Photo credit: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters
Does Christianity have any meaningful, realistic response to the violence that has swept across the United states during the most recent days?
I have followed news reports and listened to responses from BLM, law enforcement leaders, candidates for political office, and citizens expressing themselves on social media and any location featuring a camera and a microphone.
Yes, like many, I attended church services last Sunday. We prayed, sang, and listened to an inspiring and consoling sermon. We shared in Holy Communion. Then, we went home or to our next destination.
Today, I read a blog post about why one African-American woman is choosing to leave this country and live in South America. The post is about why she doesn't feel safe in the States. Her sense of vulnerability is not a recent development. Her story is compelling because the openness of her expression is not to be denied. As the saying goes, "You can't make this stuff up."
I was deeply moved by her story. I don't know her personally, but have viewed her videos for years and have learned much from listening to and watching her. She is intelligent, well-read, accomplished.
When I consider her views, I recall the words of Onnie Lee Logan, an African-American woman. In her memoir of living and working in pre-Civil Rights, mid-20th century Alabama (Motherwit), Logan narrates her experiences. She did not learn to read and write as a child.
Near the end of the memoir, Logan offers one of the most profound statements I have read. She states she is perfectly satisfied with what her life has done for her. She acknowledges the injustices she faced and says she was able to live beyond them into happiness because she credited God with "not letting" her environment warp her sense of identity and purpose.
She lived in the world, and was not "of the world": she maintained, with God's help, an identity beyond the one assigned to her by her environment. By this, she transformed that environment. She was not famous, but she was powerful because she was independent of the messages the society sent to her. She could choose what to believe and she could act on that choice. She was a sieve, not a sponge. It takes supernatural power to live that way.
The Earth is filled with violence. It has been since very early in history. It will continue to be filled with violence until Jesus establishes a righteous reign. Should we struggle for what is right and just? Yes. Should we expect everything to be made right apart from God? No.
Everyday citizen, law enforcement, or activist: we have all had our hearts broken by the violence we've seen and lived. Every thinking person has a good reason to be afraid. Knowing this, what do we do when the violence slaps our faces, assaults and breaks our hearts, and makes us fearful of those who are not "one of us"?
We can begin by knowing the outer appearance does not reflect the inner essence. Question every assumption you make about someone based on their appearance. Your initial response may be wrong. It may be right. Block the mindless assumptions that will flood your neural pathways. Be willing to see and to know more than what it obvious.
Finally, know that everyone will not choose to do the hard work of thinking. Some will choose habitual, programmed thinking over informed thinking.
Where does all of this leave us?
We are led to the truth that no matter where we are or what we are doing, our lives are ultimately defined by what we choose to believe about ourselves. Our ultimate and eternal destination is in God's hands, based upon the free will choices we make. Christian salvation is all about making and living a choice about what temporal and eternal experiences we will have. If it's not that, it's nothing worth your attention.
Yes, the Earth is filled with violence. What lives in our souls is up to us. Will you be satisfied with what your life has done for you?
The woman in the photo above has been identified as Iesha Evans. We have no known relation or connection. ---de