Lord, have mercy. I’ve just read Bishop Eaton’s letter about the Charleston shooting last night, and I’m simultaneously thankful for her call to repentance and self-examination, while also wondering why it took the killing of some of us (ELCA seminary grads) by one of us to say these things so clearly. I wish I could say I’m surprised at how this has gone down, or that the hate-filled shooter was a member of my church.
But I’m not. The church that I love, the church that I serve, that sometimes feels like my whole life, is a community of broken people. We freely and liturgically say every time we gather for worship that we are “captive to sin and cannot free ourselves”, that we have “sinned against [God] by what we have done, and by what we have left undone”. We communally confess our general sin every week, but we rarely take time to call attention to our specific and systemic sins, like the sin of racism.
In fact, when I called for the repentance of white Christians for the sin of racism in our church and in our country back in December, there were several people in my congregation who told my colleague that I shouldn’t have dare to say such a thing. Never mind that I have sat at the beside of church members who think nothing of using racist epithets in conversation with their pastor. Never mind that I have (sometimes silently, I’m ashamed to say) listened to racist jokes told in the narthex of my own church building. Never mind that the few times a stranger with dark skin has entered the doors of our building they have either been assumed to be dangerous, or only engaged by those of us on staff. Never mind that as our community grows in racial diversity, my own congregation stays as predominantly white as ever.
It is time for this head-in-the-sand denial to end. This is no longer about people in other parts of the country, who are somehow removed from or different than we are. This is about us, our own people, our brothers and sisters in Christ and in Lutheranism. We are all killers, and we are all killed as the tragedy of racism continues unabated.
This is about me. My own privilege. My own racism.
It is time for those of us in privileged position to call ourselves to account, to submit ourselves to radical self-examination, to understand our own whiteness and its affect on our world and those who do not share our privilege. It is time for repentance of the 180 degree variety, where we turn away from what we have been and ask God and our brothers and sisters to show us a new way.
Let this be the moment where we finally say ENOUGH.