I have decided to put this in writing with the hope that it may help some in understanding something of what is stirring in our society these days.
Be inspired and encouraged with a weekly reflection on God’s Word and every day life.
I have finally started wearing hearing aids, and it has been quite an adjustment. I know a lot of us have had to begin using these devices. The one thing my audiologist has to keep me reminding me about is how my brain must be involved in how I use them. Once the aids are in my ears, it requires a tremendous rebooting for my brain because it has to regulate my hearing in a new way.
These last few months under the harsh realities of COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd, our brains have had to make serious reboots. What was normal then is not normal now. How do we make rational decisions now in the face of the “wear a mask/don’t wear a mask” controversy; get a haircut or not; participate in protests or not; write letters to our leaders to encourage them to rethink how America will continue or not. You get it.
Our brains have to make a new balance and help us relearn how to live in our various settings. We have to relearn how to prioritize; to define our values once again. The question looms large out there – do we just go back to the way it was or have we been able to learn better ways? That is what our brain is trying to make sense about, and we can’t rush it. It has been too used to the way things always were, but then that’s the way most of us would like it to be – THE WAY THINGS WERE! I guess one of my hopes is that this virus and the horrendous murders of so many Black people will make us say we can NEVER go back to the way things were.
I hate the way things were and I see so many possibilities for us to make the words of an old Mamas and Papas song come to life.
There’s a new world coming
And it’s just around the bend….
There’s a new voice calling,
You can hear it if you try….
Coming in peace, coming in joy,
Coming in love.
An awful lot of people call that “pie in the sky” language; but I think the roots of those words are found in the Word. Jesus preached a new world order and told his first followers they had better get crackin’ to establish a different way of living where the last will be first from now on! It is a world of paradigm shifts, revolution and systemic change. Are you in?
We would like to believe that progress towards racial equality is being made, but Sister Anne Lythgoe’s blog on Michael Eric Dyson’s “Tears We Cannot Stop” is even more relevant today than when it was written in 2017.
At the moment I am reading a very disturbing essay by Michael Eric Dyson: “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America”. In it, Dyson speaks as a black Baptist minister to white folks about what it really means to be black in America. It is personal, angry, and there is little comfort in his pages. I have never read such a straightforward and troubling piece, exposing me to the realities faced by our black brothers and sisters in this country. I am disturbed by it because I see my own whiteness contributing to the systemic indifference to black experience that has kept racism (and violence as an acceptable norm) alive for 400 years.
Dyson’s sermon is difficult reading, not because it is intellectually challenging. I simply can’t go too quickly, because every word of it feels like an indictment, a pointed, loving slap of cold water on my face. It is an assault on my assumptions to read his words, yet the tone and credibility of his preaching keep me on the page. He speaks with respect toward white folk, calling us “beloved”, telling us like it is and at the same time, he does not let us off the hook. The Presidency of Barack Obama, the ascendency of Donald Trump’s unapologetic bigotry, the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick, the sad story of Levi Pettit, and numerous examples of black folk victimized by errant police without accountability – all are laid bare and given a new context, a new perspective.
His essay calls to mind the famous songwriters Simon and Garfunkel and their emotionally stirring song: Bridge Over Troubled Water. There really is a great deal of troubled water under the bridge, much of it is our own making.
His encouragement to white folks comes in an exhortation to empathy.
“Beloved, all of what I have said should lead you to empathy. It sounds simple, but its benefits are profound. Whiteness must shed its posture of competence, its will to omniscience, its belief in its goodness and purity, and then walk a mile or two in the boots of blackness. The siege of hate will not end until white folk imagine themselves as black folk – vulnerable despite our virtues. If enough of you, one by one, exercise your civic imagination and puts yourself in the shoes of your black brothers and sisters, you might develop a democratic impatience for injustice, for the cruel disregard of black life, for the careless indifference to our plight…
Do not tell us how we should act if we were you; imagine how you would act if you were us. Imagine living in a society where your white skin marks you for disgust, hate, and fear. Imagine that for many moments. Only when you see black folk as we are, and imagine yourselves as we have to live our lives, only then will the suffering stop, the hurt cease, the pain go away.”
In reading this essay, I realize white folk need not fear Dyson’s words. His indignation is genuine, his anger righteous, his hope born from deep faith. I urge everyone to read it. The bridge over troubled waters is us.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America is available from Amazon.com and other sources in several formats.
Michael Eric Dyson is an award-winning author, a widely celebrated Georgetown University sociology professor, a prominent public intellectual and a noted political analyst. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Dyson is the winner of the American Book Award for Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. His book The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America was a Kirkus Prize finalist. Dyson has written 19 books.
We began this week on Trinity Sunday, a feast which often pulls preachers to try to “explain” or illustrate the mystery, which too often stays at the level of ideas and misses the day to day pull of the Trinity in our lives; the pull to share unity,or oneness. Catherine LaCugna, theologian and author explains that there are two ways we can ponder Trinity: as “Essential Trinity,” that is, the inner essence or life of the three-in–one, an exploration which could be called speculative theology, and the Economic Trinity, the Trinity we meet in our lives, who we experience present and moving in and through us every day.
With the amazing crowds of demonstrators filling our streets these last two weeks, with the stark reality of the divisions and inequality in our society laid out for us to see writ large, there’s no time like the present to be contemplating about One-ness.
Theologians who have been scoping out the inner life of the trinity, the Three-in-one, seem to think that the three divine persons have an eternally wonderful time being Trinity, for ages unending dancing their stately circle dance of perichoresis: a never-broken exchange of love, the ecstatic overflowing of divine life in creation and redemption.
But right now it is quite evident to us that the being-one to which we are called, is not a “fun-one,” that the work of joining of hearts in our world is, to slightly misquote Dostoevsky’s Father Zosima, “A harsh and terrible reality.”
Making Oneness a human reality is a labor. The words we generate about the mystery revealed to us in Jesus –as we’ve just heard again the Beatitudes in Matthew–mercy, poorness of spirit, pureness of heart, peace, justice—are nice, but they have to applied. By us. To people. All kinds of people.
This demands that we exercise our call to be part of, to be witnesses of Oneness, to our destiny in the Spirit of Christ Jesus, to be more open, to do more listening, interceding, showing up, growing in our presence to, and as peace.
Who are we called to be one with?
The angry, the disagreeable, the intransigent, the bitter, the desperate, the unforgiving.
People who irritate and exhaust us.
And additionally, people who sin against us. People who do not wish us well. People who stand against the beliefs we profess, mocking the things we stand for, we hope for –and would stop us if they could.
The pull of the trinity at work in its everlasting overflowing is one we feel in our longings to be one, based in Jesus’ own desire, recapitulated by the Spirit who is mysteriously pulling together thousands of people suddenly awake in this moment of revelation: we are NOT one. And there is a new urgency, a re-calling of this most basic truths to be brought to a changed reality.
How shall we witness? How shall we advance the endless Giving-forth of the Trinity, the reality of a God always at work among us?
I’m pretty sure that the ecstasis of God, that constant overflow and return of abundant love that we are caught up in, and assent to being part of, feels to us more like kenosis, the emptying or pouring out of self that Jesus Incarnate shares with us. There is labor, and the exercise of patience, and the continuing-on in spite of defeats, and a demand that we face our own unholy truth, our own unexamined complicity in racism and other divisiveness.
Jesus prays “May they all be one” and it is not just a plea but a sacred promise that we grow into our oneness, or better, are gathered into oneness by the Trinity which is always at work accomplishing its own mystery, and delighting in our inclusion.
There is no law on any book at any level of our government that states we are obligated to wear a face mask. Check it out. Some states have mandated them but synonyms for mandate are directive, instruction, direction, and how seriously do we take those at all times?
The decision to wear a face mask is a moral one not a legal one; thus our difficulty in wanting to decide to do it. We are soooo good at making moral decisions in our country that we had to legalize abortion and the death penalty on national levels and euthanasia is legal in some states. At least going to war takes an act of Congress….or does it? None of those are moral acts but making them legal lets us think we have no choice. Do those laws thus make us more free? Is that why we can’t decide to wear a face mask because there’s no law for or against it thus some level of freedom is being denied to us?
I am in no way a scientist or medical professional. I have to listen to them and trust their judgment. I also have to be perceptive enough to know the charlatans among them who cater to the whims of their supporters. So all in all I have to do what is best for the common good and wearing a face mask, steaming up my glasses, muffling my speech and having to repeat myself, being uncomfortable and letting people question my sanity for wearing one—it is all part of keeping everyone as safe as I know how. I don’t have the answers to how this all happened or how we will make it all end, not my job. If I value the quality of my life and want the best for others around me, making the moral choice might save the day.