A key insight of the apostle Paul is that we are fully “in Christ” but NOT YET fully in Christ. By that he means, through God’s grace we come to faith and are united with Christ. BUT, since we are still body and flesh of this world, according to Paul, we cannot yet be FULLY in Christ, as we continue to sin and fail to do all that we know and believe we should be doing. Put another way, God’s commonwealth of justice is already bursting forth through the message of Jesus and the witness of those who follow Jesus. But, as we have experienced in the events of recent days in Charlottesville and elsewhere, and the continuing and resurging language of hate and racism, we are reminded God’s realm is not yet here.
What then is our response as individual persons of faith and as an expression of the corporate body of Christ that is the church? Pope John XXIII said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” If we want to advance the vision of God’s justice for ALL of God’s children, if we yearn for the “peaceable kingdom”, we need to find ways small and large to expand the reach of God’s justice through public witness and in our individual, personal relationships. If we truly reject the philosophy of white supremacy and desire a society free of racism, we will need to work at it, confronting racism in the structures of society and facing the racism embedded within us. We are in Christ, but not yet fully in Christ. God’s realm is here and growing, but it is not yet fully here.
It is easy to condemn others who exhibit vicious and violent racism. It is easy to condemn the incendiary and brutal comments of our President. It is easy to join the (thank God!) ever growing chorus of religious and business and political leaders who are naming white nationalism for what it is and white supremacists for what they are. It is much harder to accept our own complicity in the tragic narrative of racism. As was heard in Charlottesville in August, people of faith need to do more than talk; they need to “show up for justice.”
In a small way, I am working with other clergy leaders to address not just the question of monuments, but the sin of racism in Richmond. Our anger is aroused, anger that calls forth assertive, creative, and constructive action. Each of us needs to find his or her own way to “show up for justice.”
I have read so many moving, powerful testimonies from the tragic weekend in Charlottesville.
Among the testimonies I have received is one by the Rev Lynne Clements, a former colleague of mine in a previous call, who serves in Charlottesville. Part of a recent FB posting of Rev Clements includes words I think speak to us here at First Congregational Christian. She writes:
People are asking, "How are you?" And I am answering this way: I am all right and not all right. I might never be all right again, for it is hard to imagine going back to the innocence I had before stepping off from Jefferson School [the morning of August 12), filled with sober joy at the gathering of folks who sang with such conviction about the light that will overcome the darkness. I had not ever before felt the coldness of dark hearts in such a tangible way from a crowd; in individuals, yes. Not as a mass. My heart broke and continues to break at the hatred and evil wielded in word and weapon that led to violence, injury and death. And yet, despite all that I saw and all that I am feeling, I find myself seeking comfort in things I believe: that God is sovereign, that love is stronger than hate, that at the end, love wins... not at a rally, but at an empty tomb.
I confess my own complicity in a system of racism that has harmed my brothers and sisters of color and from which I have benefited, in ways to which I am still blind.
And yet, this I know: my blind eyes are being opened, like the man who, his eyes touched by the healing hand of Jesus, at first saw impartially. It took some work for him to peer into the world around him before clarity came. I am still working, my vision still not clear, but perhaps better now than a few days ago.
“I confess my own complicity in a system of racism that has harmed my brothers and sisters of color and from which I have benefited, in ways to which I am still blind.” This fall, through the Adult Faith Formation Class, I will also be leading a modest introduction to looking in the mirror at the vestiges of racism in our own lives, and how we might play a part in the hard work of “Dismantling Racism”. I hope you will join me on a shared journey of self-discovery that can lead to justice. Details of the class are found elsewhere in this newsletter.
Dear friends, these are anxious, even fearful times. Sustained by God’s grace, let us face them with courage and conviction. R. Charles Grant