A Word form Laura: Charlottesville and Courage

Image from peacesupplies.org

Last weekend’s events in Charlottesville still have me thinking.  My sermon was about courage and fear, acknowledging that without fear, we cannot have courage.  I didn’t know then what I feared, but that has become clearer, not because I want to be afraid, but because we all need courage.

As scary as the KKK, neo-Nazis and right-wing militia can be, I’m not as much afraid of the people themselves as I am of their anger and violence. My faith says that the right-wing protesters, their world view, and everything they stand for are based on lies. The truth of God’s love, justice, and peace will ultimately defeat their hatred, racism and violence.  I am afraid we’ll forget God’s truth.

As much as I hate what Confederate statues represent, I am afraid of what happens – and has already happened – when we forget the past, both its strengths and its horror.  As a nation, we don’t struggle enough with history that cannot be denied, that the same men who founded our nation on principles of freedom, liberty and justice based their own livelihoods on slavery and inequality.  As faithful people, particularly those of us who have been told we’re white, we need to keep struggling with how we benefit from a world that privileges whiteness.  I am afraid that some of us will forget our need to struggle with how the past shapes us today.

I am also worried about people of good faith.  I am afraid of becoming more cynical, that outrage, anger and fear will beat down the compassion and joy in our hearts, leaving only a cold, hard path.  I am afraid we’ll forget this journey to racial justice is long and hard, that if it were easy we would be there already. I want to remember that the Spirit is working along the way, giving those who join the journey the chance to see each other, ourselves, and the divine in a new and holy light.

“Take heart.  I am with you.  Do not be afraid,” Jesus said.  Last weekend in Charlottesville, as awful as it was, gives us some chances to try taking heart, having courage.  Our mission ministry team discussed new opportunities for our congregation and community, one of which involves joining with Free Minds to host James Forman, author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.  Thanks to Sherry Trafford.

On vacation, I’m bringing Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Georgetown faculty member Michael Eric Dyson.  An ordained Baptist minister Dyson believes that no matter our religious faith, our moral and spiritual passion can lead to a better day for our nation, and that confronting our “poisonous history” is essential for love and hope.  If you’re looking for a final summer book, join me in reading!

And while I will be out of town, I hope you will join the interfaith rally against white supremacy at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church at 3 pm this Sunday, August 20. And I’m supporting the One Thousand Ministers March for Justice on August 28.  It may be in only in spirit, given family commitments in North Carolina, but if I can make it back, I hope to join in person.

In light of Charlottesville, what are you afraid of, and what act of courage will you take?

Blessings for your journey, with gratitude for the Spirit at work,