By Fr. David Rose
Like most of us, I have continued to watch the unrest and protests that began with the murder of George Floyd unfold across our country, including in our own backyard in Savannah and Atlanta. I have alternatively felt support, grief, sadness and disappointment at both the protests and the responses they have provoked. After reflecting and praying the past week, I want to speak to my white Christian sisters and brothers and say that this is our moment, and we had better not miss it.
This is our moment and we cannot let it slip away this time. Too many moments have already come and gone over the years. It would be easy to dismiss the protests out of hand as riots, saying that if the protests won’t happen peacefully then they get what they deserve. It would be easy to make it all political and partisan, saying my political party is on this side so I’m sticking with them. It would be easy to simply say that this doesn’t affect me or my loved ones so why do I need to get involved. In short, it would be easy to dismiss or rationalize away the unrest, and by doing so dismiss the underlying cause and fuel of this unrest — that our black sisters and brothers are hurting.
Let that sink in for a moment because this message is easy to lose between the politics, the news cycle and our own discomfort. The pain is real with the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and many, many more. I can’t ignore the words of Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part of the body suffers, all suffer with it.” Our black neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members are hurting, and it is past time for us to respond in a constructive and healing way. This is our moment to listen, be honest with ourselves and to act.
We must listen to the stories that are different from our own. It is time to collectively listen to the stories of prejudice and the way the system operates differently for different people. Let’s listen to the stories of fear, silencing and marginalization. It is time to listen to the stories of lynchings (including those that happened in Effingham County); of events such as the Ebenezer Creek Massacre and Tulsa race riots; of death threats being leveled against those (including pastors) who attempt to speak out still. Let’s listen to the stories of disappointment that we, you and me fellow white Christian, have not actively done more or have stayed silent when this pain has been expressed before.
After listening, its time to respond honestly. Again, it is past time for us to acknowledge to ourselves and to our hurting brothers and sisters thateven if we attempt to not see different races or colors of people, our society does. And if we are truly being honest, it’s time to get over our discomfort and fear and admit that we also see race and color. It’s a good thing to not show bias or prejudice as individuals but when our individual attempts keep us blind to a larger societal problem, then its time to take the blinders off and fix that issue. The issue confronting us today is systemic racism — plain and simple.
Once we are finally honest about the larger systems and structures that our ancestors constructed and we have benefitted from, we are able to begin to act in a healing way. We can begin to dismantle a deeper form of racism than personal prejudice. his work will take all of us. It’s also going to be hard and take time. But, this is our moment to begin to heal and repair damage that has been done for generations. This is out time to act. We act by speaking up at every single opportunity. We act by showing up and standing in solidarity. We act by implementing changes to unjust systems in every area of life. When unjust systems are dismantled, it is then that the beloved community can begin to take shape — not before.
When we know better, we do better. For my part, I will choose to listen, be honest and then act. To do otherwise when I know that my black sisters and brothers are hurting is a sin. It would be like walking on the other side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan. To dismiss the experiences of our black brothers and sisters is the opposite of the Golden rule that Jesus taught — to do to others what you would have them do to you. To dismiss or ignore at this point is the definition of dead faith — not to act to help a sister or brother in need. I call upon my fellow pastors in every predominantly white church in Effingham to do the same.
The pain and frustration we are witnessing erupting to the surface through the protests — whether constructive or destructive — needs a redemptive response. The ball is in our court and how we choose to respond will determine whether healing and reconciliation can happen, or if we will continue to see more unrest, mistrust, desperation and anger in the future. Fellow white Christians, this is our moment and we can not let this moment slip by.
Fr. David Rose
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Rincon