Responding to Racism
Being married to a journalist, I am not one to jump at the opportunity of sharing my writing publically. However, I believe we benefit and grow as a community when we become vulnerable and share our thoughts and stories with one another and my hope is that others will feel brave enough to reciprocate.
I am feeling such gratitude for our pastors, Natasha and Lee. Hearing them both speak in response to the rally that took place in Charlottesville was both moving and important for me to hear. The past few days following this horrific event had me feeling overwhelmed, confused and I had such a heavy heart sorting through my emotions, trying to figure out how to respond in all of this, not just as a woman, but as a white privileged, new mother of two.
My brother was at the rally and his signs were incredibly intense, boarder-line hateful, as were the signs of many others who were at the rally as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. My brother and I talked a lot about the rally and Charlottesville and the overall racist climate that currently exists, but I just felt unsettled. On the one hand I felt as a Christian and peace promoting, converted Mennonite Christian (once an attendee of a Baptist church), I wondered how to rally while being surrounded by and possibly even associated with hateful signs that some choose to make in response to the white supremacy groups. However, I also felt that feeling passion and anger and calling out those who are being hateful was incredibly important. I thought about how Jesus even threw tables over in the temple and I feel he would want us to be bold and stand up for injustice. Yet, I struggle with the hate being projected towards the white supremacy groups – even though I absolutely hate what they stand for.
Jesus is the greatest example of a social justice advocate and we are to follow his lead.
A timely Facebook post of Lee’s came up on my feed the evening before he preached. I sent it to my brother who was ironically looking at the exact same image at the same time. “We cannot retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed.” These words and the message that Lee and Natasha shared were incredibly impactful. Even though I didn’t have all of the answers, it really hit me that silence and using this excuse of being overwhelmed is not going to move any of us to a place of peace, and we are called to be the voice for those who are vulnerable, targeted and at risk. Jesus is the greatest example of a social justice advocate and we are to follow his lead. The quote Lee posted told me that it is both possible and necessary to be bold, strong and passionate without adding to the hate. Likewise, Natasha’s message and the Martin Luther King Jr. quote she shared helped solidify this too. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I think I spent most of the sermon crying as Lee and Natasha spoke. I was moved and challenged to rethink my prejudices and assumptions or lack of awareness and empathy for those living in our very community. I am so busy being so proud of our town, city and country, but I realize that this is not everyone’s reality. I also feel, as a teacher, I have a greater responsibility to be more aware, sensitive and empathetic to my students and their families, realizing that not everyone shares the same feelings and experiences as me.
Amidst feeling great sadness for our world after an event like this, I felt so hopeful, blessed and grateful for both Lee and Natasha and their boldness, compassion and vulnerability to speak to this and help lead us as a church through such murky waters. It is exactly what Church should be – a place where we can come together and lean into the hard stuff. A place where a bunch of people who love Jesus are trying to sort through the hurt and brokenness of this world. A place where we can come share experiences, learn and discuss the tough stuff. I know it would have been easier for Lee to have just preached the sermon he originally prepared. I am so thankful he was brave and listened to God and ultimately chose the much harder route. I am so thankful for the amazing leaders we have at Cedar Park and likewise I am so incredibly thankful that God led us to Cedar Park. What an imperfect, but beautiful church community we are part of.
Lisa with twins Finn and Bowen