The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:18
Dear White Christian America,
If we are ever going to get off square one in talking about race in this country (not talking about talking about race, which we do endlessly) then we should take some 3,000 year old advice from King David of Jerusalem, the purported author of Psalm 51. We need a troubled spirit and a broken heart.
This is different (please, please hear this) than guilt. There may (probably) or may not be (unlikely) things we need to feel guilty about in regards to race, but we cannot possibly know that without first listening and conversing with our black and brown sisters and brothers. My own experience is that for the most part they do not want our guilt. They want our ears, our spirits, and our hearts.
In other words, they want our acceptance that things are not as they should be and our grief that they are not. Yes, it is grief that is necessary for our participation in this conversation and not our guilt. Grief may be what we most need to enter into true conversation, because grief almost always humbles us and defuses our defensiveness. Grief is a great equalizer across the human spectrum. This is true in a way that guilt can never be.
Grief takes us out of the realm of right and wrong, a deadly realm in which we seem to get ourselves more and more mired. We live increasingly in a quicksand of bombast, defensiveness and mistrust (and often demonization) of those who are different from us or those with whom we disagree. We will never have an actual conversation that moves us forward as long as we are stuck in this mess.
One of our current presidential candidates puts forward the desire to "Make America Great Again." We Christian people know (don't we?) that greatness is born in humility. We believe in a Savior whose troubled spirit and broken heart (Remember his weeping over Jerusalem? His grief in the Garden of Gethsemane?) was the path to greatness. St. Paul put it this way, "Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself...being found in human form he humbled himself."
My fellow Christians if that is how our salvation was won, do we expect our greatness as a nation to be won any other way? Do we expect that continuing to build "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" will be done any other way?
Most of the time these days I despair that we will ever be able to come together as a community across racial lines, the divide is so deep and ugly and angry. The quicksand seems too deep, and we have been stuck in it too long. But let's have a little faith, my fellow Christians, a little humility, an acknowledgement that reconciliation is necessary not deciding who is to blame is enough movement of our hearts and spirits for God to pull us out of the muck.
It is actually what our God does best, but we are free people and we need to ask for help, acknowledge that we need help and offer our broken hearts. Without that kind of humility nothing changes.
A White Christian American