On a Wednesday evening on June 17, thirteen people met at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston for Bible study and prayer. A 21 year old man came to join them that night, and he was welcomed by the others. After an hour of prayer and discussion, this same man began shouting racial epithets and systematically shot and killed nine persons, all of them black, one of which was the Senior Minister, state senator Clementa Pinckney. The shooter Dylan Roof, an alleged white supremacist, stated, “I wanted to start a race war.”
Heartbreakingly, the Charleston massacre is not an isolated incident. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson, and 12 year old Tamir Rice have been well chronicled in the press and videos have been posted on social media. All of the victims were black.
Racism is a spiritual crisis.
For millennia mankind has separated and divided what was created to be united, has selected other races to be inferior and subjected them to discrimination, slavery, and violence. Jesus was well aware of mankind’s propensity toward racist behaviors and frequently pointed this out. Knowing that Jews looked down upon Samaritans, he chose a Samaritan as the compassionate hero of his parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10: 25-37)
Jesus modeled our God-created equality through his association with the sick, the poor, tax collectors, women, and all others during his time on earth. He wanted people to understand that all of us are one with one another. For if we did not understand that, we did not understand the nature of God.
Racism is a spiritual crisis for it is a failure to recognize God’s immanence in every person; God’s presence within creation. (I John 4:20) To fully recognize another person as embodying the presence of the One Spirit of God transforms us. When we know this, we see one another as sacred and worthy.
We are living in a time of “kairos.”
Paul Tillich talked about “kairos,”a Greek word meaning, “the opportune time requiring decisive action.” Immanuel Wallerstein calls the time in which we are now living as “a TimeSpace in which human beings must make a fundamental choice about our world’s future with the hope of rebuilding our society.”
This time of crisis is a time of chaos in which the old ways must die so that a new way can be born. It is a call to transformation, to compassion, and to oneness so that we are able to see the world through another’s eyes. All of us who are willing and teachable are called to help birth it. This new consciousness, called by Jesus “the kingdom of God,” is already here. “The time “kairos” has come. The kingdomof Godis at hand” (Mark 1: 14) The kingdom of God is at hand, but it requires decisive action on our parts to bring it to pass.
We are one with one another. What you and I think and do has an impact on everyone. What hurts one of us, hurts all of us. What lifts up one of us, lifts up all of us. Racism is our problem. All of us. To solve it, we need to take responsibility for it. To solve it, we need to be educated because we don’t know what we don’t know.
I recently attended a seminar in Albuquerque of spiritual leaders who were called together to address the racial unrest in our cities and to propose spiritual solutions for this grave problem. One woman spoke to us of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and of the book by that name by Dr. Joy DeGruy and asked us if we knew of it. Most of us did not. She stated briefly that the wounds of slavery have been passed down, generation to generation. All of us bear those wounds because we are one. “White America has never dealt with slavery and its aftermath and now we are living with the accelerating destructive effects of that historical failure,” writes Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite.
Each of us can be a force for transformation. I invite you to view and discuss with your friends “The Color of Fear.” This is a powerful film that reveals the state of race relations in America through the eyes of 8 men of differing backgrounds, all of whom bear the pain that racism has caused them.
Awakening to the presence of God within each of us, understanding that in our oneness in God, we are one with each other and all that we think and do affects all of us, taking responsibility for racism, and educating ourselves will grow in us the great heart of compassion that celebrates the beautiful diversity in our unity. We will end the abomination of racism and birth the kingdom of heaven.