As I write this the people of Houston and Miami are still in the early stages of disaster relief and trying to find their way back from hurricanes Harvey and Irma that have left 92 dead, tens of thousands displaced and over $200 billion in damage in their wake.
But in the midst of the destruction and devastation there are also reports of amazing stories of people helping one another through it. We have seen this before, in fact, we almost always see the human spirit of compassion come together in times like these. There is story after story of people reaching out to save one another, and no one was asking about the race or religion of the person they rescued. Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and people of every social background risked their own lives to save another in peril, and they did it without hesitation.
Just a few weeks earlier we were seeing stories of a different kind of destruction from a very un-natural disaster – that of racial tension and hate that came to the breaking point in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sadly, the devastation from that kind of disaster is laced with language of hate and division instead of words that inspire unity and compassion. Both of these storms – both natural and un-natural – bring with them opportunities to discover the truth of who we are as individuals and as people. I truly feel that as people of faith, regardless of our denominational stripes or religious affiliation, we can help lead the way to that can take us all to a new place, a better place.
For better or worse, the whole world is watching America. Many are also watching and listening for how the people of faith will respond in this moment. What will they see? What will they hear? These are critical times and this is a moment when the prophetic voices of those who claim to follow a God of compassion, love, truth and reconciliation need to step up and lead the way for those who are hoping for a way forward. There are many current prophetic voices crying out now. The Reverend William Barber, Jim Wallice, and others are making themselves heard and not a moment too soon. And they are all speaking about the importance of no longer remaining in denial or in complicit silence about our societal sin of racism. If we are to truly seize the moment of truth that is being offered, we must come to honest grips with who we are through truth telling and a real desire for reconciliation and healing.
We are having the conversation in our church. We are taking the risk to step into a safe and sacred space of truth-telling and reconciliation. I hope that every single person will find a way – a safe place to tell their own story and speak their truth about racism and break the chains that imprison us all. It is the only way forward. It is the only way to lay a solid foundation of that can carry us forward to a new promised land where not only do we treat all people as equal, but truly believe that we are. This is what the kingdom of heaven can look like right here on earth, but we have a long way to go and it’s going to be hard work.
I will end with this blessing from William Sloane Coffin:
May God give you grace never to sell yourself short.
Grace to risk something big for something good.
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth,
and too small for anything but love.