Friday, August 18, 2017

Restraint of Tongue and Pen

Photo courtesy of Anna Golladay
I've had a difficult time this week digesting current events. Actually, I feel sick in the pit of my stomach.

Over the past decade, through trial and error (mostly error), I discovered the virtue of practicing restraint when it comes to reacting to people and situations. Developing a better filter for my thoughts has kept me from inflicting you and others with the raw response that often wants to jump out of my mouth or get sent in an email (I don't tweet). It took time and a desire to be a better person to learn to pause. I'm a work in progress.

Now, perhaps, I have a tendency to over-correct. I'm cautious and judicial in my expression of personal views on and interpretations of matters in the public square. I suppose it's my tendency toward self-preservation that fosters this approach. That, coupled with a desire to be well-regarded and accepted.

However, the events of this week and this past year have so sickened me. Yet, it's not about me. I like to think that I have let go of self-absorption (this often needs to be a daily task) and have asked God to remove the desire for self-preservation as the rule of my life. I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to walk with Jesus. I have heard the call to take up my cross and follow. That call to faithfulness -- to that long obedience in the same direction -- necessarily will lead to those things that Jesus warned would be encountered along the way: ridicule, rejection, suffering, etc.

It is such an easy thing to confess the sin of others. When we reflect on our own inner nature and attitudes while engaging in healthy self-examination, we need to be honest. Our attitudes toward others are conditioned by the very culture in which we live -- the culture that formed and normed us. While we say that we have all sinned and fallen short, it's not enough to settle for such a generic confession. Specifically, to one extent or another, we have all participated in creating, maintaining, and permitting the very situations that have come to a head this past year. They have been there all along. There just seems to be little to no restraint anymore. Clearly this is a time for repentance. 

As fellow members of the body of Christ, we confess that when one member suffers, the whole body suffers. We're in this together too. 
“We recognize that the kind of violence we witnessed in Charlottesville last weekend is very real and affects all of us,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton. “We need to stand up against racism and anti-Semitism, show up for and advocate with others. Jesus, who makes visible those who are invisible, is already there. We need to show up, and we need to listen in each of our communities." 
A pastor in Morgantown, West Virginia, The Rev. Jerry Kliner, STS, developed a litany last year in response to the request of Presiding Bishop Eaton for congregations of the ELCA to commemorate the anniversary of the racially motivated murders at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. He shared it this week in response to the demonstrations and violence in Charlottesville. He contends that "Racism is not “those people’s” problem…it is OUR problem." I agree. I am a racist. In that I stand by silently as others are judged by the color of their skin, I participate in racism. When I hear someone tell an inappropriate "joke" and say nothing, I am guilty. When the church rests in its status of privilege, settles for being largely monochrome, or when it remains silent while others are suffering, we need to repent.

In addition to my sermon this Sunday, we will also confront racism with the use of the Litany developed and shared by Pastor Kliner. Together may we pray for our own transformation, the healing of our country and that our elected officials would lead with humility, faithfulness, and courage grounded in a passion for service.