How do we dare?

May 29th, 2015

How Do They Dare?

Purple Black Divinity,
Brown Devoid of Enmity
Pecan Tan and Shining White
Glistening Yellow, Gold Delight
Olive Glimmer and Shimmering Red,
Love Alive, No Color Dead.
My Created Gift, in Varied Color
How Do They Dare, not Love Each Other?*

Pigmentation — as spectacular as it enhances, as exquisite as it is in every God-kissed body that finds immersion in it — cannot be the sum total of defining another human being. The color of one’s skin should not deny the consecration of one continued existence, nor should it measure the promise of one’s personhood. The dastardly manner in which this artificial distinction has been used to subjugate, dehumanize, humiliate and quarantine God’s creation called human is at once heart-rending and malicious. It is heart-rending because so many wounds continue to be fostered by it. It is malicious because the vicious lie of race continues to be used — across the length and breath of the globe — to justify crimes against God and God’s people.  

And the lie demands a response. The lie owns no reason to escape account, no justification not to be addressed, no rationale for a consent breeding silence among those who claim to love people, to love truth and to love the God found in Jesus. As with any social evil, any genocide propagating prevarication birthed in the sin-sick souls of God’s precious yet twisted humanity, it stops only when addressed, when called for what it is and when those who stand with God — in love of all — say no more. The lie shouts for a justifying alternative.

The horrific shame of it, the audacious and terrible truth is that some speak not, because of past shame. Some declare that to say Baltimore, to utter Ferguson, to articulate Staten Island is to decry and defame those cities. They claim it is to disparage and to deprecate the cities and their people. These are they who want others not to feel badly about the past wrongs accorded to race. They desire that no one undergo the offense of hearing that their city or neighborhood lives in race grounded hate.

Meanwhile, because of the false characterizations and the horrible misrepresentations attributed to race — especially, but not only, Black — men and women are being hounded, detained, tortured, mutilated, incapacitated and murdered. Let us be clear about the geographic significance. It does not exist. Race hate, and its impact, is ubiquitous. Baltimore could be Bluefield. Ferguson might be Fort Wayne. Staten Island can be Statesville. The violation, not the location, is the point. This injustice around race and its catastrophic after-effects violate the sensibilities of the sovereign God who is known in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Something can be done. Something must be done. Pulpits should articulate God’s visionary, love-saturated decree. The ineffectual pretext of "no politics in church" has no place in the faith that declares resurrection after the unjust but legally accepted execution (read: justified lynching) of its Lord. This faith esteems a holy document that praises mass exodus from slavery to freedom by spiritual forbears. It offers consistent challenge to collective kidnappings called exiles. Such faith cannot betray itself in such a manner when lives are at stake. The church must be responsive.  

Disciples of Jesus can respond by practicing a faith that refuses to cower before present circumstances. The church needs to respond with a Spirit-formed Word, a holistic ministry that repudiates demonization by race. The twin myths of White supremacy and Black inferiority — as well as the economy built because of the myths — must be turned on their heads in the church. Preaching should challenge and instruct, educating to end racist ignorance. People of all hues should be received and valued, renouncing the conception that any child of God is not treasured. Then the incarnation of justice-laden love will usher forth, advancing the God-ordained conviction that presumes all creation as precious. Adoration for every soul and skin of the human family will be the rule of love, not the exception of law. In every manifestation of church — local churches, campuses, prisons, hospitals, appointive cabinets, adjudicatory offices — the rule of love should be the custom and the aim. Disciples of Jesus must make this live.

This living is not merely ministry in the church. Church practice must intend to impact public policy. Demonstrations — politically and economically — affirming that Black lives do matter, not as exceptions to other lives but as obligations for all lives, can emerge in society by the church leading the way. In partnership with other organizations and entities, the church must call government and business to account for behavior that penalizes based on race, transforming the behavior. Halls of government and places of commerce can move beyond symbolic tolerance; they can promote respect and acceptance. Disciples of Jesus can inspire the development of life-upholding programs. Policy making must move from secular documents to sacred determinations, from mere writing to resolute work that permits love to be shown, even, and especially, in times of conflict based in the falsehood of race difference.

This must happen. There is but one question: what will disciples of Jesus do? From every level of our church— Annual Conferences, Charge Conferences, General conferences and Jurisdictional conferences — what substantial and decisive actions will establish love and validate our mission claims? Can our stated mission be genuine while so many pulpits and podiums, desks and portfolios, agendas and meetings, conference calls and summits offer no voice?

How dare they?

No. How dare we?

*How Do They Dare? Copyright © by Vance P. Ross, All Rights Reserved.  

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