Thursday, October 22 2020
Welcome to The Chronicle, our monthly newsletter for St. John’s | San Juan. An incredible amount has happened since I last wrote for The Chronicle! I’ve traveled around the state on sabbatical, visiting some truly gorgeous places, and also spent a lot of time in reflection and contemplation, wondering about where God is calling us as a community, and how we can respond together. I’d like to focus on some of that reflection this month.
One of the great luxuries of my sabbatical time was being able to spend a whole week by myself at Angie’s family cabin outside Leavenworth, on the banks of the Icicle Creek. I only went into town twice that week (mostly for groceries and books at the local bookstore), and otherwise spent the time at the cabin reading. I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia, which I hadn’t read since I was a young teenager (and which I’m hoping to read with my kids now that they’re getting old enough to really appreciate them), and a lot of poetry (which I enjoy tremendously), as well as reading a number of books on race in America.
My sabbatical time coincided with a continuing conversation about race in the United States that was inaugurated by the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, and was accelerated this summer by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ve written elsewhere of how personal the strife in Minneapolis has been for me; it’s my home, and many of my closest friends still live there today. My sister and I both used to live mere blocks from the Third Precinct, the building the policed abandoned during the unrest, and which was subsequently burned down (by young men, most of whom were white and causing mayhem). Good friends of mine opened a (wildly successful) pie shop on March 14 just a couple of blocks from where Floyd was killed (I only mention the day they opened because it’s so incredibly unlucky that they opened a storefront business just weeks before the whole world shut down due to COVID-19).
Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners and a public theologian and author, has described racism as (and even named one of his books) America’s Original Sin, and it’s hard to disagree with him. Racism has been part of our national narrative since the founding of the United States; while it’s true that the only time the word “slavery” is used in the US Constitution is in its abolition in Amendment XIII, it’s still clearly evident in the original document, including the three-fifths compromise in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, in which three of every five slaves is allowed to be counted toward the population of a state for the purposes of federal taxes and apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.
Racism has only one beneficiary: white people. We are the ones who have benefitted from it since the founding of our nation. And it is our problem to fix. As the US saw in the years following the Obama administration, electing a Black president did not cure our country of racism, not did it prove that we had finally conquered it. In some ways, we brought racism into the light to really examine and begin dismantling. At the same time, it has shown us how far we have yet to go.
The overt, recognizable expressions of racism I denounce, and I know that you join me in doing so (as do most people of faith). But if we leave unexamined the more subtle ways that racism, white privilege, white supremacy, affect our community and those we love and support in Jesus’ name. As a multicultural community of faith, if we don’t wrestle with racism and work actively against it, we will never be able to truly become the Beloved community that God continually calls us to be.
This work will be uncomfortable for some of our members. If antiracism work were easy, I suspect our nation would already have done it. But this work is important precisely because it is hard. We can’t live the promises of our Baptismal Covenant fully without working against the insidious power of racism. And by persevering in this work, even though it can be uncomfortable and difficult, we will make the Reign of Christ real on earth now.
The Outline of the Faith (commonly called the Catechism) in the Prayer Book defines the mission of the church as “restor[ing] all people to unity with God and each other,” which is pursues “as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” (P. 855 of the BCP in English, and p. 747 in Spanish). These conversations, as uncomfortable as they may be, will help us all take part in pursuing the reconciling mission of the church, to the glory of God, and for the good of all creation. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all in the months to come.