Mighty Wind or Hot Air
Billions of words have been written and spoken about last Wednesday’s massacre during a prayer meeting in an AME Church in Charleston, SC. Billions of words and every bit as many prayers have been sent from pulpits, bedsides and silent hearts — which is good. It is good to be driven to the knees of our hearts by the awful weight and awareness of just how much hatred seeks to beat down the doors of love, peace and sanity.
But unless the prayers are followed by action, the prayers and our breath are wasted. God hears us, of course, but it is part of the mystery of faith that God entrusts us with the blessing and the responsibility of making peace and love incarnate in the world. It is a solemn and glorious thing that God calls us to do this work. With our prayers, yes, but also with our hands and with our lives.
Simply bemoaning the presence of racism in our lives and in our society is a worthless expenditure of breath. Denying its existence — in our land and in our own hearts — is even worse. We all stand in the path of judgment if we do not confront and work to remove racism wherever it appears. Racism, even unconscious racism, is a reminder that we have been taught to fear others, to consider ourselves superior for no reason other than the shade of our skin, and to mistrust those who do not look and act just as we do. This shooting has shamed us, and the best response we can make it to do and to be better.
The hot rush of blood to our faces when we are ashamed can either lead to anger, rage and the hot air of vituperative language and even more violence, or it can serve as a cleansing wind scouring our hearts clean and giving us the courage to start anew. We have a choice about what we will do and what we will teach our children to do.
Scripture tells us “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We no longer have the luxury of limiting the definition of neighbor to those who share our views or are related to us by blood or economics. We are all neighbors on this planet, and when, God willing, we go to other places in the universe, we will find that those folks, too, are our neighbors, and that in God’s economy, we are all equal. We are all friends.
To paraphrase a popular slogan, “Friends don’t let friends hate…or kill.” It is within our power to end the violence. We have the means, we merely lack the will. Let us pray for courage, and let us act.
And may the breath of God blow like a might wind in our hearts and nation, and may we put an end to the hot air of hate.