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Repentance, Racial Healing & Reconciliation, Radical Love

One Tribe is a weekly forum dedicated to open discussion of racial healing. It appears each Wednesday.  Contributors represent many walks of life, but have in common these foundational beliefs: (1) racism is sin; (2) only the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit can break racism’s grip and heal people and relationships; and (3) as Christians, racial healing and reconciliation are part of God’s call upon our lives.  The good news of the gospel is that all are one in Christ (Gal 3:28). May it be so!

All who hold to the above defined beliefs about racism are invited to write for One Tribe.  Please email Angie at revmabrynauta@gmail.com to express interest in contributing and for additional information.

My friend Ed Cyzewski and co-author Derek Cooper recently released a new book entitled Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus. Ed told me about this book back in April when I met him.  I was intrigued then.  Per Ed’s invitation and encouragement, I’m writing this post in conjunction with the book’s release.  I’m sharing my Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog.  Basically, a variety of bloggers are writing about this on their own sites and linking it to the “My Hazardous Faith Story” page. After you read this, feel free to hop on over and read what other peeps are writing.  Oh, and prepare yourself to be inspired!

Why being passionate about racial healing & reconciliation is ‘Hazardous’

As I prepared to share a news story on Facebook, I knew what I was walking into.

Vivette Applewhite’s face shined at me through her photo.  The 93-year-old Pennsylvania (PA) resident holds her newly minted voter identification (ID) card, which she will need to vote in the November elections.  She is doubly victorious, I think, not only for crawling through the muck of the new PA voter ID law and obtaining her card, but for suing the state. (A PA judge upheld the law, but filing the lawsuit alone takes great courage.) I do not discount that voter fraud happens.  Indeed, neither major political party is completely innocent.  However, the law itself is outright unconstitutional.  Furthermore, the main ill effect of it is disenfranchisement of minorities, the poor, and senior citizens.

The handful of Republicans and conservative Facebook friends that I have (all of whom are Christian) are gonna pounce on this, I thought. Am I ready to break a dam here on my wall?

I’ll take a stand and talk politics with people, but I’m not an issue junkie who reads everything, comments everywhere, calls in to radio shows, and looks for opportunities for debate/argument.  Even so, injustice of any kind gets my goat.  I really didn’t have to think too hard about whether to post the picture of and story about Ms. Applewhite, to tell the truth.  I clicked the share button and posted this comment with it:

Viviette Applewhite, 93, holds up the temporary photo ID she was able to obtain from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. A permanent one will be mailed to her within 15 days. (Photo credit: Philly.com Inquirer, August 18, 2012)

Vivette Applewhite, you inspire me to the highest degree…both in suing PA for this outrageous voter ID law and for persevering & getting your voter ID. You go, sister! What does the Lord require of us, y’all? Note that Ms. Vivette is 93…93! We’re NEVER too old to fight injustice!

Sure enough, within minutes the argument began.  One dissenter is a staunch Republican.  Another is conservative, and he is serving in the US military.  I met both of them in college.  Progressive colleagues jumped into the fray.  We went back and forth to the tune of 33 comments.

I groaned, and my stomach churned.  The ghost of Rodney King brought a thought to my mind:  Can’t we all just get along?  I tire so easily with to-and-fro political and theological arguments on Facebook, primarily because those who dig in usually are firm in their opinion.  No one is going to change anyone’s mind, so why bother? is my frequent thought.

You did this to yourself, a sabotaging voice chided me.

Yes, I did.  Why is that, again?

Oh, yeah…because crying out against injustice is the right thing to do.  Beyond that, it’s biblical.  Second only to Israel’s apostacy, God grieves over their participation in oppression and lack of stopping injustice the most.  Through each of the major prophets God rails against this.  I don’t want your sacrifices, empty rituals, and shows of righteousness, God says.  What does the Lord require of you, God rhetorically asks through Micah, and then answers the question.

What can we bring to the LORD? What kind of offerings should we give him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:6-8, NLT).

I am reluctant with Facebook arguments not just because they hardly seem to go well, but because e-relationships are at best difficult. (Some even go so far as to say that they aren’t relationships at all, but rather are shells or projections of relationships.)  As much as I utilize social media, I’m a face-to-face kinda person.  Not only am I committed to addressing racism and all of the other “isms” that are so toxic to the human spirit and community, but I actually desire to have tough conversations with people. And I would much rather look a sister, brother, or group of people in the eye and connect when grappling with such touchy topics as injustice, oppression, prejudice, and stereotypes.

As committed and willing as I am, though, I am reminded (by my cringing stomach) each time I speak out that engaging in racial reconciliation and healing takes courage.  I risk feeling rejected and unaccepted each time I take a step away from the dominant culture and towards disenfranchised groups (no pun intended) for the sake of loving and authentic multicultural relationships.  I never know how I will be treated by anyone of any skin color or ethnic heritage.

It’s a hazardous way to live out my faith.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Click here to read other writers’ Hazardous Faith Stories.