Are you as disheartened as I am, after two weeks of chaos, violence and death? My head is spinning as I have moved from an awareness of how connected we all are (“we’re in this together”) because of the coronavirus which is affecting the whole world, to how disconnected we all are from one another because of the racism, anger and rage we have seen. The layers of pain which have been exposed, the language of “domination,” “thugs,” and “battle space” which we have heard, and the violence we have witnessed all too clearly, have stunned, enraged, and frightened us.
Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer distinguished between “cheap grace” and “costly grace,” the difference between preaching “love” (cheap) and living love (costly). More is demanded of God’s people than living a comfortable life and being a good person, and I find myself wondering how much of our passive acceptance of the status quo regarding race has contributed to where we are now. What happened to us? Have we become satisfied with cheap grace, knowing the high price of costly grace?
So much is just plain wrong. Racism in all its manifestations is wrong. Violence, in ourselves and in others, is wrong. Domination– of protestors, of different races or religions, of women, of the earth and all of life–is wrong. And we need to speak out and condemn these dark stains on our corporate life.
But more than that—we need to do something—like taking a look at our own racism and all the assumptions we hold on to as people of privilege, like sitting down with our black and brown brothers and sisters as equals to hear their stories, their frustrations, their hopes and dreams—their reality. And maybe we need to begin by having in depth conversations with one another, here in the church, about our fears, our hesitancies, our personal anxieties—all those inner feelings about race that we find so hard to talk about, or to face in ourselves.
We are hoping to create opportunities for just that kind of dialogue in the near future. Stay tuned. And meanwhile, may the disturbing spirit of God, who has unsettled so many of us in the last couple of weeks, help us to embrace what is costly.
Rev. Sherm Skinner