Last week I wrote, “So for those parents today who are going about the challenge of forming the life of Christ in their children, what can we do to overcome the subtle forms of racism that impact our lives?”
Well, Jen Haynes responded to that note providing some wonderful information for you to consider. I will take her up on that I know for sure. I was prepared to do something focusing on children in this note, but I realize children are not the issue.
I saw a brief 5-second video on Facebook earlier in the week that showed two children—one black, the other white—and they appeared to be three years old. They joyfully ran to each other and embraced each other. It reminded me of our Lord’s teaching from Luke:
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:5-17)
It seems like we grown-ups are the problem, not the children. Young children have an amazing ability to accept things as they are with no prejudgments. In fact, my bias is revealed when I described this interaction as being between a white child and black child. I highly doubt those two kids would have thought in those terms. To see the image of Christ in another is what young kids do without being aware of it, until some begin to learn differently, and that purity becomes compromised.
The other image I saw this week was a You Tube video of my home parish that used to be in Detroit, Michigan. I grew up in that temple. Seeing the video of the temple and what has happened to it brought tears to my eyes. It was like seeing a video of the Titanic (maybe not the best analogy but it was all I could think of). As with many urban churches, my home parish left the city and moved to the suburbs and built a new temple. The old temple was sold and used by two different churches between 1986 and 2011. Since then it has been vacant. But a Detroit Ministry called “The Good News Gang” entered into the picture in 2015. They are using the school building for ministry to youth, and consideration is being given to restoring the church somehow. Good work is being done through this ministry.
If you want to see the You Tube video, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv9VkQA81pw&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR3VnZx3f6upfc9Y0xQ6ZBVYkEnWYOpqD3CVtDzvI4FGI2s5ic6BxWCpVjc
I ended up writing FOCUS Detroit yesterday asking the director to look into whether FOCUS can look into supporting the work of the Good News Gang.
What allowed many churches (not just Orthodox) to become alienated from the communities they were established in? Why could they not adapt and respond to the changing community instead of becoming an island disconnected from that community? The answers to it are not simple, but I have to think that some form of racism was behind it. So what do we need to do about this?
I think each of us, starting with myself, need to come clean and admit to that fact we have prejudged people on the basis of the color of their skin. But this process of coming clean has to happen in an atmosphere where understanding, love, and forgiveness can be experienced. We need to be allowed to acknowledge our biases without immediately being condemned for them. We need to work through those biases by being educated through dialogue, so that we can repent of them and have a true change of mind and heart. There is a spirit today of immediate condemnation of anything that doesn’t go along with the program. The sin of racism is condemned in the secular world with such severe judgment that repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and love are not possible. We end up exposing the speck in someone else’s eye without looking at the plank in our own eye, as Jesus teaches. This is where the Church needs to witness to, and be an image of understanding, love, repentance and forgiveness. The secular world knows nothing of repentance. We as the Church need to take the lead in this area and be this very icon we are called to be.
I have some more thoughts to share next week. There are some good things happening in our diocese among some churches regarding urban ministry. Perhaps we can utilize and learn from their experiences, and thus, by God’s grace, change our own attitudes.
Forgive me a sinner,
The Unworthy Archbishop Paul