It has been Lent for long enough now that at least a few of us are ready to look forward to Easter’s resurrection story. After all, those marshmallow chicks are already in the stores! And that is exactly why we all need to be reminded that it really is still Lent. And will be for several more weeks.
Pope Francis has invited the world to give up indifference for the season of Lent. My own pastor invited us to give up the urge to exclude. Rich Pleva has invited the staff of the Iowa Conference to consider the issue of racism, and to share our thoughts week by week.
Racism is deep sin. More than that, it is evil. It rests on the belief that some people (with lighter skin) are better, more deserving, or more important than other people (with darker skin). Because they are less deserving, those people (with darker skin) ought not to have the same opportunities or benefits of living in this country as other people (with lighter skin). That’s harsh. It is hard to hear. It is hard to write. And it is true. From the moment the first African slave landed on the shores of the new world, we – as a nation – began to rot from the inside out. From the first time European settlers appropriated land that the Native residents understood to be theirs, we – as a culture – became a people whose good fortune rested on the sufferings and losses of others.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that the most powerful word in the English language is NO. Gandhi built a movement of NO to the racist British Colonialism in India, which culminated in a resounding YES to self-rule. Today, all across our nation, there is an urgent NO rising from the hearts and minds and souls of folk who have had enough of racist assumptions and behaviors in our culture. Whether we look at the police shootings of African American men and boys, or the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or the “high school to prison” pipeline that exists for African American men, or the drug and alcohol crisis among Native Americans, or immigration policies that favor Northern Europeans over people who have a darker skin color….it is time to open our eyes and our hearts and repent. It is our sin that seeks to exclude people who may seem different that initiates policies that systemically enforce our racist attitudes. It is the indifference of White America that allows this suffering to continue. NO. NO. NO. Today, we say NO to the belief that some people matter more than others. We say NO to indifference and the urge to exclude. It is time to repent.
In John 10, Jesus says to his disciples: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Racism is a thief that has come in the night and stolen and killed and destroyed more than we will ever fully know. Perhaps this Lenten time could begin a journey of anti-racist action that acknowledges our sin and seeks to repair the damage we have caused. Maybe when we can do that, we might begin to say YES to the abundant life that Jesus intends for us.
Rev. Katherine Mulhern
Iowa Conference Program Support/Adjunct for 2030 Iowa/Young Clergy Support