As I expected, my January 13 Facebook post received a variety of responses.
The message read, “I’M JUST GOING TO GO OUT AND SAY IT. Racism and the refusal to face the place of racism in our history is THE spiritual crisis of our time. The most difficult task facing the biblical prophets was to convince people who claimed to be followers of God that the only remedy for sin and the only way to healing is confession (admitting the truth) and repentance ( desire to change).
Closer to our time, Austrian martyr Franz Jägerstätter dreamed in the early 1940s of happy Germans and Austrians boarding a train on a bright sunny day for an outing. When he woke up, Jägerstätter realized that his dream was a message from God. The train was Nazism and the people on board were heading to hell.
Many religious Americans these days want to keep the truth about our past and the persistence of systemic racism from being discussed and taught. What if this denial was our train that would take us to hell?
I’m pretty convinced that at the gates of hell, church membership won’t be enough. You see, God always knew that Black Lives Matter. And systemic racism is not a new problem for God, nor is racism a taboo subject for God. Why do we make the truth taboo for us and our children?
Of all the responses I received, the one that intrigued me the most came from a close friend, who wrote: “If God knew that BLM… it sure took him a long time to do anything that is !
When I first read my friend’s response, I was tempted to get defensive, to remind him of the primary roles people of faith have played in the fight for racial equality. From the early days of the abolitionist movement to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, religious leaders have been at the forefront of the march for justice. And all of these religious leaders were convinced that they were responding to God’s call.
But while my friend isn’t telling the whole truth about racism and God, he’s telling a truth that can’t be denied. Over the centuries, God’s name has been used to enslave, colonize and justify oppression. Today, some of the most vocal opponents of the fight against racism are loyal churchgoers.
However, there is another way of thinking about God and racism, one that connects those who believe in God and those who don’t. What we can agree on is that there are moments in history that are moments of greater significance. These are moments of decision, moments of consequence.
A technical religious way of describing these times of decision is to call them kairotic, those times when a people or nation stands in a particular way under the judgment of God. Humanists might be more comfortable saying that there are times when a people or a nation is under the judgment of history. What humanists and believers in God can agree on is that these times provide a window of opportunity, a chance for profound change.
We are currently living in a kairotic time in America, and our future as a nation will depend on how we react to this moment. It is ironic that in a month labeled Black History Month, some in our country want to silence any talk of racism. In a month when we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, some people want their children to grow up ignorant of what this man and others fought for and are still fighting for.
In recent years, we have experienced so many tragedies that remind us that our nation has a disease, cancer. Yes, we have had the disease of racism since 1619, the year the first slaves arrived on our shores. But the signs are everywhere, from those who want to silence all talk of race to those who are tired of being penalized for a birth accident, that the pressure around race is now higher than it is. has been since the mid-sixties.
I believe that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would say that the cancer of racism is treatable, that the window of opportunity is still open. But God help us if we let this window close.