“Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…..” I’m thinking those words sound pretty good until you’re laying dead in your church basement after a Bible study. I bet they sound pretty good unless you’re a Native American living on a reservation. I’m betting they sound pretty good until you find out that your child has just been murdered at school of all places. I wonder if they ring true if you’re an African American who is afraid of being stopped by the police just for the color of your skin?
Our country is sick. Our country is ill. Sometimes I wonder if the illness is terminal.
We’ve done it to ourselves. We’re junkies. We keep injecting ourselves with the poison and drugs of violence and hate. We just can’t get enough. These powerful narcotics have left us in the same state as we would find an addict on the street. Sick, emaciated, bones showing, injection marks all over, a mere shadow of a great people, nowhere near what we should be or could be.
And really, why bother to sound so surprised? We’ve been taking these drugs of hate and violence since we were a young nation, since the first Europeans stepped off the boats in North America. Indigenous peoples were slaughtered wholesale, infected with communicable diseases, or rounded up and shipped off as we stole their land and homes. It’s our own little Holocaust, buried deep in our history, yet today we still have the scars as we see the extreme poverty on many tribal reservations.
Then we decided that another whole race of people were inferior to us, so we imported them over here and forced them to do our bidding. While the rich, wealthy, white, male aristocrats sat and penned high sounding lines touting “all men are created equal” and talking about “We the People,” black people sat in chains throughout the nation, the ravaging of native populations continued unabated, and women were a second class version of their male counterparts.
Most of the people we exploited never had a chance. Our culture of violence and love of the weapons of destruction made sure of that.
While all this was going on, we claimed to be a Christian nation. Yet you would be hard pressed to find the teachings of Jesus Christ applied in our policy or national ethos in any way, shape, or form. We do not bless the poor. We treat them as a blight on our society. We dismiss those who mourn because doing something other than expressing a platitude on social media is just too much of an inconvenience. We are certainly not humble nor do we value those who are. Instead it’s all about us as individuals and how much power and wealth we can attain. We do not bless those who hunger and thirst for justice. Seeking justice might mean facing uncomfortable truths about ourselves and the way we operate. We sweep these justice issues under the rug and hope they go away. We are not merciful. Anyone who does anything remotely wrong needs to be punished to the fullest extent possible. Instead of showing mercy and grace, we strive for revenge, just as a culture addicted to hate and violence would do. Our hearts are not pure. Instead of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves we constantly look after our own interests. We rarely, if ever, work for peace. That just goes against the culture of violence and hate, which is big business and makes a lot of people very rich. Finally, we ourselves persecute people who try to live by the Way of Christ, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. They are shunned as unpatriotic, or weak or any number of different labels.
Each one of those issues leaves a myriad of scars on the collective body of our country: the junkie on the corner. Realistically, we know that the drugs of hate and violence are bad for us. Nobody wants to be the victim of violence, hate, racism, sexism, or anything else. We see the affect that these powerful drugs have on us. Yet….every time we turn on the tv, the radio, the game console….every time we got to the movie theater and sometimes even when we go to church, we take another shot, another injection, another hit of the poison.
The blood of our friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters literally cries out from the ground for justice, for mercy, for love, and for peace, yet we do nothing. We need another hit, another injection, one that will surely leave another scar and perhaps hasten our end in the long run.
I believe that there is someone who can help us. I believe that this man has his messengers already throughout the country. People who truly follow The Way of this man love justice, peace, and righteousness and want to work toward those ends. The man whom they follow is known by his scars as well, marks in his hands, feet, and side. This man was the first of a new creation, a new world which we are all meant to be a part.
But Christ isn’t going to wave a magic wand and make this all disappear. We have to work at it. If we as Christians don’t fix this, who will? The politicians won’t. They’re too busy figuring out what promises to make and what lies to tell in order to get elected. The corporations won’t either. Too many people make too much money off the culture of hate and violence. For all the good that science does explaining the wonderful world around us, people in white lab coats will not be able to change the hearts and minds of our people and our culture.
If not us, who? If not now, when? How many more people have to die? How long will people have to live in fear because of the color of their skin, their gender, or who they love?
That’s probably the most powerful drug of all: the deep darkness of fear.
God’s light came into the world, but the people loved the darkness more than the light because their actions were evil. (John 3:19b NLT)
Will you join me, and others around the country, in the light? Even if you’re not a Christian, you know that stuff like this is destroying us as a people. We can work together to end this, to heal our land and our people. This would be beneficial to all of us. Start with the people closest to you. Tell them how much love them and value them. Listen to others as they are hurt or in need. Bear each other’s burdens, bind each other’s wounds, and encourage others to do the same.
This how we do it, how we change: person by person, brick by brick. Please start today. Please start right now.
Above all I would like to extend my thoughts and prayers to the people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. May the Spirit pour out his blessings of comfort and peace upon you. Know that you are not alone.