When is the time…?
Tony E Dillon Hansen
A reflection based upon Romans 5:1-8 and Matthew 9:35-10:8
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer.
The recent events have provided more opportunities to reflect on privilege and my own reoccurring indifference about prejudice in our culture. Even as I learn and embrace black liberation theology and how that informs some queer theology, I am still one that wears privilege. I cannot possibly understand the frustration and anger of the black community in response to centuries of system maltreatment, horror, torture discrimination and literal de-humanization at the hands of white people. I can understand how, as a queer person, that subtle words and systemic action carry such derisive and hurtful connotations while being meant to appease and distract. These cut into the very being of a person.
I fully realize the fallacy of “all lives matter” because the truth is that for far too long in our country, the lives that mattered were those that were willing to forget one's own culture, your own ideas of grace and beauty, and even your own body in order to pretend and feign an existence of belonging. That belonging was and is false because one has to erase and deny themselves to become someone else – not who they were truly blessed to be.
I also get the struggle of the poor white people who have been goaded and duped into believing that our daily gripes and pains are somehow measurable to perpetual systemic racism and injustice. I understand that is difficult to live in these times with budgets, difficult decisions, and competing priorities and desire to live in peace. Yet, when one considers a state that has been built over centuries to inject fear, division, worry and silence into your lives, the words of “all are created equal” fails and feels extremely shallow - if not perversely evil.
As a minister, I am informed by scripture and when I read this week’s scripture from Romans 5 describing how we are justified by faith, I find another viewpoint here. Justification does nothing when we continue to be pawns of the lies and the machine – when we continue to be silent in the face of horrible and cruel injustice, inequality and further deceptions. Our justification, therefore, is to live out the commissioning of Christ for Christians, the invitation from our Creator as mutual people with mutual concerns – recognizing that we don’t have all the answers by ourselves - that there are people hurting and have legitimate gripes.
We then come to the help and grace of our neighbors rather than continuing to marginalize and demean their words and feelings because black lives do matter, queer lives do matter, native American lives do matter, immigrant lives do matter and you matter. They matter in this time and in this moment. They should not be swept away by more apathy and disgruntled privileged reactions designed to silence and to reduce to inaction again. This is the time, as Paul writes, that we move to be neighbors in solidarity and empathy. We may not be able to answer for the sins of ancestors - or even our own culpability in current living, but we should not be shamed or silenced into maintaining those sins.
The Tao of people is to live into mutual beings rather than find reasons to divide and distract. We are people called to be disciples and neighbors – not just in words but in our honest actions that recognize the fragility of lives - how words and actions have been parts of systemic tools designed to oppress, seclude, demean and hate. Instead, our scriptures, reminds us that we are called to welcome, to listen, to heal, and to be - to be a neighbor that acknowledges differences and does not close the door to authentic understanding.
We are a community in this country of many communities – each justified to live and breathe under the protection of our Creator and our laws without fear and prejudice from authorities. We live in this moment, in this time to validate the claims and desire for equality, fairness and actual belonging – the belonging that says “I care” and “I hear you.”
For the black and many communities, I ask - what can I, as a white person, do to help heal and help change our culture so that violence, oppression and hate are no longer normal measures of everyday living. I, as a white person, want to recognize that privilege should never be taken at the cost of another or on the backs of my neighbor – because we are told to love our Creator and our neighbor as ourselves. That means loving and belonging. There is no separation, no judgment, no arbitrary system to deny but one that invites, welcomes, while recognizing and celebrating uniqueness, our struggles, our valid concerns, and our being.
We have, in this moment, an opportunity to grow together and to learn from each other rather than scorning people for speaking truth and for protesting corrupt systems.
We have, in this opportunity, to realize that centuries of injustice cannot be healed overnight, in a week, or a month but takes time across generations. Also, this injustice cannot simply be forgotten but can be a lesson and reminder that we, as a community, have work to do – to heal, to listen, and to be.
Maybe then we can talk about how lives matter because then we might be in honest dialog about our society, Creation, and our God-given gifts of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Maybe then, we find liberation in the scriptures to free us from our sins, and systemic injustice that pervades our culture.
Maybe then, we use scripture and churches as intended places to build community and heal together rather than as props for ugly photo-ops.
Maybe then, we can look at this time – this time – and realize we decided to do the right thing and to act by living our faiths instead of shunning and silencing neighbors legitimate concerns.
Maybe then, we can be agents of true healing and growth - and this time we know better.
Maybe then we can be justified by faith.
Maybe then we can be justified by faith.
Thanks be to God.