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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seeing is the first step to believing

I heard that prosecutor's speech the night we learned that another white man was not going to have to have his actions, killing a black man, scrutinized in a public trial. All I can say about that speech was that if I preached liked that I would be fired. Basically he seemed to say that a man is dead, and we know why--he died. What?

I mean, I never watch crime shows, but even I know that people who are dead often are because they died. All the reasons I would have liked to see the officer go on trial are denied me, and presumably more than just me. A trial might have reached the same conclusion that the grand jury reached, but we will never know...I truly wonder why racism always seems to hinder our rule of law?

As a philosopher, I am sure the roots of this question go deep. As one of my Latin professors used to say, "I'm sure I'm as racist, sexist, and class-ist as anybody," but why can't admitting that be a part of who we are? It seems obvious to me that a lot of white police officers patrolling in neighborhoods where there are mostly people of color are going to have to deal with whatever racist thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors they have. And I believe they do have them. We all do. Why not admit?

It's racist, for example, to say that white people get to make all the rules. Admit it. We do. Maybe not so much anymore, or not all the time, but white people do seem to make a lot of the rules we try and live by. Why is that? To try and argue that such things are not racist seems like a lie to me. It is. And we must begin to admit that if we seek the shalom of which we pray.

The other day I was having a meeting with a woman who is of mixed racial lines. She is a black person (partially) in this country. At the bar was a couple sharing a bottle of wine, and she was black and he was white. Our waitress was white. Our bartender was black. As we started a conversation about Ferguson, none of us could fathom what's going on there. It didn't make sense to anybody, black or white. In fact, confusion was about the only thing all of us agreed upon in terms of color.

I wish Jesus would have had to deal with racism in terms of color. (The racism Jesus seemed to deal with had more to do with lineage and religion than with a person's skin color.) Maybe there were other cultural clues, but skin color is pretty obvious. It's part of what makes dealing with racism in this country so hard. You can guess at a person's race long before you know his or her name.

That's what makes this comment by the officer who killed the man so interesting. He said in his interview "I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan," adding, "That's just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm." 

The racism there is so pervasive as to be unnoticeable. You see, in describing the black man he was holding, his mind called him "Hulk Hogan." Hulk Hogan is white.

The officer never saw the man whose arm he grabbed. If he did, why did he think of him as a white man? Because everybody agrees on this: the man who died was black. If you can't admit the color of the person you're grabbing onto, isn't harder to admit the stuff you cannot see? Stuff like innocence, hope, truth, or love? Now--that's something Jesus DID talk about.

"I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." 
                                                                                            Jesus of Nazareth

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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