May 31st, 2020
Like many of you, I have been struggling to cope with the events we’ve seen in the last week. As I sat at my desk the last few days trying to type any sort of constructive sentence, the only thing that came to me was grief and heaviness. It is okay to not have the words when witnessing such blatant injustice. Take the time to process, and then articulate your feelings.
Grace and peace friends,
Early last week I was perusing the internet trying to pass time in quarantine. I stumbled upon a video of a white woman sitting in her car, shaking a surgical mask at the camera as if it was a used tissue. Tears streamed down her face as she listed the reasons why she should not have to wear a mask to go shopping. (1) It hurts her face. (2) It was uncomfortable. (3) It gives her a headache. (4) She cannot breathe. This woman was moved to tears because of the discomfort of a mask that would help protect the people around her from spreading a deadly disease. The top comment I saw was along the lines of, “she really won’t be able to breathe when she catches coronavirus.”
Not long after, I watched a video of a white police officer placing his knee on a black man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while investigating the possible use of a counterfeit $20 bill. George Floyd gasps for air, cries out for his mother, and pleads with the cops to let him breathe. “I can’t breathe, they are going to kill me,” says George, hoarsely. This is not the first time a black American cried these words out to an officer who killed them. If you’ve seen the video, you probably felt the shock and rage of a community who has suffered this violence for decades. A community that was segregated, impoverished, and built to live in systematic oppression. A community that immediately is demonized after they lash out in grief at a system that does not value their lives more than a building or a $20 bill.
The world that the woman who was upset about the mask lives in, and the world that George Floyd died in are two separate worlds.
I am sitting in my office on Pentecost Sunday as I write this. I’m thinking about how Jesus was a person of color in a marginalized community. And how he must have struggled for every breath as he was nailed upon the cross by a police state.
I’m thinking about Christ overturning tables in the temple. Vandalizing property and disrupting commerce because the money changers in the temple valued the profit they made off of impoverished people more than the people.
I’m thinking about the Holy Spirit which has been called the breath of God, which we celebrate today, on Pentecost Sunday. In an instant, the world was different. Suddenly God’s breath was with the disciples, and they were immediately called into the streets to preach about the unjust murder of a black man by the hands of the state, and how in that injustice there is salvation.
My emotions and mind struggle to keep up with the many new realities we face every week. The call to be a Christian does not feel as clear as it did for the disciples in the upper room experiencing Pentecost. If you watched the video of George Floyd and immediately thought, “How can I help? What can I do?” You are not alone. The urge to do something sits deep in my stomach. The call to be a white Christian in this moment is a call to the back of the line. Instead of pontificating from the pedestal of privilege into a community and world that I do not understand, Christ is calling me to support and elevate the voices of the people who have been marginalized their entire lives.
I pray you will join me in the effort of centering the conversation of change around those whom the change affects. That the reforms or dismantling of the Minneapolis Police Departments is led by the communities who live in Minneapolis. That the restoration and rebuilding of the system that has been burned down be built to serve those who have had their necks crushed by the system, unable to breath.
This summer I plan on leading several small groups around the conversation of anti-racism. If you are interested in joining or hosting a group centered around dismantling the world of systemic racism and white supremacy through Tori Williams Douglass’ White Homework and a study of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, go to gum.church/connect and send me an email. This is uncomfortable work, but it is work that needs to be done if we want to love our neighbors as Christ loves every person.
If you need to connect, process, vent, question, or need help understanding what is happening to our state, do not hesitate to reach out.
Pastor David Hodd
Do Not Look Away by Rev. Dr. Ron Bell
The Theology of Riot by Jim Coppoc
New City Church Online Vigil by Rev. Sit, Rev. Brown, Mayyadda, Rox, Chavvon Shen, and Rev. Malachi
The Daily Social Distancing Show by Trevor Noah (Video)
Where to Donate by NYU Local