Reconciliation, racism & where we begin

by susan on August 20, 2014

reconciliation-coventry-statue-closeupDuring “dinner church”, we’ve been journeying through a series of biblical stories involving change, challenge and conflict. In case you haven’t noticed, this is a common theme in scripture.  Last Sunday night, we heard the story of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers found in Genesis 45:1-15. Years after selling him into slavery, Joseph’s brothers came to their now powerful brother because they needed something. They were hungry, in need of food.  They found not only food, but forgiveness and a plan for their long-term survival.

In light of the unfolding events in Ferguson, Missouri, it seemed necessary that we think about our own struggle to practice reconciliation.

 How does God’s story guide us toward reconciliation?

What part can our faith community play in bridging the enormous gap between rich & poor, black & white that still separates us as human beings?

How do we, like Joseph, face the truth of who we are in the perpetual injustice of racism that seems to plague us?

Talking about reconciliation can be challenging in and of itself.  Practicing reconciliation is a whole other challenge.  Over these last three years, we’ve learned that being a reconciling presence in our fragmented neighborhood is not going to happen by inviting people to join us.

It’s not going to happen through projects.
It’s not going to happen through events.
It’s only going to happen through relationships.

And, relationships take time and patience.  Some will emerge naturally through our daily activities.  Others will take more effort, like the ones we are hoping to build through our community partnerships with neighborhood nonprofits already doing great work.

Still wanting to do something to put a dent in the grief, despair and loss facing African-American brothers and sisters in Ferguson, we closed our discussion on Sunday by brainstorming ideas for action.  Some good ideas were shared, but I think we left with a sense of the greater challenge.  It’s been stated powerfully in several recent articles and blog posts including this one by Pastor Greg Boyd:

“For us whites to really wake up to the reality of the thick, oppressive, demonic, but (to most of us white people) invisible walls that pervade our culture, we must develop peer relationship with non-whites who will call into question some of our most basic assumptions about American culture, and perhaps about ourselves. This is not easy. It certainly doesn’t happen by cultivating cross-cultural relationships where non-whites are once again in a position of dependency on the whites. The relationships that whites need (if there’s any hope of them “getting it”) are relationships premised on equality, mutual trust, and respect.”

Read Boyd’s entire post at: http://reknew.org/2014/08/ferguson-racism-the-kingdom/

I hope and pray we can stay that course, be faithful to the process, and experience God’s story of reconciliation as it continues to unfold today.

If you are in interested in more related to reconciliation, racism & the church, here are a few places to explore:

  The Church Has Left the Building: http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/08/15/church-has-left-building

  John Perkins: The Sin of Racism Made Ferguson Escalate So Quickly: http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2014/august/john-perkins-sin-of-racism-made-ferguson-escalate-so-quickl.html#bmb=1

  Where is the White Evangelical Response to Ferguson?  http://www.emilytimbol.com/2014/08/where-is-the-white-evangelical-response-to-ferguson/

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