In my last blog post, I mentioned that I was affected by word offerings at my church’s Black History Month service. I will share one of the word offerings that I heard.
After the guest speaker finished his testimony, my pastor asked the other ministers if they had remarks. A minister, who happened to be White, spoke bravely to the audience. On behalf of his race, he apologized for the pain that “his people” caused Black people. He commented that “racism is America’s original sin.”
In my pew, I focused on his thoughtfulness. I hadn’t expected his apology. Instead, I thought he would make the usual remarks that most ministers made at the end of a service. Yet, he turned the service into a moment of reconciliation. He exposed racial wounds and initiated healing.
We have all had to apologize for an offense. An apology makes us ponder our own failings and admit them to another person. Hopefully after the apology, one is able to avoid making the same mistake again. When *Pastor Allen said that he was sorry, he acknowledged a history of slavery, racial epithets, and discriminatory practices.
He did not ignore that these incidents happened and still happen.
He took the microphone and allowed empathy to spill out on Black faces. In my social work program, I hear a lot about empathy. My professors explain how social workers should work vigorously to understand their clients’ lives. To me, empathy is about trading places with another person. Literally, you are shedding away your selfishness. You are crawling into someone’s skin and bones in order to feel their agony.
In America, we need more empathy. In the Church, empathy should invade us. Though, empathy can make us uncomfortable. When believers of color decide to express the impact of racism in their lives to White believers, will the dialogue get hard? If it does, I deem that it needed to land in that place.
We have to jump into the mud. Our shoes must rip apart. Our jeans should get filled with muck. Then, we are not side stepping around people’s experiences with race and racism.
In Relevant Magazine’s “Justice for Black Lives Must Begin With Us,” Propaganda, a Christian hip hop artist, echoed my yearning for empathy and dialogue. The interviewer noted that the Church has not always strived to chat about racism. He asked Propaganda how the Church should handle it.
He stated: “I think at the end of the day, what I would want to hear from a pulpit, and what I think would be very helpful, is first of all an acknowledgement of our feelings and of the situation. And guide people on how the Gospel applies to us moving forward” (source: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/nation/justice-black-lives-must-begin-us-part-2).
The Gospel is our response to racism. Apologies and forgiveness move us closer to love.
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
We love when we listen to each other’s stories. We offer each other Kleenex during the tears. We clasp each other’s hands and pray. We hug the mud as *Pastor Allen did.
*name changed to respect his privacy