer. He writes, “The soul defines itself by expansion and inclusion—not by saying ‘no,’ but by offering a kind of courageous, risky ‘yes’: ‘Yes, I am like everybody else, capable of the same good and the same bad. They are all my brothers and sisters.’ The soul knows that we are all equally naked underneath our clothes. Can you feel the scariness in that? When you allow the face of the other, the opinion of the other, the worldview of the other, to break through your barriers and boundaries, there is always a bit of fear, as in the first moments of nakedness or intimacy.” (pp. 23-24)
We are going to have to face our fears of encountering the “other,” and seeing them as children of God, for their sakes and for ours.
So, I invite you to take seriously the instruction of Jesus that the first and most important things we do are love God and love neighbor. How are you going to do that today? Where will you stand? I offer for your first step this picture of the student body of Howard University. Look closely at the faces of those students and remember that they are our neighbors, not a statistic, not just a picture. They are our neighbors.
Now, take moment and listen to this interview that was aired yesterday on National Public Radio: file:///Users/johudson/Desktop/ferguson-pastor-this-is-not-a-race-issue-this-is-a-human-issue.html
Let us begin today. Let us not forget. Let us say the courageous, risky “yes, yes I am like everybody else.”
Holy One, receive our brother, Michael Brown, into your heavenly realm, into the saints of light, and receive our feeble efforts to live as people who love you and seek to love our neighbors. Help us not to sit by complacently, watching the news, posting on Facebook, writing blogs. Instead, give us courage to look at ourselves and ask important questions. Give us courage to stand with those who are marginalized and oppressed. Give us courage to act. Remind us that all of us are your children. Amen.