the intra-personal - the spirituality we have within
the interpersonal - the spirituality of our close relationships
the spirituality of religious community -
which includes mutual accountability
and the spirituality of our culture, our nation, and our world.
Karen Lebacqz and Joseph Driskill,
use racism as the example of how the wider world -
cultural norms and beliefs, can affect our spirits.
Our abolitionist Unitarian and Universalist ancestors
said slavery caused great suffering
to human beings treated as property
and distorted the spirits of all
who benefited from that suffering.
If we are to have whole and healthy spiritual lives
we must bring healing to the wounds of centuries of racism.
To do this we must look first within ourselves,
taking stock of how racism affects us individually.
How can we heal those inner, psychic wounds?
What balm can we apply to heal the sin-sickness of racism?
Those of us are who are white need to examine ourselves.
I say this not to induce shame, which leaves us helpless,
but to help us find ways we can remove the distortions
racism causes in the core of who we are,
so we can be more whole
and from that wholeness help others
also become more whole.
Next we need to look at how racism affects
our relationships with those close to us.
Do we have friends, family members,
partners from other races? If not, why not?
If so, are we able to talk with each other about race
or does it just sit there, unacknowledged?
How does racism affect our close relationships?
How can we heal any wounds racism has caused
between us and others we love and care about?
Then we can consider how racism may affect us
in this beloved community. Do people of color feel
a part of this community, or apart from this community?
Do they ever feel alienated because of some ways
we who are white act that perpetuate racism
but which we have not yet learned to see.
Are there ways for people of color to speak up
when this happens?
If they do that, how can they feel heard,
seen, and understood?
How can any harm be healed?
How can reconciliation happen?
How do we change our ways of being
so that it happens no more?
Radiating out into our town, our region,
our state and nation, and our world
how does racism affect us?
Where do we see its worst effects?
I say this not to condemn anyone or any group of people.
Condemnation of people makes them “other”
in the same way racism does,
and like racism can lead us to hate them.
Howard Thurman writes about hate in this book
Jesus and the Disinherited.
He writes about the hatred of the oppressor for the oppressed,
and about the hatred of the oppressed for the oppressor.
He says hating the oppressor can be a motivating force
that seems to serve a creative function -
it care drive us to action
but ultimately, he writes,
hatred destroys the core of the life of the one who hates.
It blinds us to valuing the other and even ourselves.
It robs us of our creativity
and the possibility of positive action.
Hatred, Thurman writes, “bears deadly and bitter fruit.”
We do not need to hate people in order to dismantle racism.
In fact, it’s better if we do not succumb to hate.
None of us is as bad as our worst choice in life,
our worst thought, our worst word, our worst action.
And all of us are capable of both bad and good.
The events in Ferguson are only part of what began stirring
my desire to do something about racism.
I am doing chaplaincy training on a trauma unit.
On that unit I see victims of other kinds of hate -
young men and women of color
with bullet holes and stab wounds.
And yes that hate comes partly from
gang violence and turf wars,
but let’s be clear that this violence stems from
the violence of poverty,
the violence of generations of trauma
that keep perpetuating violence,
it comes from the violence of despair.
And it makes me angry.
I imagine the pain of the mothers
of sons and daughters close in age to my own son.
I suspect that those who shot or stabbed
may never be found or prosecuted.
I know that those who caused the poverty,
who allowed drugs to take over those neighborhoods
then created a war on drugs leading to mass incarceration,
in effect punishing people for poverty,
that those who created these multiple
systems of oppression will never, ever be brought to justice.
And I feel angry and I know it as a holy anger
but I do not want to let it become hatred or despair.
It seems too large a thing for us to do anything about.
Some think racism is a permanent part of American culture
but to me that statement sounds like despair -
the spiritual illness that comes from a lack of hope.
How do we counter despair? How do we restore hope?
I like to quote a beloved mentor who says
“There is no hope apart from relationship.”
So to me it seems the way to address despair, to nurture hope,
The way to address racism in our lives,
in our relationships, in our church,
in our town, our region, our commonwealth,
our nation, and world
is by building relationships,
starting close in and radiating out.
And so it seems to me that I need,
and if you’re with me, WE need to build relationships
like those fostered in the Ten Point Coalition -
relationships between clergy,
police officers, and communities of color.
A minister friend did an internship there.
They send two clergy members and two police officers
together into these communities
fractured by racism, poverty and violence,
in order to build relationships - reaching out to youth,
trying to help them escape the prison of hatred,
the prison of fear, and the prison of poverty,
the prison of violence, the prison of despair.
Fostering these relationships
generate hope for those communities
and at the same time helps the police officers
escape those same prisons.
So I want to begin working in my own community
to build relationships across lines of role, race and privilege
that can help to dismantle racism and and injustice.
I believe that I (and we, if you’re with me) should consider
how we might use whatever power and our privilege
we have to dismantle the systems
that give privileges that really ought to be rights.
Safety. Sufficiency. Dignity. Freedom.
Karen Lebacqz says we know we are using our power ethically
when it liberates others, and I would add,
when we use our power this way it also liberates us.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said,
"We cannot be who we ought to be
until others can be what they ought to be.
And they cannot be what they ought to be
until we are who we ought to be."
Someone needs to start that positive cycle
and I’m ready. If you are, join me.
We can use the inescapable network of mutuality,
building relationships that strengthen that network
generating the hope that drives out despair,
healing wounds that are old, broad and deep,
creating the love that can conquer hate
that can help us overcome, and lead us to the freedom land.
Come stand with me. Come hope with me. Come sing with me.