Epiphany Season 2017
Dear EDLARJ Partners:
Crisis is the New Testament term for a time when one must choose between the light and the darkness, between hearing the welcome God extends to all and retreating into chauvinism as though ordained by God. Our crisis now is the choice between an open hand or a closed fist. The crisis confronts us at every turn: religious, social, economic, and political. To ignore or deny that this is a moment of crisis – to close our eyes – is in fact to accede to the darkness even if unwillingly.
In my own work, I have been fully engaged in three areas for some time: health equity, mass incarceration, and climate action. But since Christmas, I’ve also been called to pull together refugee support, train the surge of new activists from the Women’s March in anti-racism, and assist a new coalition for education equity. People of Color suffer in these areas so that the elite descendants from northern Europe can prosper unfairly. That is our heritage for better or worse.
Everywhere I turn there is opportunity to light candles in the darkness, to engage others in deliberation over this moment in history, and to fulfill the Gospel valuation of every person as worthy of the fruit of God’s creation.
It looks to me like I have full employment for the rest of my life. Hear me. I’m not talking about salary. I mean employment in the work of God.
How about you? Are you fully employed? Are you lighting candles and adding your voices among the vigils for justice and equity? Are you showing up for racial justice and doing your own work of de-constructing the internalized racism in which you were reared?
Please, go to work on yourself and with your neighbor. Work on your own internalized racism, find your implicit biases and purify yourself in the way Dr. King speaks about in his Birmingham letter. Please, identify your neighbors who are also drawn by a vision in which the color of skin is not a meaningful filter in society so that as accomplices and true allies the institutional racism in your town is addressed. You will find it in the school system, in housing, and in policing, and in the church. We don’t get a pass on this, especially the ELCA, whitist church in the USA.
So here are three areas to work in.
- Do your own personal work on racism. Learn where your family came from and the history of public policies that benefited or disadvantaged you. Read up on the histories of other people written by their own kind. Pursue a narrative in which all peoples are recognized. Partner with, and befriend, people of other ethnic heritage. Stop living in your own bubble thinking you’re the perfect kind of thing God had in mind. That’s unhealthy for you and the world. As Paul says, no one should think more of him/herself than he/she ought.
- Seek out the other ELCA ethnic associations represented in your synod and region, and ask them how you can support their work. Get behind them. There are six altogether; look them up. They will lead well; be a great follower.
- Look about in your community for Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ); become active. There’s an intention now within the Movement for Black Lives for creating the space in which Whites can address their historic privileges and the prevalence of patriarchy in their midst. Those of European descent need to be in those spaces alongside others in the community journeying together through the darkness within us to the light of a new day. That’s not just a corny metaphor. Jesus says that if our eyes can project a false image about reality rather than reveal what’s truly real. If the truth is not in us, we will not easily see it in the world. We’ve got to be in spaces that address unfair, immoral racist preferences and white supremacist consciousness. It’s like a 12-step program for becoming truly human.
The European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice has seen growth in the number of partners register on our website and likes on our Facebook page @EALAnet. We want to become more intentional in supporting the #DecolonizeLutheranism movement and in preparation for the Rostered Leaders Gathering in Atlanta this August. We need media volunteers – website and social media – to help further our mission. New board members are also desired. Contact me if you wish to apply for the board or volunteer in media. See crossculturalchurch.org and click at top About the EDLARJ for my email address.
As Lent approaches, think about the call of nonviolence and to racial equity. Use the Sermon of the Mount as a guide and the transformation stories of John as examples. Be mindful that we are entering the Jubilee Year of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., death. On April 4, 1967, he gave his profound sermon “Beyond Vietnam” in which he named racism, militarism and extreme materialism as triplets of reinforcing evil in society. A year to the day later he was assassinated in Memphis, where he was supporting a labor action to recognize the humanity of Black garbage workers. This is the year to learn new ways of organizing in the community. Our evangelizing should be organizing because Jesus sends us to call the Beloved Community together.
I serve both as director of an ecumenical agency and a parish pastor. There is a breach in our church body over being involved in the racial justice movement. I face that breach every day. In my context, it has a definite generational character. If the work were easy, we wouldn’t need to do it. It’s hard work to mid-wife transformation in those who’ve built their lives around a truncated version of the human project. Rejoice in the occasions when the light shines forth. I’ve found ministry to be no more rewarding!
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer