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A Letter from CTK Dorchester Pastor Dan Rogers to his Congregation
Dear Church Family,
Over the past few months since the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the events following, I have struggled knowing how to respond. As a minister leading a multi-racial/multi-cultural church, what would God have me say or do? As a white man, with all the baggage that it brings, what would God have me say or do? As a white southerner, with all the horrific history that brings, what would God have me say or do? This morning, as I considered whether to remain silent or to speak up, I was reminded of the words of Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi who “spoke up” after his home had been burned and his wife raped by Muslim extremists “I can’t do everything, but I must not do nothing.”
The reality is that events like Michael Brown’s shooting spotlight the privilege of some and the unjust disadvantage of others. It’s simply unfair and unjust that my sons and daughters get the benefit of the doubt, while many of the sons and daughters of our neighborhood do not, simply because of their skin color. The awful realities of the systemic injustices of our society not only create division and segregation, but they also create great suspicion and distrust even among well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ.
I must admit that I’ve been tempted at times to throw my hands in the air as Rodney King did and ask, “Why can’t we just all get along?” The question is simplistic and denies the history and current day realities of racism, oppression, and systemic injustice that has plagued our city, our nation, and our planet ever since its existence. We love the idea of heavenly diversity of “every tongue, tribe, and nation” without having to first struggle down the hard path of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The issues are so difficult, so complex, and so scary. Many of the African American, Latino, or Asian American brothers and sisters that I have the privilege of spending time and doing life with find themselves rightfully frustrated, perplexed, and sometimes angry that white brothers and sisters “just don’t get it.” Well meaning Anglo brothers and sisters live in constant fear that they will be accused of or even found guilty of the most grievous and unpardonable sin of our society, racism. The complexity and difficulty of the issues could easily drive us all to despair and hopelessness such that we throw up our hands and say, “Forget about it! It’s not worth it! I’m staying with my own kind!”
The problem with that sentiment is that it is the antithesis of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not Asian American, African American, Anglo, Latino, or any other race, ethnicity, or culture. It is all of these with all their wonderful distinction and unique God reflecting qualities. Furthermore, Jesus seemed to think that the Kingdom was worth it all. It was worth Him giving His body and shedding His blood in order “to tear down the dividing wall of hostility” that separated us from both Him and one another.
Jesus has taught us both with actions and words that the Kingdom of God comes through forgiveness and reconciliation. Bishop Desmond Tutu, whose life work was dedicated to bringing healing and reconciliation to South Africa after years of apartheid, wrote: “Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the degradation, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end dealing with the real situation helps to bring real healing. In forgiving, people are not being asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let such atrocities happen again. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. It means taking what happened seriously and not minimizing it; drawing out the sting in the memory that threatens to poison our entire existence. It involves trying to understand the perpetrators and so have empathy, to try to stand in their shoes and appreciate the sort of pressures and influences that might have conditioned them… Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin, but it is a loss that liberates the victim… True forgiveness deals with the past, to make the future possible.”
May I encourage and challenge all of us to move towards real forgiveness and authentic reconciliation. The only way this will happen in our neighborhood and in our church is if we are willing to do the hard work of intentionally moving towards one another in love, patience, and grace. I would encourage us all to listen, speak, and grieve.
First, now is the time to listen. Listening would serve us all well.
Second, now is the time to speak. We have to love one another enough to have hard conversations.
Finally, now is the time to grieve. There are times in this broken world when we just need to grieve. The reality is that some of the brokenness in this world will not be healed until Jesus’ Kingdom comes in its fullness. Until then we grieve, but we don’t grieve as those without hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ the King, who will come back and bring with Him His Kingdom of righteousness and justice where tragedies like Ferguson will be no more.
Rev. Daniel Rogers
Christ the King Dorchester