What the Church Can Learn from the YMCA

Last week I was a little under the weather so when my husband and kids took off after church for a hike, I headed to the Y.  It’s only a two minute drive from our house and we’ve been members for nearly 5 years now.   I initially looked at several gyms in our neighborhood but ultimately settled on the Y for the cost and the included-in-your-membership childcare while you workout.  I used to take the boys every afternoon after their naps so that I could workout SIT IN THE HOT TUB.

 

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My days of desperate-for-a-break-even-if-it-means-working-out are a thing of the past but now that I actually do workout (wonders never cease, people), I’m still at the Y several days a week.   Last week as I sat in the hot tub in introverted bliss, watching folks come and go, I had the sensation of being in a thin space. According to Celtic tradition, a thin place is when Heaven & Earth feel particularly close together.  Or, as Eric Weiner put it in his New York Times travel article a couple years ago, it’s…

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…where the distance between heaven and earth collapses
and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent.

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The YMCA seems a strange place to behold the holiness of God, I know, but this is what I noticed while I was sitting quietly with the water swirling around my feet:  I heard Mandarin, Spanish, Korean and what I think was Amharic.   I heard English, too, of course, and for a brief moment, English with a heavy Nigerian accent.  I saw brown skin and black skin, tan skin, white skin, splotchy skin and smooth skin.

I saw a young girl and her mama soaking together in the hot tub; the mom still fully clothed & her head wrapped.  I saw heavily tatoo-ed 20-somethings heading for the steam room.  I saw three women, probably in their 70s, with drooping skin and sagging suits, laughing uproariously on the benches near the shallow end of the pool.  I saw fat people, skinny people, tall people, short people.  I even saw an old man in his underwear!  Not sure what was going on there!

I saw a middle-aged guy limp in slowly and finally sink down into the hot tub.  I saw two women walking arm in arm, one obviously leading the other who could not see, to the sauna.   I saw two of the lifeguards re-positioning and working with tools on the lift that lowers those who are wheel-chair bound down into pool if they are unable to get in on their own.  There was a man sitting beside me at who talked to himself at length.

I was there for about an hour and as I sensed the nearness of God in that space, it occurred to me what I was seeing:

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I was seeing the Kingdom of God.

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I was seeing a diversity of age and gender, race and ethnicity, ability and culture that I have never seen in any other place at one time.  I was seeing what the Church is supposed to look like.  I was seeing Revelation 7:9 in living color.

ymca

As I eventually made my way back to the locker room, I marveled at it.  It wasn’t a unique day at the Y.  On the contrary, this sort of diversity is always on full display there.  But what makes it possible?  How has the West Seattle YMCA managed to do what the Church often only dreams of doing?  What makes my local Y successful at living into the image of the Kingdom of God when so many churches fail to come even close?

When a person walks into the foyer of a church, what do they do?  They usually try to get a peek inside the sanctuary before they commit to walking all the way in, right?  They want to see who’s in there first!   They want to see what sort of story the church is telling.  Who’s standing up front?  Who’s leading the singing?  What kinds of songs are they singing?  What does the pastor look like?  What sorts of people are sitting in the pews?  In essence, the first question the visitor in the foyer is asking is this:

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“Are you telling my story here?”

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Am I going to belong?  Will I feel out of place?  Will I stick out like a sore thumb?  Will the sermon and the singing resonate with me in some way?  Will I be comfortable showing these people who I am?

The same questions are being asked in the foyers of schools and organizations, businesses, and, yes, fitness centers.  Are you telling my story here?

When the bleeding woman touched the cloak of Jesus; when the woman at the well heard about the living water; when Zacchaeus looked down in surprise from the sycamore tree, each was struck with the realization that Jesus was telling their story.  Jesus saw them.  Really, truly saw them and insisted on telling their diverse and otherwise untold stories when nobody else would even consider it.

Is it mere chance that the Y in our neighborhood is able to draw in such a vast conglomeration of people?  No, it’s not magic and it’s not coincidence.  It stems directly from the story that the West Seattle YMCA is telling. They have made a concerted and intentional effort to tell diverse and often untold stories.  When I walked in last week, a Black woman greeted me and helped me sign my boys up for Kids In Motion, a transgendered person took my card and exchanged it for a locker key, and the signs that greeted me throughout the facility showed an eclectic mix of families and races and abilities.  Scholarships are readily and openly available and when I left, a woman with a mental handicap swapped my locker key back for my Y card and told me to have a nice day.   At any given time on any given day, I think almost anybody could walk into that Y and see themselves represented in some way.

Churches likewise have to make an effort.  It’s not going to happen just by hoping or even by praying for more diversity.  We have to work at it and not because we want to be hip or edgy.  We don’t seek diversity because it’s a buzz word or because it’s politically correct.  We work hard at diversity because we want to live out the vision of shalom that we’re given in the book of Revelation; the vision of the world as God intended it to be; where every conceivable nation, tribe, person, color, and language are represented.    We do it so that we can be like Jesus. We do it so that people can walk into our foyers, peek inside our sanctuaries, and see that yes!  -like the bleeding woman and Zacchaeus and the woman at the well-  their story is indeed being told.

Funky Town & Seth Godin

I’ve been in a funk lately.  Jason clued me in to a PRI podcast that was featuring the life of writers a couple weeks ago.  He thought it would be encouraging as I continue to plug away here on the blog and on the book.  Such a supportive husband, that one.    So I eagerly tuned in that evening, ready to fill up my cup of inspiration but instead of lifting my spirits it sent me spiraling into all sorts of navel-gazing angst and I haven’t written in a word in two weeks.  Brother.  Here’s the gist of what I heard…

Social-Media-Follow-620x290

  1. Getting a book published these days is practically impossible.  If you are going to have a fighting chance, you need to come to the negotiation table (there’s a table?!) with a sizable online community in the form of Twitter followers, Facebook likes, insert other types of social media “connectedness.”
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  2. If you can’t get published, never fear!  There’s another fantastic option these days: self-publishing.  The only thing you need to make that happen is a sizable online community in the form of Twitter followers, Facebook likes, insert other types of social media “connectedness.”

So…it’s not enough just to write?  I can’t just to do my thing and assume the rest will fall into place?  Shooooot.

It made me feel sort of panicky.  I don’t have a “sizable online community!”  What should I do?!  I spent a few days thinking about my blog and my twittering and my Facebook page and wondering how I might improve myself in those areas.  I kept trying to come up with some sort of game plan for improving my online presence, upping the ante here on the blog and working on better hashtags.  Then I read this quote that I had pinned about two years ago and forgotten about (I’ve had time recently to peruse all my Pinterest boards and the entire internet, really, because of the NOT WRITING).  It’s by Francis Chan and when I read it I suddenly felt like everything went still:

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“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

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I understand that the podcast earlier this month was trying to paint a realistic picture of the world of writers today.  And I definitely understand a few more things about publishing now than I did before.  But I’m not convinced that it ultimately pointed me in the right direction.  I don’t think I’m going to spend a lot of energy on tweets and hashtags.  I’m not going to worry about how many likes I have on my Facebook page.  Well, I’ll try not to.   I would be thrilled if those things took off and brought me more readership but I think I better just keep writing.

I think I’ll re-listen to this podcast instead featuring Seth Godin.  I listened to it about a month ago and it lead me to his book The Icarus Deception.  He is flipping everything around for me with regard to art and creating and writing.  Check it out.  I’d really enjoy hearing what the rest of you think.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Socializing

Friends, do you remember last Summer when we talked about socializing and Darren Wilson and what might have motivated him to shoot an unarmed Black kid?   Here’s the paragraph I wrote in the post last August

 

Was Darren Wilson thinking, “oh, look, a black kid… my white skin is superior to his black skin so I’m going to gun him down?”  I don’t know.  I highly doubt it.  It’s seems more likely that he, like you and like me, like white folks and brown folks and black folks, had been socialized in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways to see black men as criminals.  To see white skin as normal and safe and dark skin as dangerous, unknown and scary.  I know I have been socialized to think that way.   And it takes time and concerted effort to change the way that one has been socialized.

 

I read an article today on the New York Times website about domestic violence and the image they used is a perfect example of this sort of socializing.  Check it out:

 

nytimesimage

 

The article is about a connection found between mass shootings and domestic violence.   The piece itself is enlightening and perfectly interesting but I was distracted by the image they chose to illustrate it.  Here’s what I see:

  1. A woman in distress.
    She is white. 
  2. A man coercing her.  Strangling her.  Pinning her arm.  Taking her by force.
    He is black.

It could be argued that the woman’s gray arms and the mildly Asian connotations of her facial features could indicate that she is all races at once; that she is every woman. But the overall effect is that her skin is light and it’s hard to argue that the man is anything but black.

Even if we throw the artist a bone and give him the benefit of the doubt (maybe the perpetrator was supposed to symbolize the darkness of domestic violence?) the effect is still the same and this is what it tells us:

 

White = Innocent & Good
Black = Violent, Scary, Bad

 

That is what the image is selling and that is what we are buying.

Come on, it’s just one image, we might argue!  What’s the big deal?   It’s true; this is just one image.  But if we look around, we’ll see many other places where this narrative is playing out.  It’s everywhere.  We have been compounding and retelling this story in every conceivable way for generations and the New York Times image is but a minuscule top-off in an already over-brimming tank.  And that is why “non-racist” White people keep managing to kill Black people.  Why wouldn’t they?  It’s part of the script.

—————

 Other posts on Race

Feeling Your Skin
Can I Get An Amen… from the Awkward White Lady?
A Song Of Lament
Fury in Ferguson

The (Not So) Subtle Racism of The Gilmore Girls

Ok, don’t freak out.  I like the Gilmore Girls as much as the next 30-something White woman.  Promise.  I like Lorelai and Rory and life in Stars Hollow.  I kinda want to live there myself.  You know, eat at Luke’s diner and attend the loveably wacky town meetings; gossip about the will-they/won’t-they of Luke and Lorelai, shop at Doose’s, maybe even have Paris yell at me.

I started watching the show a couple months ago and I watch it whenever I’m at the Y (you know, ’cause I work out now).  I had never seen it so when the entire series was released on Netflix, I thought it would make the perfect companion for me and the rowing machine.   And I fell hard for those Gilmore Girls right from the start.  Small town life, quirky characters, romance, innocence and entirely surmountable conflict.  It practically made me wish I  had gotten knocked up at 16 if it meant I’d have the life and verbal skills of Lorelai Gilmore.

 

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Admittedly I’m only 2 seasons deep at this point but the portrayals of people of color on the show, scanty though they may be, are getting harder and harder for me to overlook as I get swept away in the small town politics and social life of Stars Hollow.   I wouldn’t have noticed it 15 years ago and I’m guessing a lot of you are scratching your heads and racking your brains, trying to remember if there was some sort of lynching or cross-burning on the WB that you missed.

But that’s not what racism looks like these days.  Well, not often, anyway.  Racism nowadays is different.  It’s more subtle.  In some ways I think racism might be even more insidious now than it was 60 years ago because it’s gone underground.  It’s invisible to the dominant culture, enabling us to sit back with our excellent healthcare, our smart kids, and countless other benefits of Whiteness, all the while patting ourselves on the back for allowing a Black man into the oval office.

I think most of us mean well.  I really do.  We might not see what all the fuss is about but we’re certainly not out to hurt anybody.  So circling back to the Gilmore Girls, I’d like to gently point out some of the things that I find problematic with the show’s cast of characters as I’m guessing that they, too, might be invisible to the casual White observer.

A quick review of the characters in question…

Michel

michelThis is the show’s only Black character, as of Season 2.  He is the concierge at the Inn where Lorelei works and his character is an uptight, high maintenance, rude, feminine but hetero, irritable snob.  He speaks with an exaggerated French accent and his short scenes presumably provide a comic counterpoint to the other characters’ main plot lines.

Mrs. Kim & Lane

mrskimKorean-American mother and daughter.   Lane, 16, is best friend to Rory Gilmore.  She is the stereotypical 2nd generation kid who just wants to “be normal,” like Rory. Her mother, Mrs. Kim, is an uber conservative Christian (Adventist?) who forbids Lane to listen to music, talk to boys, or eat anything but her hyper-healthy offerings.  She is insanely strict.  She speaks with a heavy accent and comes across as harsh and clueless at the same time.

And…

Oh wait, that’s it.  There aren’t any others.  Well, there was the mechanic who checked out the car Dean built for Rory.  She was what you might call racially ambiguous (Latina, maybe?) but she, too, spoke with a heavy accent.  Her english made her sound dumb although she was obviously intelligent enough to be the one checking out a car built from scratch.  But that was a 60-second scene, tops, so we’ll keep our focus on Michel and Mrs. Kim/Lane.

They aren’t characters

The problem with those characters is that they aren’t characters.  They’re caricatures.

A caricature is “an imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.”

Mrs. Kim is so over-the-top, so insane, so intense.  Her character is indeed a grotesque exaggeration of a stereotypical Asian immigrant parent.  Michel, likewise, is also entirely outlandish.  He is so petty, so snobbish, so rude.  Both characters are at once unbelievable and entirely one-dimensional.

There are other characters on the show that are largely one-dimensional as well.  Ms. Patty, the flamboyant dance teacher, for example.  Or Babette the cat lady who lives in that weird low-ceiling-ed house with her strange husband. But see, the difference is that those characters are portrayed as charming.  A little out there, maybe, but overall lovable and endearing.  Not so with Michel and Mrs. Kim.  They aren’t remotely like-able, either one.  But we aren’t meant to like them.  We’re meant to loathe them.  They are portrayed as less real and therefore less relatable.  Less human.

Lane is like-able but only because she wants to be like Rory and any other “normal American teenager.”  We root for her and pray she can pull a fast one on her mom because she wants to be like us!   She wants to ditch the Korean doctor set ups and listen to rock & roll and kiss boys.  Her Korean-ness isn’t to be celebrated or even explored.  It’s to be escaped.

The Repetition Principle

In the case of the Gilmore Girls it could be argued that this was all mere coincidence.  And that may well be.   But the reason it’s problematic is because it’s something that has been repeated regularly on TV and in the movies for decades.  Screenwriters and marketers are our modern day story-tellers and the story of Michel & Mrs. Kim is one that is repeated again and again and again.

Repetition Principle tells us that if something happens often enough, we will eventually be persuaded.   If we are shown a particular depiction of something often enough, we will eventually be persuaded to believe what we see.   No one is immune to this.  So if we allow these grotesque exaggerations to go unchecked, if we continue to puff up these portrayals of characters we love to hate, if we continue to tell these un-true stories about certain people, we will eventually be persuaded to believe them — when maybe all we really wanted was something entertaining to distract us on the treadmill.

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Other posts on Race

Feeling Your Skin
Can I Get An Amen… from the Awkward White Lady?
A Song Of Lament
Fury in Ferguson

Wild Geese

I took the boys to Bainbridge Island last week for the Martin Luther King holiday.  I considered going to the MLK march like we’ve done in years past but I felt like the boys needed, or at least I needed, a day away.  A day out of the city, away from school and work and schedules; to wander under a scopious sky, throw rocks and eat ice cream.

We caught the 9:30 ferry and spent about half the day on the island’s eastern side at Fort Ward State Park before hitting the local ice cream shop.  It wasn’t perfect.  There was whining, of course, and more than one, When are we going ho-ooome?  There may or may not have been some conspicuous pee-ing in public but overall, it was just what I had been pining for and it made me wish I had brought along some Wendell Berry or Patrick Kavanaugh to keep me company while the boys wandered the waterfront.

geese

I kept thinking of Berry’s poem, The Wild Geese.  It’s midwinter, not Summer’s end, and certainly we weren’t on horseback… but still it seemed to fit.

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

The U.S. (In)Justice System

I saw this video a couple days ago and I keep coming back to it for the stats.   Vox manages to show us the racial disparities in our criminal justice system in less than 2 minutes.  I was particularly drawn to the racial gap in incarceration rates in the U.S. and the marijuana use rates (which are nearly identical) and the marijuana arrest rates (which aren’t at all).   Have a look…

 

Other posts on Race

Fury in #Ferguson
Misplaced Imagining
Dear White Church
#BlackLivesMatter
White Privilege Awareness Series

Growing Pains

Your first child takes you places you have never been.  They tug you along these winding unknown trails often fraught with unforeseen peril, sudden switchbacks and seemingly unscale-able mountains.  You wend your way wildly along, hands clasped, half-stumbling, groping amongst low-hanging branches.    Amazingly, at times, you find yourself suddenly atop a mountain, breathless, the wind whipping your hair as you look out on this sudden vista of such profound and immense beauty that it hurts, physically, to behold.  Sometimes you might get to sit awhile.  Enjoy the view.  Catch your breath.  Other times you are yanked from your reverie and off you go again, praying fervently that your feet find steady ground as you run along behind.

woody trails

Gryffin has been in kindergarten for about 4 months now and we find ourselves, as always, in uncharted land.  While we’ve settled in to making lunches, remembering library books and backpacks and parent/teacher conferences, there has been other, more murky terrain to navigate in this new year.

Friends.

Friends who make fun of his shirt on “spirit day” until he quietly removes it over by the cubbies and stuffs it in his backpack.

Friends who laugh so much at the sunglasses he so proudly wore one morning that he vows never to wear them again.

Friends who won’t sit by him at lunch if he brings a certain kind of sandwich so he insists I make him something else, even though he doesn’t like it.

I drop him off every morning and watch him walk apprehensively onto the playground, eyes slowly scanning the blacktop for his “friends.”   His face is such a bald commingling of hopefulness, fear, and uncertainty that I almost have to look away.

They aren’t bullies, these kids.  And Gryffin genuinely seems to like going to school.  But teaching a six-year-old about confidence and being brave: being ok with being Gryffin?   It’s harder than I imagined.  Who wants to hear about developing genuine and meaningful relationships when you’re just hoping somebody will sit by you in the cafeteria?  I know he’ll be ok, really, but it’s brought some anguish to us this week as Jason and I have lumbered along beside him on this unfamiliar path.  

It seems that with your second child, even though the landscape has changed, sometimes significantly, you have the faint memory of having been here before.  You remember that there is a steep ledge off to this side, an uphill climb around that bend. You also remember the breathtaking, blinding beauty that comes at unexpected turns so you don’t feel quite so afraid.   I’ll keep my eyes peeled now for those places in this unexplored territory with my firstborn.  We’ll get through this bend in the trail and I know the view will be all the more worth it for what we’ve crossed to get to it.  

 

Novelty

I think I might have a novel inside of me.  It feels like it is pushing its way out.  Maybe that sounds strange?  I can think of no other way to describe it, though.  It’s an idea that has been dawning on me slowly; something long latent within me that is doggedly swelling outward.  I’ve dismissed it, laughed at it, scorned it, but still it persists.

Two months ago while I was cleaning up dinner the opening lines of a book came to mind.  Just like that.  I was pushing in a chair at our table and there they were.  To whom the lines might belong, I hadn’t a clue.  I could conceive nothing of it beyond that opening notion.typewriter-coffee-cup

 

But then, two nights later, while on a car ride, there she was.  A girl.  Maybe 8, 9, 10, I wasn’t sure.  But I could see her vividly.  I remember reading somewhere that Harry Potter walked into J.K. Rowling’s mind fully formed one day while she rode the train.  I always baffled at that.  How does that happen?  I mean, really?

I honestly haven’t a clue how to go about writing a novel.  I’ve never written a work of fiction in my life, save the odd school assignment, I suppose.  It’s just never been my thing.  I fancy myself more of an Anne Lamott (indulge me, ok?) than a J.K. Rowling.

 

But something about my writing lately has felt overwhelming and I feel compelled to change my pace a little.  When you write a blog and connect it to social media, there is an urgency attached.  How many “likes” and “retweets” will this one get?  How many hits?  How many shares?  Maybe this will be the one.   Part of me wants to pull back from that pressure to write something edgy and current that can make the rounds on social media and catapult me to the pinnacle.  The pinnacle of what, I wonder?  And what then?  Maybe there is a place for me somewhere else?  Could there be a home for me in fiction?

I’m not walking away from my other writing.  I couldn’t.   But this feeling presses in and I’d like to explore it.  I so enjoy a well-written story, though, that I feel frightened; full of dread at the thought of writing something that is sure to be sub-par.  The name Zadie Smith or Olive Ann Burns comes to mind and makes me want to run for the hills.

Annie Dillard says that putting a book together is life at its most free.  So after hedging and visioning and building a scaffolding in my mind over the past two months, I wrote the opening pages of my first book this week.  So far I have to say the jury is still out on that “life at its most free” thing but I’ll keep ya posted.

Happy New Year

Another trip around the sun, friends, and now we set out once more.  A fresh start.  A clean slate and all the attendant hope that brings.

I’d like to take on the mantle of the seasoned mariner preparing to set sail.  Scouring her boat, adjusting her sails, battening down the hatches and studying the horizon so she can determine her best course.  Scrutinizing the weather and making small adjustments to her vessel so she can maximize the wind and sail steadily along on her chosen trajectory.

sailboat1

It’s time to stockpile provisions and double-check the compass.  It’s time to unfold the map and smooth it out with calloused hands.  It’s time to crosscheck the course and consider new topography.

Come!  It’s a new year!  In the words of Mark Twain, let’s throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor and catch the trade winds in our sails!

———

 

 

P.S. Lest my husband get any grand ideas about me sailing around the world, I’d like to be abundantly clear that this is a metaphor. I’ve been sailing exactly twice.

Dear White Church,

When White Christians today consider the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, I would guess that the vast majority of us look on it favorably.  I know I always have and nearly every White Christian I know does as well.   Equal rights and access for all.  All hail Martin Luther King and I Have a Dream, right?   Well, not exactly.  Did you know that White Christians and most evangelical churches were actually involved in the efforts to thwart the Civil Rights movement?    It’s true.  Churches were either actively outspoken in their opposition to the movement or simply absent from the conversation altogether.

When I was a kid my parents would always sing me happy birthday at the exact moment of my birth.  8:08am.  Every year without fail.  They would sing to my sister at 8:35am.  Every year.  But when we were in high school, my sister and I looked at our birth certificates one afternoon and discovered that the times had inadvertently been switched!  They should have been singing to me at 8:35, not 8:08, and vice versa.  My sister took it in stride but I just couldn’t believe it!  I had always been the 8:08 girl and even after seeing it in writing, I insisted that they sing to me at 8:08.  It was the story I had been told all my life and there was just no changing it.  They still, to this day, call me at 8:08am.

Most White Christians during the Civil Rights era truly believed that segregation was the way God intended things to be.  It was simply the “natural order of things” and it was the story they had been told their entire lives.  Even as millions of people, Christians included, marched and protested and rallied and said, “no, let us tell you a different story,” they just couldn’t believe it.

Now, though, we look back and say, “pshhh, how could they not see?  How could they not know?”   We know better now.  We wouldn’t get something so terribly wrong.

Would we?

Demo-photo-Black-Lives-Matter-sign-400x400

Tens of thousands of people marched in New York City this past week.   Thousands upon thousands marched in Washington, DC.  There have been dozens of other marches around the nation, including several here in Seattle.  There have been walk-outs and die-ins and rallies all across the country.  Yet the collective White Church remains either outwardly outspoken in its opposition of the #BlackLivesMatter movement or absent from the conversation altogether.  We are making the same mistake all over again.  Black people are desperately trying to tell us a different story and we will not listen.

When I was 23 one of my closest college friends lost her cousin in a car accident.  Not just any cousin.  This cousin was like a sister to her and the funeral was only 2 hours away from my house.  I was starting a new job the same day, though, and I was nervous about asking for a later start date.  I was also afraid.  I was afraid of the sadness that I would see.  I was nervous about driving alone and navigating the freeways of Los Angeles.  My presence isn’t important, I told myself.   It’s family time.  They don’t need me to be there.

Not showing up at that funeral is one of my greatest regrets.  It’s inordinately painful to recall my cowardice and my unwillingness to push through my discomfort and show up for my friend.  I had the opportunity to sit with her in her grief and I chose not to do it.  If a situation of that sort were to surface now I hope that I would be brave.  I hope that I would move heaven and earth to be there.  I hope that I would remember my grief and my repentance and my sorrow over that past failure. I hope that I would make a better choice the next time around.

Beloved Church, let’s not make the same mistake again.   We need to confess and lament our action and our inaction from 50 years ago.  We need to confess and lament that we have preserved a theology that has reinforced racial hierarchies and perpetuated systemic injustices.   To do this we need to be brave.  We need to be brave enough to stop telling ourselves the same story over and over and over again.  We need to be brave enough to consider a different story; the story being shouted from the streets of Ferguson and the sidewalk in Staten Island; from the playground in Cleveland and the Wal-Mart in Ohio.  We need to be brave enough to say, “We are sorry that we didn’t listen then.   We are listening now.”

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