Searching our souls, seeking a path
Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor
We are all grappling with last week’s violent death of George Floyd. This is a soul-searching time for our nation, and certainly for the Christian community. What is a pathway to faithful response? Here are some thoughts that I hope will be helpful as we seek to answer that question individually and together.
Lament. Allow time to acknowledge, hold, and express the tragedy of these events, and what they represent of larger societal patterns and narratives that have become more visible in this agonizing moment.
“Out of the depths we cry to you . . .” Psalm 130.
Affirm peaceful protests as expressions of a healthy democracy. Recall that such actions are also deeply rooted in our faith tradition. The Civil Rights movement was anchored in a Judeo-Christian ethic of non-violent resistance, and the Velvet Curtain in Europe fell in part because of organized, peaceful Christian challenges to oppressive regimes and unjust systems.
Advocate. Find ways to be an ally with persons or whose voices may not be readily heard, to “defend the defenseless,” as the psalmist would say (Ps 82:3). Challenge behaviors that are hurtful or harmful, individually or organizationally.
Listen for stories of personal experiences of hurt or harm resulting from racial discrimination within a system, or share your own.
Learn. Studying the heart-wrenching history of prejudice and racism in our country, and the ways color and ethnicity have divided us, reinforcing the advantages and opportunities of one group over another. Learn also of the courageous persons that have worked to confront those forces and bring about change. Envision yourself among them, and chart the path that will form you into such a person. (See the “Resources for Racial Justice” page on our website for resources, readings, and other helpful information.)
Look inside ourselves. Our deepest convictions as adults are most often drawn from what we learned at a young age. Spend time recalling your own formative childhood stories and lessons of how people who are different are to be seen. When have you felt marginalized or treated unfairly? When have you enjoyed a privilege unavailable to others, not based on merit, but on special opportunity? Here’s the hard part: What unbecoming behavior or pattern can’t we see in ourselves that others claim is there? How could we afford ourselves a closer look, to explore the legitimacy of their claims, the privileges and unconscious biases we have?
Look inside our Bible. Protest is a faithful action (we identify ourselves, after all, as Protestants), one deeply embedded in the biblical narrative. The prophets existed to speak for the voiceless, the disadvantaged, the exploited and marginalized. The Levitical Code holds the vulnerable “other” at the center of its protective laws. Consider what it means that a substantial portion of sacred Scripture, our guide for faith and practice, is given over to advocacy and intervention on behalf of those people groups most easily injured or manipulated.
Vote and volunteer. Reform and renewal in society occur both through legislation and grass-roots organization and involvement. Find the polling booth; find the sign-up sheet. Vote and volunteer.
From the riches of the Talmud come these compelling words, drawn from the prophet (Micah 6:8): “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justice now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. We are not obligated to complete the work. But neither are we free to abandon it.”
Your companion in the journey, sometimes anguishing and always sacred,