This month has been a doozy y’all.
If you’re like me, maybe you just want to throw up your hands or crawl under the covers because everything is so overwhelming.
I have to keep alternating between getting outside and getting on my knees.
And I have to remember that these words from Ann Voskamp are as true as ever:
Sometimes the only way to stay standing is to lash yourself to SomeOne stronger.
I’m trying to hold on tight as we enter Advent.
I’m lifting up my voice in song and lighting candles in the dark.
My first choir practice is on Wednesday and there is a huge chocolate festival in Tübingen this week.
I am learning (or remembering) that even though I’m in the middle of making new friends, I very badly need chats with my old friends. I need to hear my mama’s voice. I need to sit in front of Skype and tell stories and laugh and cry. And I need people to come visit me.
I have dear friends from Aberdeen coming into town on Friday and we will eat all the things while we are talking about all the things and I can hardly wait.
I need a little break from the inside of my head. Otherwise, in the words of Anne Lamott: “My mind perches on top of my head like a spider monkey” and turns me into a crazy person.
I still have a cannot-look-away thing going on with the news and Twitter, a feeling that if I stop watching and listening that something horrible will happen while I have my head in the sand. I will be just sitting around enjoying my white privilege and eating chocolate, oblivious to another round of acts of terror and the ever widening racial divide.
I am praying this week that I will spend December learning to balance my desire to stay “awake” and my need for shoring up hope by joining into the season with joy and contentment. I don’t want to become complacent or content with the way the world is, but I want to choose to be content and present in the moments of Christmas as they come.
It sounds like an impossible goal, but I am coming to it on my knees before a God who makes all things possible.
May I remain daily in the presence of someone much stronger than me, someone who does not look at the dividing walls of hostility in our world and see a gap that cannot be mended, but instead is calling us to cross over, to go into the valleys where He is always, always with us.
LINKS for you this month. I have read SOSOSOSOSO much about the racial divide in the US in the wake of the election. And even before the election I had started a couple of books that I think are important, insightful reads for harnessing much-needed compassion from our hearts. Believe it or not, I have whittled down these links to a manageable number. I hope reading and watching will lead to listening and speaking out where there is great need.
Taido is teaching a course with readings from American theologians this term and one of them is James H. Cone, who is from Arkansas and has been writing about Black Liberation Theology since the Civil Rights era. I spent most of November working my way through The Cross and the Lynching Tree (twice) and I am still processing how much we need his history lesson, especially in the South. I have said it before, but I strongly believe that if we are ever going to move forward, there must be a reckoning.
Perhaps nothing about the history of mob violence in the United States is more surprising than how quickly an understanding of the full horror of lynching has receded from the nation’s collective memory.
-W. Fitzhugh Brundage in Lynching in the New South
(quoted by James H. Cone in The Cross and The Lynching Tree)
I believe the fact that some important books are being more widely read (like The Warmth of Other Suns, The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy) and important histories being re-written (like in 13th or about even about Thanksgiving) are a sign that the reckoning could be upon us. Maybe we are ready to face our history.
Most nights I get into bed these days and lie awake thinking and praying about these two ideas of awakening and reckoning. Awakening to white privilege and reckoning for our dark history of racism. When I wrote last week about not having to worry about my son being pulled over and shot by police, it was not from reading that Philando Castile was shot. What struck me deeper was learning that in his life, he was stopped by police 46 times, and only six of those were for something that was noticeable outside of his car. Reading this caused me to newly reckon with the fact that black men (and women) are terrorized by systemic racism. It does not matter that I claim not to be a racist when I live systems are racist because they are rooted in an empire that was built on slavery.
My part (as is illustrated in this video) is that my cultural preferences lead to my perpetuating the racist systems that those preferences are built on. I would love to offer all kinds of solutions to dismantling these systems, but I cannot.
I can, however, do the work of my own reckoning.
I read one small line in the The Cross and The Lynching Tree about a massacre that happened in Arkansas that I had never heard about. I started reading and watching and I read that more lynchings happened in Phillips County, Arkansas than in any other place in America. 245 people. The most recorded anywhere else is 54 lynchings.
Arkansans, we have some serious reckoning to do. We have blood on our hands.
Bryan Stevenson talks about how important it is that we remember what we’ve done, so he is leading an initiative to create a memorial for every person who was lynched in America: “There has to be a period of truth and recognition, and we haven’t had that yet. I really do think there is a great space in this country to do hopeful work to help us recover from our history of racial inequality.”
If you are from Arkansas, like me, maybe consider giving a donation to this work and type into the little box where it says “It Memory Of:” Elaine Arkansas Race Riot and Lynchings.
If you are not from Arkansas, do your homework to discover the terrors that happened on your soil. Or if you’re from the UK, maybe the terrors that were funded by the British Empire on foreign soil. I read last year in the Docklands Museum in London that the wealth of England TODAY can be traced and attributed to the slave trade. No vessel that entered the Docklands ever brought more money to London than slave ships. If we are white, or “need to think of ourselves as white,” we have blood on our hands.
I can’t wash that blood off, but I can admit that it is there.
I can admit that the cross to which I go in order to be cleansed from sin is the same cross that has been wielded at lynching rallies. I can admit that the white churches in which I have found refuge for my soul are the same ones who have upheld systematic racism in America.
I believe it when Jonathan Martin says that we need prophets in the church today to speak up and I still have hope that the church will surprise the world by becoming sanctuaries instead of sanctioning broken systems.