150 years ago on June 19, the last slaves were freed in Texas. It took a little time for the word of the end of the war and the Emancipation Proclamation to reach them, it turns out.
So it is particularly poignant that this year Juneteenth was overshadowed by mourning. A young man, full of hate, intentionally went into a Bible study in an historic black church, and after sitting with the group for an hour, pulled out his gun and murdered 9 people. Did you know that the pastor, Clementa Pinkney, was educated at our ELCA Seminary in South Carolina? So was another pastor who was killed-Daniel Simmons. That's part of what we do as an ELCA. We educate Lutheran pastors. And we welcome others to partake of the world-class theological education we offer in our seminaries. Southern Seminary educates a number of pastors for the AME church, as does Philadelphia and other seminaries. Did you know that the very first AME pastor was educated at Gettysburg Seminary?
Offended by being told to sit in the balcony of his Methodist Church in Philadelphia, he vowed to start a church were African Americans were welcome, and so began the African Methodist Episcopal Church. And Gettysburg welcomed its founder as one of our students.
The young man who shot the church members at prayer, chose them because they were black and he was white. 150 years since the end of slavery in the United States, and we still have people who kill because of race. I don't know the young man. I don't know if he is crazy or sane. I don't know if it was a crime, a hate crime or a terrorist act. I'll leave that to the criminal justice system to sort out.
But I do know that what was done was evil. And I do know that one of the evils that our country has to deal with is racism. It didn't end with the Emancipation Proclamation. It didn't end with the Voting Rights Act of the 1960's. It didn't end with the election of an African American President. Racism is still alive and well, and we are all affected by it. All of us.
African Americans are affected by it, and we are deeply aware of the affront to that community. In our part of the country, Native Americans are affected by it. Asian Americans, Latinos are affected by it. All of us are affected by it, because it demeans everybody to have anybody demeaned. You see, that's our Christian take on it. If any member of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. We need each other. Paul uses the metaphor of the body, and reminds us that the various body parts cannot go rogue and function without the others. Neither can any race, any group. It doesn't work that way.
But our thinking that it does is part of our sin, part of our rebellion from God, part of what we need to mourn and repent. Bishop Eaton, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA wrote: "It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this...the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a start, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism."
She goes on:
"I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequality. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray-for insight, for forgiveness, for courage."
Bishop Jessica Crist
Ten Myths about Racism
You've probably heard a lot about race during the last week. Maybe you're a little tired of it. Maybe you think it isn't really our problem, living as we do in 2 of the most racially homogeneous states in the country. But I am going to disagree. Racism is our problem, whether we are black or white or native American or anything else. So I am going to share some myths about racism.
10.Myth: " Racism is dead. It went out with the Emancipation Proclamation."
Reality: Our country was built on the backs of African slaves. The effect of that linger over the centuries.
9. Myth: "I can't be a racist. I don't even know any black people."
Reality: Racism is not as much about personal attitudes as it is about structures of privilege.
8. Myth: "I never did anything wrong to a person of color."
Reality: You benefit by being white. That is systemic racism.
7. Myth: "We have an African American President. That proves we are post-racial."
Reality: White backlash has grown in the last 6 years.
6. Myth: "I am color blind."
Reality: When you are white, you can set aside your white privilege, but you can always take it back up. When you are black, you do not have that option.
5. Myth: "I believe in merit--no special treatment for anyone."
Reality: People who start with fewer advantages--especially economic--do not have a level playing field.
4. Myth: "Let's just forget about the past and move on."
Reality: The past still affects the present--economically, socially, psychologically. We learn from the past, and maybe by learning will avoid similar mistakes.
3. Myth: "Black people (or American Indians or Latinos) are racist, too. Why do you always have to pick on white people?"
Reality: Prejudice is part of racism, but not all of it. Racism is prejudice plus power.
2. Myth: "Some people are just too touchy."
Reality: Most people are just too insensitive.
1. Myth: "I am not a racist."
Reality: Racism touches all of us and degrades all of us. It divides us and makes us less human.
The first step to overcoming racism is to identify it. As Christians we believe in repentance. And we believe in redemption. We believe in a God who died for all people, and who rose for all people.
Thanks be to God!
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA