Good morning Church Family,
I am writing this at 5:00 a.m. Have been up since three-something. Just one of those nights when, after a few hours of sleep, I am now wide awake. Yes, lots on my mind.
The incident -- let's call it what it was -- the murder of George Floyd while people watched has shaken us all. I thought maybe this time, since many of us watched the video (I made myself) we would come together as a nation and FINALLY see that African American men (and oftentimes women, but especially the men) are treated with suspicion first. They are seen as a threat first. They are seen as someone to be controlled and subdued. They are seen as less than. Maybe finally there will be a meaningful conversation about racism. Maybe this time we will realize that saying 'black lives matter' is not the same thing as saying the police are bad and we don't care about police. My goodness! We live in a community where we know many of our officers by name. We trust them. We pray for them. We defend them. We know that most of the police officers in our country are people we are proud of and thankful for. I thought that George Floyd's death could have some meaning now. We will finally be able to talk about the injustices we have seen. We can finally talk about Ahmed Aubrey and others. Maybe the video of Christian Cooper will help us understand.
We recoil in disbelief and horror when we hear about these events. Maybe we will be able to talk about it now. But what woke me up at 3:00 a.m. ? Maybe it's the conversation I want to have; we need to have. We who are white tend to become defensive when we hear phrases like white privilege which always come up in the conversation and that is when the conversation stops . We are no longer recoiled in horror or sadness but quickly rise to defend ourselves and our intentions and our innocence. And when we do that, we belittle and harm and do violence to those in the African-American community. "I've done no violence," you might say. When we cease listening and start talking, it is a violent blow to the soul of a person who is repeatedly asking to be understood.
When we explain that we are not privileged or we are not superior, we are missing the mark. No, we do not go around saying, "I am white, I deserve better treatment; I am white, I am better than you." We would never do that and I do not think we believe that deep down. But there is something wrong in our society when black people have to be aware all the time that they are being looked at differently. We've read other stories this week of black men who have been pumping gas or going for a walk or stopping to help someone and the police have been called because there was a 'suspicious black man.' You and I have never been suspected of anything simply because we are white. You and I are able to walk into any store and no one takes notice. That is our 'privilege' that the black community would like for us to understand. When we deny it, we are refusing to listen.
Maybe that is what woke me up this morning. Wanting to talk with you about this but it is so difficult because it offends and it can be misunderstood and it can be heard as 'political.' This week, many of you have been so kind to write me a note or email or call to tell me you have appreciated my ministry. You have said I am a 'good pastor.' I do not feel like a faithful pastor to my congregation if I do not share what is on my heart. I think it is on your heart, too. Can we share as brothers and sisters about what is on our hearts?
My heart is aching for George Floyd's family. My heart is also hurting for the black and brown little boys who are learning that it is not safe for them like it is for the white little boys. So, I sit down to my laptop to write. When I turn on the computer, my headlines come on. I see that I missed the breaking news at 11:30 p.m. that protests in Minneapolis have turned violent and that the police precinct was on fire. And then the news that was reported at 2:10 a.m. about the violent demonstrations in Kentucky over the shooting of a black woman in her apartment by police back in March. I do not condone violence but I understand the rage. I put my head in my hands knowing that what little conversation could be had about race will now turn to accusations. "If they want to be heard, they should be civil. This will not help them but only hurt them ." My soul hurts as I imagine this is the only way they think they will be heard because we are still not listening. We are not understanding. Can we just listen and not explain things to them or defend ourselves? Just listen to the hurt.
And then at 4:19 a.m, I see that the White House calls for violence to end violence. And it happens again. I know that by the time the sun comes up (it's 5:45 a.m. now) the debate will be about Twitter and President Trump and once again, we have participated in the violence by turning our backs and not listening to the pain. I think of a young black man I know, a junior high school student, and I just want to go to him today and say "I am sorry." And then just listen. (Ha! Listen to the arrogance there! As if he needs to talk to me or wants to!) I do not need to say, "I am sorry, but you know I've never done anything violent, and I didn't have anything to do with slavery, and I had lots of black friends in high school and ......" I just want to say I am sorry. It is a lamen t. It is giving voice to the pain in our country. If we could all just say, I am sorry. I am sad. I repent of my not understanding . I am sorry."
My weather alert is letting me know that the sun will rise in five more minutes. It is 6:17 a.m. now. It has taken a while to write this because I am weeping. I am so sad for our country. I am sad because we cannot be together for me to say these things where I can look into your eyes and know that I would see the same hurt. I am sad because I know there is a chance you will not hear what I am trying to say. But I trust you to join me in prayer this day. The Old Testament speaks of lament. Just confessing to God and acknowledging to God that we are sad and that we are hurting. That would be a good place to begin the conversation on race.
The sun will be rising in two minutes now. You will read this later in the morning. Know that I started my day loving my congregation and hurting for all of us. I am going to stand on my back porch and proclaim that this is the day the Lord has made. I will be glad and rejoice. I will spend the day in prayer. I will spend today doing no harm. I will spend the day praying for my President, the governor of Minnesota and the mayor of Louisville, police officers everywhere, and for the Floyd family. I will pray for you as you seek peace and understanding. I will offer prayers of thanksgiving for a congregation who has always allowed me to share my heart.
In the love of Christ,