Sunday, February 19, 2017


Sunday Reflection: Race, the eye and the light

This morning at 9:30 I am giving the sermon at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis. The topic is race. Here is the part of the reading I have chosen, Luke 11:34:

Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy it is full of darkness.

It's important to recognize that the "light" referred to here is not "light" color as a pigment, but rather the light of the sun that illuminates all of the colors and is necessary to see what is really before us. 

Our eye is the lamp. How do we see the world? Is it through a lens of racial assumptions, and what can we do about that?

I realize that it is odd to pick a white guy to speak about race (unless it is Bob Darden talking about the Civil Rights movement or something like that). It is  important to hear Black and Brown and Asian and Native voices-- we all need to hear from each other. But white people need to speak, too. If we don't, it is nothing less than asking the victims of racism to explain why racism exists. That's an unfair exercise-- they didn't create it and propogate it. We did. And if we don't try to voice that sad truth, explain how it happened, and set out ways to eradicate it, we are abrogating our responsibility.

I fear that sometimes what white people (including me) want more than anything is to just be told that they aren't racist and be done with it-- regardless of what their actions or attitudes are. Often, we pre-emptively declare it, like President Trump announcing this week that he is the Least Racist Person. The historical focus of our study of race sometimes inadvertently propels this. We watch movies or see pictures from the past-- right up to the 60's-- and feel good that things aren't like that anymore-- and then make an illogical jump to assuming we live in a mythical post-racial world. We are comfortable looking at photos of attack dogs going after protesters in Birmingham (that was the past, thank goodness), but not so much looking at the video of Philandro Castille. 

And that's because there is still racism. Along with our discussions of the past, we need to acknowledge the present, and accept responsibility for creating a different future together with those who have been oppressed by racism.

This isn't the sermon... to hear that, come by First Cov!



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