Thoughts from Kim
America is on fire - our home is on fire. If you had an electrical problem in your home that caused it to burst into flames, you would not throw gasoline on the flames and wonder why they did not go out. Nor would you put the flames out and rebuild your house without first correcting the electrical problem that started the fire! No - you would make sure everyone was safe, put out the fire, identify and correct the problem and then rebuild the house.
To those who are in leadership and are throwing gasoline on the fire - stop!
To those who are taking advantage of this fire for selfish reasons - stop!
To those who are saying this is not our problem or our house that is burning - yes it is!
To those who want to put the fire out and rebuild the house without addressing the cause of the fire - no, not again!
To those who have been living in a burning house for a long time - we hear you!
To those who want to understand what started the fire and be part of the solution - listen!
Let us listen to the voices of our Black and Brown neighbors who have a very different experience of living in America than we who are White do. We may be neighbors - we may share this house that we call America - but our experience of it is very different. The easy response to this tragedy is to blame a few bad actors who are taking advantage of this trauma for self gain and thus be distracted from dealing with the underlying systemic issues that are at the heart and soul of the message repeated again and again by the peaceful protestors and their allies as they take to the streets to call America to awareness and repentance.
And repent we must. The systemic racism that supported the enslavement of a race of people so that a prosperous America could be built for those who shared the race of the slave masters did not go away with the conclusion of the Civil War, or the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. It is still part of the fabric of our society and is reflected in everything from health care outcomes in the COVID-19 pandemic to lethal experiences with law enforcement officers. And while we as individuals, as churches, and as a denomination have condemned the systems and structures that perpetuate racism, we have not done so as a nation - nor have we participated in a process of restorative justice. So like the electrical fire that keeps reignating every time the power is turned back on, America burns once again.
Let's not repeat history. It is time to acknowledge and address the underlying problem.
We begin by listening. The problems facing nonwhite neighbors are real and deserve our full attention.
We continue by learning. We take the time to become self aware and learn how we benefit from systemic racism and
perpetuate the problem.
We repent. We allow ourselves to be sorry for how we have (often unintentionally) benefitted from this unjust system.
We make restitution. We join those who have been injured by helping to fix what is broken.
We weave the threads of a new story - a story of equality and justice in America. We rebuild community - together.
This restorative justice model of listening, learning, repenting (taking responsibility), making restitution, and working together to rebuild community has been used in a variety of settings from apartheid in South Africa to the juvenile justice system in America to foster healing and responsible/just change. My prayer is that our beloved nation will see this tragedy as an invitation to restorative justice. When that happens, the Kingdom (Realm) of God will truly be in our midst.
Please help me to build this community right now - right here at Bethany. Each one of us has a part to play in building the Kingdom or Realm of God. To do this, we will start with the first steps:
1. Listen - listen carefully to the voices speaking of oppression in America. Take note of what you are hearing - and ponder it.
2. Learn about how we benefit from systemic racism - often without knowing it. One option for learning is to read the article I provide each week in the Daily Connections (under the heading Resources for Exploring Racism, Whiteness and Privilege)
3. Join me on Zoom on Thursdays at 7:30 pm to discuss the reading for the week - and to build a community awake to the reality of systemic racism in America. We will have a time to share and reflect, and a time to pray.
In time, we will know what steps to take to move through repentance, restitution and rebuilding. For now - first steps.
I have hope that people of good will can learn and grow together - that with God's help, our nation can weave together the threads of pain and injustice into a new cloth of strength and beauty. In the words of this week's scripture passage from Isaiah:
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
America's best days can indeed be ahead - but only if we do the work to heal and restore our nation. Please join me in this work.
With love, pain and hope,