Reflections on Facing Race
Do you, like me, have a list of issues that not only do you hope are not brought up at family gatherings but that you hope you don’t have to deal with personally? Obviously I don’t shy away from religious conversations, but… political ones?… not my favorite. Especially issues of race.
I spent most of my life in a suburb of Memphis, TN. You’d think if you did all your schooling through the public school system in the city where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot—when there is a national holiday every year in his honor, and where the National Civil Rights Museum is located—you’d have at least one field trip there. Not going is like living in D.C. and never seeing the Lincoln Memorial, right?
Well, I’d never gone to the Civil Rights Museum. In fact, I’d never been in that part of town. Because “we” don’t go to that part of town, if you know what I mean.
In December, I read Eric Metaxas’ book, Seven Women, which included a biography of Rosa Parks. I was moved by the ordinariness of her life in contrast with the extraordinariness of her heritage. So I took the opportunity to pilgrimage to the museum over the holidays. I felt burdened, as a follower of Jesus, by the systemic injustices that led to the severe persecution of this individual woman. And I was startled by the conception of those systemic injustices writ large through entire generations of individuals of African Americans.
And all this happened in my town. Just one generation ago.
And all this is happening in my town. Now.
What’s “this”? Injustice. Injustice to me is anything out of alignment with the way God’s will would look here on earth as it is in heaven. And so injustice glares out of the life of a woman denied a seat on a bus by a bully. Because had Jesus been on that bus, Rosa would have been sitting right next to him. And I would have been crowding in to overhear the conversation.
There are other provocative injustices I could reflect on here, but just like at the dinner table, I would squirm and so would you. So instead, I invite you to practice something on this Martin Luther King holiday weekend. Ask Jesus where injustice lives in your world, where you are on Monday morning. What is just ordinary life but could not possibly be ordinary in a heavenly world? Is someone belittled or left out? Is someone denied hospitality? Where do you see unkindness? Sadness?
I invite you to pray with me, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will, be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
A final thought: I have been haunted by the thought, If I lived during the Civil Rights movement, would I have sat where Rosa sat? Would I have stood up for her? Are you willing to be haunted by the thought, “What injustice can I stand up for? Where can I be the hands of feet of Jesus to right wrongs in my world?” Pray with me for the love that would motivate such a stand.
P.S. Don’t forget, Seahawks’ fans, Saturday night worship is a perfect option for this playoff weekend! Join us at 6:30pm in the Memorial Chapel. We will be ready for a big crowd, tech-wise! And maybe even love our enemies like Jesus and radically high-five a Panther’s fan this weekend.