“It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles them, but the thing that comes out that defiles.”
We have had a week of confrontation, violence and even murder. We have had displays of ignorance, hate, anger and fear.
We have seen people stand up to hate- even at the risk of their well-being.
“It is the thing that comes out that defiles.”
And what is this defilement?
It is in believing that I am better than anyone else- and then saying that.
Defilement is this: hateful thoughts that become words that become actions that defile this world.
It starts with thoughts that become words, words that are not loving.
It is in saying that other human beings are inferior to me.
It is in saying that certain human beings have no right to live.
It is in speaking hate.
And what is hate?
Hate is a fundamental denial of the reality that every human being on this planet is made in the image and likeness of God. It is a refusal to believe in the fundamental goodness and value of every human being.
This is against what we believe. To quote the Book of Common Prayer’s ritual for Baptism- which most of us have participated in once or twice during the past few months:
“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin repent and return to the Lord?
I will with God’s help.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people; and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will with God’s help.”
This is what we believe.
If you don’t believe that, this is not the place for you.
We must be totally clear. In the words of pastor Jay Abramson:
“Racism is an extremely dangerous sin, invisible to the one suffering under it. Jesus condemned it when He commanded, “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” No one who holds racist beliefs can call themselves a Christian. The group in Charlottesville held these views against all but Anglo-Americans. Those views have led them, in the past and now in our present, to despicable acts of violence.
How should we respond to these events?
You and I are not able to recognize the disease of racism in ourselves. We need to find another Christian to pray with us and honestly help us identify any racist tendencies so that, through the Holy Spirit, we can follow the instructions of 2 Corinthians 10:5 and “take every thought captive,” and then daily live out Jesus’ command of love. If you are Anglo, I suggest you find a believer of another ethnicity for this purpose.
We live in dangerous times. Racism has destroyed whole cultures and it will destroy ours unless it is fully and finally dealt with. Followers of Christ should be at the forefront of this healing process. May we all enter into a season of concentrated prayer to that end.”
Former Presiding Bishop Edmond Lee Browning wrote in 1997:
“Sunday at 11 O’clock is the most segregated hour in the American week. The history of every religious denomination in our country is shot through with the scars of racism- fresh scars and older ones. Racial bigotry frequently cloaks itself in religious language.
We all recoil from its extremes, like the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation, but we must acknowledge the link between even the politest prejudice and violence. It is a short step from holding a group in contempt to considering that group less than human. If it is true that the longest journey begins with a single step, it is true for ill as well as good, and small hatreds are the first steps toward great ones.
The custodians of a society’s religious and moral traditions are precisely the ones who constitute the greatest danger; we are the ones people look to for guidance. If we begin to lead those who seek God down a path leading to hatred, or stand quietly by while others lead them there, they may well follow. And the judgment against us in heaven will be more severe. Our God of love can only be served with love. If we- of all people- succumb to the virus of bigotry and hate that afflicts so much of the world, our state is a grievous one indeed.”
So, what do we do?
We love until it’s the hardest thing that we’ve ever done in our lives. We love until it hurts; we love even if we bleed, we love until our strength is gone- we may have to love until we lose our very lives.
Just as Jesus did.
We must choose the power of love over the love of power- just as Jesus did.
And most importantly, we don’t stand silent in the face of injustice, oppression or abuse.
We stand up. We speak out. We do it, because as Christians we MUST- even if we are crucified because of it.
Because we are created in love; we are created by love; we are created for love; we are created TO love.
Let us pray.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Speak the Word and we shall be created, and together we’ll renew this pained and confused world.”