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Pursuing the work of antiracism

How do we become an antiracist church?

For the past month, Church of the Incarnation has been talking about racism and what a faithful Christian response is to the systemic racism in our country. This past Sunday, we talked about our Rule of Life and how the work of becoming antiracist is a spiritual practice that fits well within the faithful practice of our Rule. Here are the notes from our conversation, along with some resources that we talked out.

Starting on July 12, 2020, we will host a 6-week study on the book, “America’s Original Sin,” by the Rev. Jim Wallis. To allow for as many people as possible to join us, we will start at 11:30am (CDT) and will plan to be finished by 12:45pm. You can purchase the book now from your favorite book seller. The free study guide is included at the bottom of this page, along with a short video about the content of the book. Stay tuned for more info on how to sign up.

The Incarnation Rule of Life includes the spiritual practices of:

  • Daily prayer
  • Daily confession of sin
  • Daily scripture reading
  • Regular study that brings you closer to God
  • Weekly participation in worship
  • Weekly observance of the sabbath
  • Service to the Church
  • Service to the world

Together, this Rule is the backbone of a faith that is not just professed but also practiced.

What does it mean to be antiracist? 

According to Ibram X. Kendi, in “How to be Antiracist,”

  • The word ‘racist’ isn’t a slur, it’s a descriptive term used to describe actions and policies that favor one race over another
  • The opposite of racist isn’t “not racist,” but antiracist
  • Because of the deeply embedded history of racism in America, there is no such thing as being “not racist”–you either practice racism or you practice antiracism. “One either endorses the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist or racial equality as an antiracist” (Kendi).

In order to be an antiracist church, we must practice antiracism, not just say we “aren’t racist.”

Being antiracist is a spiritual practice and our Rule of Life can help. We can:

  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will change our hearts, change our unjust systems, and guide all our efforts
  • Repent of our own racism and renounce the unjust systems that many of us disproportionately benefit from
  • Read scripture that reveals God’s continual solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, from the prophets to the gospel
  • Study black theology, the theology of oppression, the Church’s role in working for antiracist policies, and learn how to be part of real change
  • Worship with people who affirm God’s presence with those who suffer and hold your own religious communities accountable for their ministries to the poor and the oppressed
  • Observe a day of rest where your principle identity is as a member of the household of God rather than in an economy that depends on the exploitation of others
  • Push, pull, and lead the Church into a new way of being the Church–one that rejects religious nationalism and seeks to serve Jesus Christ in all persons as a moral conviction and a call from God
  • Serve those who are suffering and advocate for real change using the gifts and resources God has given you

Ibram X. Kendi says this about being antiracist: “like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”

What is your dream for Church of the Incarnation as we pursue this work together? How is God calling you, personally, to be involved in building an antiracist church and an antiracist society?

Here are some resources that I am using to continue make the work of antiracism part of my spiritual practice.

How to be Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

America’s Original Sin, by Jim Wallis comes with a very challenging 6-week study guide to help congregations educate themselves so they can pursue effective change.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. You can take action, here.

 

 

A Statement on Racism and the Church

 

The full text of the video is included below.

June 5, 2020

In the last week we have seen our nation and our own community being rocked by the outrage that has come to the surface over the most recent racially-influenced police brutality with the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer on May 25. All this following the recent killings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, which together add to the many black bodies that have been killed for no explicable reason than being black in the United States.

I feel heartbroken for the victims and their families, and also for the millions of black men and women in our country who see themselves and their children in the faces of those who have been killed. While we praise the gains of the Civil Rights Movement and the progress our country has made toward equal rights, events like the many killings of unarmed black people–most significantly and tragically by officers whose job it is to keep the peace–reveals how very far we still need to go.

I know I cannot say everything that needs to be said. Moreover, I’m aware that as a white person I can only speak with a limited understanding of the real plight of our black sisters, brothers, and siblings in Christ, and I know that I am speaking to a primarily white group of people. But it is my sincere prayer that God will give us not only words but also actions to match what we might aspire to in speech. I pray for justice and fairness for our black communities, for humility and repentance for white people who have unduly benefited from racial injustice, and for God’s mercy on us all, including those who took the lives of Breonna, Ahmaud, George, and so many others before them.

While I do not yet know what to do I know that something must be done and I believe, as a Christian, that the Church must be involved and must stand on the side of the poor, the prisoner, and the oppressed. In the gospel of Luke, when Jesus makes his first appearance in the synagogue he reads this from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

There is a longstanding debate that is very much alive today about politics and the church. While I am unequivocal in wanting to create a church whose love and commitment to each other transcends political ideology, I firmly believe the gospel calls us to repent of all sin as a principally Christian act. True repentance necessarily involves naming and working to repair the ways that we fall short of the glory of God. The systemic racism in our country is not the byproduct of a culture war or about political division. Racism is a sin and it separates us from the love of God and each other in Christ Jesus. Right now our black community is especially suffering from the white privilege that allows benefits to so easily travel to white people while being denied to people of color. The disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths by black and latinx people is a case in point and a tragedy with many layers.

It is important for us to name the sin of racism and white privilege that has seized us in this moment. It is important to say the names of the black women and men who have been unjustly killed–George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, and so many others. Most importantly, it is important for all of us to be in relationship with each other as we lament these deaths, as we lament our own sins, and as we look, together, for actions that match our desire for change. We are, after all, people of Word and Sacrament, of prayer and work, of contemplation and action.

It is also important to acknowledge the context in which we find ourselves. We are nearly three months in to a global pandemic that we are by no means recovered from. We live with fear and anxiety for our health and well-being. Our economic futures are uncertain. We are exhausted. Perhaps our exhaustion is an opportunity to empathize with our black neighbors who have been suffering from the plague of racism, not for a few months, but since before this nation’s beginning.

I do not know how to solve the sin of a country’s racism, but I do know how to repent of my own sin, and I invite you to join with me–in repenting of the ways in which we have benefitted from unjust power systems, and of our implicit and explicit racism. I invite you to join me in prayer–for peace and for guidance. And I invite you to connect the goodness and wellbeing of the marginalized and oppressed in our society with our own commitment to follow Christ. Weary as we are, this work cannot wait. And we will need each other to grow and learn and change together. There is much to do and much to learn. I am confident that God is ready to guide us into this way of love if we are ready to follow. God loves you, I love you, let us pray and work together to discern how Incarnation will answer this call now and in the future.

Let us pray

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

Good Friday Liturgy

In case you missed our live service in commemoration of Good Friday, you can watch it here and add your prayers to ours. This service includes a reading from Holy Scripture about the last days and eventual death of Jesus Christ, as well as a reflection on self-sacrifice, humility, and love–the true meaning of the cross. We also offer our solemn prayers for the whole world and ask God to forgive us for those things that separate us from God’s love.