My heart grieves! Yesterday, as I was traveling, I was getting bits and pieces of the news from Charlottesville. In the airports, there were some people who were sharing about family and friends who were close to what was happening on the ground in Charlottesville. There were some who didn’t know anything about what had happened. But what truly grieved my heart were the people who casually passed off what was happening as just a part of life.
My heart grieves! Just a part of life? Well, it shouldn’t be that way! We shouldn’t accept this as acceptable, or just the way it is. Violence is not acceptable. Racism is not acceptable.
My heart grieves those who think this is just part of life. My heart grieves those in Charlottesville who got caught in the midst of violence. My heart grieves that racism continues to permeate every part of our nation and our world. My heart grieves situations, family systems, institutional systems where white supremacy promotes and teaches persons that people who are not like them can be treated as less than human, as objects, as life that is dispensable and of lesser value.
This is not life as God intended! God created every person in God’s own image. Every person is created with and holds within them a spark of the Divine. God looks at what God creates and proclaims, “This is good!” And, when it comes to the creation of human beings, God doesn’t just say this is good – God says, “This is very good!
Every man, woman, and child is created out of and holds within them the spark of the Divine. God sent God’s son, Christ, into the world to remind the world of God’s blessing and God’s love for each person, so that the world might have life and have life abundantly. Today, the Christian Church exists for the purpose of extending this message in all places to all people without restriction.
At the 2017 West Virginia annual Conference session, in a service that celebrated our African American congregations, we acknowledged our brokenness, we asked for forgiveness and participated in an act of repentance and commitment to action. We took one another’s hands and borrowing from the words of Hezekiah Walker’s song, “I Need You to Survive,” we looked into each other’s eyes – the eyes of persons who were of a different race or culture, persons with different theological understandings, of different ages and experiences, and we said to one another, “I need you. I will pray for you. I will not harm you with words from my mouth. I need you to survive!” With those commitments ringing in our ears we received communion and pledged, with resources in hand, to go back to our communities and begin some action, some conversation, some raising awareness that would help us to help each other hear once again that we, and each and every person, are valuable and of sacred worth. One race or person is not supreme over another. We, in fact, need all the variety of persons’ gifts in this world not only to survive but experience the abundance of life and blessing that God means for each of God’s children.
I pray we will not allow the violence of Charlottesville to be accepted as just the way of life today! This does not fulfill the purpose of creation or the purpose for which God sent God’s Son. I pray we will begin needed conversations and relationship building that help us to see people as people, treat people as people – holy, beloved and valuable, and be Christ’s people that will stand up and speak out in the midst of the violence of this world. I also pray that we will be the peacemakers that God calls us to be. Jesus said: Blessed are the peacemakers. But maybe all this struggle is because we do not understand what a peacemaker is. What is a peacemaker? It is a person who puts other’s needs before their own. Indeed, blessed are the peacemakers.
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball