Well, we have arrived in the green and growing days of Ordinary Time - but right now, that really feels like a misnomer. This is not Ordinary. Or is it?
There is an idea in feminist theology, founded in the work of Rosemary Radford Ruether in the early 1980s, that sin is essentially a distorted relationship between the self and God, the self and others, or the self and the earth. What does that mean, exactly? At the root of her arguments are act of hate, harm and exclusion, whether in the form of sexism or homophobia, environmental degradation, or - that issue we so dearly need to reckon with - racism. Racism is a form of sin. It is a distorted relationship between dominant groups and their negatively racialized counterparts. Racism separates us from God. It’s also, like so much sin, so terribly ordinary.
What, then, are we called to do? As a white woman, I want to start with this NYTimes Opinion piece, “How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror.” Let’s be clear, as people take to the streets: policing tactics are designed to protect a particular notion of white womanhood. Our bodies can be barriers or they can be bombs - we get to decide which.
As families, churches, and formation communities, it’s important that we include images of all types of people in our lessons, from storybooks to coloring sheets. And please say goodbye to white images of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t white and such representations are a product of colonialism and white supremacy. Currently, I’m working to cultivate a church and personal library that de-centers whiteness. Some favorites:
One of the truly wonderful things about Godly Play is that it is designed to represent all people, whether you use entirely blank figures or simply an array of diverse ones. Pay attention to what the priest looks like in the Good Shepherd and World Communion. Pay attention to who is in the circle and who is at the table. What makes those groups the same or different?
I am a member of a church that is experiencing racial growing pains. Maybe that’s not the conversation you need to have right now because you are not currently worshipping together, or maybe you’re noticing social media posts from fellow parishioners that suggest a riot is as bad or worse than state violence and extrajudicial executions. It is always the time to push back. It’s okay to lose friends if that’s the result of trying to be anti-racist.
Don’t forget that, while you do this work, non-Black people specifically need to do our homework. I recommend:
Do not be afraid, the angels whispered. Do not be afraid, Jesus proclaimed. The world can be scary and going against the ingrained messages of the world can be terrifying. It might make you feel vulnerable. But particularly if you are white, it’s important that you do. It’s important that you let your children see you do this - not as some kind of performance, but so that they will learn to do the same thing.
We are not free of sin, but we can recognize the sources of our sinfulness, the distortion of our relationships with other members of God’s creation, and we can fight to do better.
Walk in faith, in affirmation of the dignity of all people,