Updated Ecumenical Statement from Delmarva Christian Council and other Ecumenical Partners in Ministry
June 7, 2020
To our neighbors and friends,
Like most of you the events over the past few days and weeks have led us to a sense of emotional and spiritual exhaustion. This is understandable when we witness the killing of yet another unarmed black man by the people that are sworn to protect us. Yet again we had to watch as an unarmed person of color was tragically taken far too soon by the very sin that stains the fabric of this nation and the combined church of God, racism.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God?” (Micah 6:8)
We commend the protesters and demonstrators for their commitment to justice and calling those of us to repent for the sin of racism. In doing so they bring to light what has been hidden for centuries. The voices calling for justice and the very basic right to live free from harassment and discrimination can no longer go unheard. When we fail to embody the very basic ideals of equality and freedom, we do a disservice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is antithetical to what it means to be a Christian.
We lament the church’s failure to faithfully, powerfully, and consistently bear witness to racism in our society historically and in our own time. We confess and repent for the times when the church has been silent in the face of racial injustice.
We, the undersigned faith leaders of Delmarva, and on behalf of our individual communities, condemn the killing of George Floyd and all the unjust killings and abuse of unarmed black and brown people across this nation. In addition, we condemn forms of white supremacy and racism in our communities and in our nation. As faith leaders called to repentance, we will engage our individual congregations in the task of anti-racism training and work that will fulfill the Gospel command to love one another.
The Rev. William (Bill) Gohl, Jr., Bishop Delaware-Maryland Synod, ELCA
The. Rev. Jason R. Churchill
Ecumenical Officer DE/MD Synod, ELCA Pastor, St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wilm. DE
Rev. Shada Sullivan
Pastor, The Church of the Holy City, Swedenborgian
Rev Nathaniel W Pierce Ecumenical Officer Episcopal Diocese of Easton
The Rev. Peggy A. Johnson, Bishop Eastern Pennsylvania Conference The United Methodist Church
The. Rev. Robert P. Hall, OSL Ecumenical Officer
The United Methodist Church
Rev Dr Tracy Keenan Missional Presbyter New Castle Presbytery
Rev Freeman L Palmer Conference Minister Central Atlantic Conference United Church of Christ
The Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown, Bishop The Episcopal Church in Delaware
The Rev. Canon Martha Kirkpatrick The Episcopal Church in Delaware
Elder Bob Schminkey Stated Clerk
New Castle Presbytery
Pastor Barbara Melosh, Dean Delmarva North and Delmarva South Delaware-Maryland synod, ELCA
A Heart Set on Pilgrimage
Readings: Psalm 84:1-7, Matthew 1:18-24, Secrets of Heaven #5122:3 (see below)
See also on Youtube at https://youtu.be/tNcCgwTHZeI
Happy Father’s Day to one and all. Today we’re going to explore a character in the bible who gets a little overshadowed sometimes: Joseph, the father of Jesus. That’s right we are doing Christmas in June!
If the gospel of Luke focuses on Mary and her experience of the incarnation, the gospel of Matthew centers Joseph. It even begins the narrative with “this is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about…” and starts talking mostly about Joseph’s actions and experience. So, I mean, Mary had something to do with it, I think….but in all seriousness, Matthew’s account gives us a window into a different experience of how God comes to us, for God’s presence is with each of us uniquely and yet universally.
As we enter the account, we immediately see how kind Joseph is. We are told that he is faithful to the law (and according to the law would have been within his rights to publicly sever his relationship with Mary) but at the same time he was empathetic to her situation and didn’t want to unduly hurt her reputation. The text is not explicit about what Joseph believed at this point. Mary’s claim to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit was indeed preposterous! Yet even from within that undeniable turmoil of mind, Joseph managed to think about someone other than himself, or his ego or his pride. Already he is a sympathetic character, someone we would be happy to have be a father to Jesus.
But then, over the next few chapters, we see a remarkable thing: Joseph is visited by angels in dreams four times over the next few years and each time, he listens and obeys without question. The first time we see in our reading for today, where Joseph hears that Mary is telling him the truth, that her son will be the Messiah and that he should not be afraid to take her as his wife, and to join her this important partnership.
Joseph does so, and Jesus is born. But soon after that Herod becomes jealous and, via the Magi, tries to find the baby Jesus to kill him. So, Joseph is visited a second time…
2:13 When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod.
Joseph’s willing and swift action saved Jesus’ life. But the angels were not done talking to him.
2:19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.
In this short passage, two separate dreams, taking Joseph and his family one way and then another. Back and forth, trying to find safety and peace. Mary said yes when an angel came to her and told her that she would give birth to Jesus. And likewise, Joseph said yes when an angel came to him and told him to join Mary in taking care of her son. But of course, Joseph, like many of us when we start on a journey, didn’t know what he was saying yes to. Yet he showed up anyway, open and listening and ready to move.
And so when I came across Psalm 84 this week, I couldn’t help but think of Joseph when I read the verse 5: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
Part of what Joseph was saying yes to was pilgrimage…a physical pilgrimage at times sure, but also a heart pilgrimage. Joseph was someone who loved; loved his God and loved his family, and he let that love, that care and concern for others, be his strength and his guide. He was open to his heart being set on pilgrimage, open to hearing what he needed to hear, learning what he needed to learn, acting when he needed to act.
When Swedenborg talks about dreams in the Bible, he often also talks about Divine Foresight and Providence, and the fact that the Lord is present to us and caring for us in even the smallest details of our lives. This doesn’t mean that the God manipulates outcomes in a way that overrides our freedom, but I think it does mean that God understands possibility in a way that we do not, that in God’s creation all things, even small inconsequential things or things that challenge us, can be brought to blossom for goodness, some way, somehow.
And in this story about Joseph and his dreams, we see the importance of our receptivity to God’s Divine foresight and providence. Because, it was not the bestowal of divine foresight in a dream that made Joseph special. He was special because of his openness, his acceptance, his willingness to listen.
We heard in our reading about God’s care for each person’s process and growth, to eternity. It said:
For one stage looks to the next in an unending sequence and produces chains of sequences which never cease.
Another translation puts it this way: for what is prior looks to what follows in a continuous series.
One part of what was prior, one part of the groundwork for the incarnation, was Joseph’s character, and his willingness to listen. His state of openness allowed for what was to follow. Likewise, *we* are invited to participate in God’s foresight and providence for us, knowing that part of our agency and our power is to cultivate the quality of our receptivity, to practice openness to hearing new things and accepting new ways of thinking.
By the time Jesus enters his public ministry at around age 30, none of the gospels mention Joseph anymore. A reasonable supposition is that by that time he had died. There is something very poignant about he fact that he may not have lived to see Jesus come into the fullness of his mission. The one who, according to Matthew, acted in so many ways to allow Jesus to be a fulfillment of the scriptures, of a long tradition of human spirituality, was not able to see Jesus become that fulfillment in his own way, in his own words, and through his own sacrifice. This feels sad to me. So, on this Father’s Day let’s take a moment to honor the man who was open and kind and faithful enough to say yes to the very strange heart pilgrimage that was and is the incarnation. The man who worked hard to protect and feed and shelter the body of the living God when he was a mischievous toddler, an impish child, and a stubborn teen. The man who worked to mould and guide and encourage the heart and mind of the one who would inspire so many around the world in the millennia to come.
May we all aspire to think so kindly, to listen so keenly, to act so faithfully. May we do as Joseph did and let God set our hearts on pilgrimage. Amen.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Secrets of Heaven #5122:3
These are the matters that are meant by progressive stages of development and by continuous derivatives even to the final one. Such stages and derivatives are unending in the case of a person who is being regenerated. They begin when we are young children and continue through to the final phase of our life in the world; indeed they continue for ever after that, though our regeneration can never reach the point when we can by any means be called perfect. For there are countless, indeed a limitless number of things to be regenerated, both within our rational and within our natural. Everything there has limitless shoots, that is, stages of development and derivatives that progress in both inward and outward directions. A person has no immediate awareness at all of this, but the Lord is aware of every particular detail and is making provision for it moment by moment. If [the Lord] were to stop doing this for a single instant every stage of development would be thrown into confusion. For one stage looks to the next in an unending sequence and produces chains of sequences which never cease. From this it is evident that Divine Foresight and Providence exist in every particular detail, and that if they did not, or did so in a merely overall way, the human race would perish.
Flowing Like a River
Readings: Amos 5:18-27, Revelation 21:1-2, 22:1-5, Secrets of Heaven #63 (see below)
See also on YouTube at youtu.be/vr1cfNF57cU
Our two readings today differ greatly in tone. One is full of lament, the other is bright with hope. And lately with these days, as we all grapple with seeing the fullness of how racism has poisoned our society and shaped the lives of people of color, when we see the voices finally being heard and change starting to happen, well, it is reasonable to find both lament and hope in our hearts right now.
Let’s first spend some time with the Amos text. Most of us are probably only familiar with verse 24, made particularly famous by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But I highly recommend reading the whole of chapter five at some point because it communicates so viscerally, as did our shorter reading, the depth of God’s lament. The whole chapter is a litany of complaints against the people of Israel, that they have turned away from God, that they have levied unfair taxes upon the poor, that they have oppressed the innocent, taken bribes and denied the poor justice in the courts, that they enriched themselves without any thought of others.
And in Amos God says, I can’t save you from this. If you insist on making these kinds of choices again and again and again, I can’t make it better. If you insist on replacing me with idols of your own making, if you insist on ignoring my words and replacing our covenant with your own selfishness….there will be no religious festival, no sacrifice, no special words that will be able to magically transform the world you have made.
And let’s be clear: God is heartbroken over the way things are going. God is pleading with the Israelites to open their eyes and see what their selfishness and blindness has wrought. Those who have fashioned God in their own image, those who have twisted God’s word to serve their own purposes, those who have turned away from the suffering of God’s beloved, will not find likeness, will not find light or peace or safety, when they come to understand what God is really about. It will be a terrifying surprise, like running from a lion only to meet a bear, like pitch darkness without a flashlight. And this, not as a punishment, just as the soul-disorienting realization that God doesn’t exist to serve our self-aggrandizement, our worldview, our privilege.
And so God is pleading with them to wake up. To recognize that they cannot participate in festivals, or enact sacrifices in a purely external way. They can’t act selfishly and then act performatively, and expect God to be okay with it. “I will not accept [that]” says the Lord, “But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-ending stream.”
Swedenborg writes of this verse:
'Justice' means truth, and 'righteousness' good. Both stem from charity (kindness) and are the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the internal self (1).
A river evokes something old and deep and unstoppable. If the hypocritical sacrifices that God is rejecting in Amos are paper-thin and surface-deep, a river is something timeless, reflecting the heart of God…a never-ending stream of of justice and righteousness coming up from the deep well of God’s divine love.
God is asking us to connect with that depth, to offer up sacrifices that come from deep inside us, that reflect the depth and the power of that river. That reflect the divine love that gives it being. To give burnt offerings that represent ways in which we have recognized our wrongness, and our willingness to use that burnt ash to fertilize new growth. Of course, there are so many ways that this applies to each of our own contexts, our own spiritual work. But, to our communal context right now, God is calling for a particular sacrifice of the internal self: the sacrifice of our complicity towards white supremacy, so that the river of justice can truly flow.
Now let us take a look at the Revelation text. This begins with the descent of the Holy City New Jerusalem, from which our church is named. And we are told that the river of the water of life flows down the middle of this city, and the tree of life bearing different fruits every month grows on either side, and that the leaves of this tree will be for the healing of the nations.
If in Amos, God spoke that justice and righteousness should flow like a river, here in the holy city we see that river, flowing right through the center. Swedenborg writes that a river indicates divine truths in abundance, and in addition, so do the leaves of the tree.
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. This symbolizes the resulting rational truths by which people caught up in evils and… falsities are brought to think sanely and to live decently(2).
We are invited into a vision in which justice, righteousness, and healing are paramount. A vision in which Divine truth flows in abundance and it leads to people thinking with clarity and living with kindness.
The holy city is thus built by truth being heard and then people changing the way that they live. The holy city is built by the kind of sacrifice that God desires, internal sacrifice, whereby people relinquish ways of thinking that serve themselves and take on ways of thinking that promote healing and service and equality.
We see something of this happening right now. If we just look at the books on the New York Times best-sellers list, volume after volume of education in anti-racism, people are hearing, learning and hopefully changing. But, what is important to remember is that over time, the headlines might well dissipate. The urgency might well fade. And we might well feel relief that the intensity has passed away because we have been conditioned to avoid conflict, to feel like conflict means that we are doing something wrong. But as we heard in our reading:
The hour of conflict is the hour when the Lord is at work…Nor does [the Lord] rest until love is playing the leading part, at which point conflict ceases.
The Lord is at work! I cannot think of anything more worthy of celebration and praise on this Holy City Sunday. When we look around and see conflict and denial and disagreement and anxiety in ourselves and in the world around us, it might not feel like the New Jerusalem is coming. When we see our world looking more like the book of Amos than the holy city, a vision where the leaves of the tree heal us all feels pretty far away, and maybe even a little naive.
But if the Lord is at work, so must we be. We know that the New Jerusalem is not something that we must passively wait for, something in our future that we will have no connection to. It is brought into being through each human heart. It is brought into being with each act of living courageously and decently. It is brought into being via our true and willing sacrifice.
God will not rest until love is playing the leading part, And if the Lord does not rest, neither shall we rest until the holy city is embodied as fully as it can be in our world. Now of course, I don’t literally mean we shouldn’t rest. We are of course limited human creatures, we have a biological and emotional need to rest. But what I mean is that we cannot become complacent again, content to rest in our privilege, however that privilege has become manifest. This complacency leads to an Amos world, full of blindness and selfishness, full of idols of our own making and myths of our own creating.
These days the invitation has never been more clear….The Lord is at work. Will we join Him? Amen.
(1) Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven #922:3
(1) Emanuel Swedenborg, Apocalypse Revealed #936
18 Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light— pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? 21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! 25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? 26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god — which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.
Revelation 21:1-2, 22:1-5
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Secrets of Heaven #63
…the Lord is constantly fighting on our behalf against evils and falsities and by these conflicts is confirming us in truth and good. The hour of conflict is the hour when the Lord is at work, which is why in the Prophets a regenerate person is called 'the work of God's fingers'. Nor does He rest until love is playing the leading part, at which point conflict ceases. When that work has reached the point where faith has been joined to love, it is then called 'very good', for the Lord then moves us to be a likeness of Himself…
De-Centering the Self
Photo credit: Ryan Halloway
Readings: Micah 6:6-8, John 15:12-17, Divine Love and Wisdom #47 (see below)
Well friends, a lot has happened in the last two weeks, since I spoke here last. We find ourselves in the United States and around the world, grappling more intensely with the reality of white supremacy and systemic injustice than we have in a very long time. And this is a good thing. Our siblings of color have been raising their voices for so many years now about these issues, and they are justifiably exhausted and frustrated that their distress has gone unheard for so long.
I spent a while thinking about what might be useful for me to say today. We’ve all heard the sermons about the fact that we should love one another. I know you already know that Jesus says we should love one another. The pertinent question is *how* do we love one another. Love is not just a fuzzy feeling of positivity, for love to be real it must be ultimated in action. But what action? And in what way? We might recall here the Swedenborgian notion that the twin of love is wisdom; to love truly we need to be able to love wisely. But just to be clear, contrary to the way in which the word wisely is often held, to love wisely does not mean to love *carefully* it means to love *effectively.* It is not about reserving love for those we think deserve it, it is about taking on the work to figure out how to love someone in a useful way, in a way that actually serves them. It means paying attention to questions like: Are we loving in ways that serve others, and not just making ourselves feel good. Is the love actually felt by the person we say we are loving? Do they feel it in the way we hoped they would? Are we listening if they tell us the they don’t feel it? What is it in ourselves might be preventing us from loving others wisely and usefully?
An important part of actually being able love wisely, is being practiced at taking ourselves and our own agenda out of the equation. We need be in the habit of de-centering ourselves, so that we are not, even unconsciously, imposing our own notions of rightness or our own projections onto the people we are trying to love.
And it is on this topic of de-centering that I want to focus today. Because systemic racism and injustice doesn’t come out of nowhere, it doesn’t come from a few bad apples, it comes from a society that habitually, consistently and intentionally centers whiteness: white experience, white wholesomeness, white power and the white narrative.
So, in this context, I want to talk about an article that read this past week, that seemingly deals with something small, but has significant ramifications. The article spoke about the kind of social media responses to racial injustice that are actually helpful and those that are not. Often times, when well-meaning white people become aware of injustice, we want to express how that makes us feel. So for example, we might talk about how outraged or disbelieving or disgusted or ashamed we are, we might want say not all white people are that way, that we are not that way, or we might want to shift the focus to where kindness and progress is actually happening. What we don’t realize is that these kinds of responses actually center white opinion and white feelings, and are focused on establishing white identity (our identity) as good people. It focuses on ourselves and not on the experience of the people of color who are involved with the in injustice. It doesn’t center what has happened to them, or the systemic racism under which they must constantly function. So, the article points out that better examples might be to respond with “I see you,” “that’s awful," or even better “I’ve found an organization that helps in these kinds of instances and I’ve donated money.” (1)
I know this might seem like a kind of trivial example…why try to regulate genuine expressions of dismay and/or optimism? Because white centrality in our society is so baked into our everyday, so a part of our unconscious responses to everything, that even small things like how we individually respond to examples of injustice will reflect it. And so in order to actually practice love in real life, in ways that are useful, we have to become aware of and work against that default white centrality. And for white people that means working to de-center the self. In order to do that, we have to work on our awareness of our responses and reactions. We need learn to cope with our feelings in private and not burden people of color with our processing. We have to be willing to open our eyes to different narratives than we have previously heard, to listen to voices we wouldn’t otherwise have listened to. We have to engage in serious self-reflection and be willing to recognize our own complicity, no matter how unconscious, with honesty and courage.
And so by now, you might have noticed an irony which another reader of that article noticed. We’re not supposed to make it about us (white people), but we do have to pay a lot of attention to ourselves in order to have the wherewithal to…not make it about us. As the author of the article points out, in order to de-center the self, we first have to pay attention to our sense of self. It’s a bit of a paradox. But of course, where there is paradox, there is often a deeply spiritual principle.
Self reflection toward the purpose of de-centering the self is actually a really good synopsis of the work of regeneration. I’ve brought it up in this context of de-centering whiteness, but of course, it is a spiritual principle that has a much broader application. It plays a part in all of our relationships; marriages, friendships, parenting, and others, and all the ways we might try to be effective and useful in the world. This sense of de-centering is captured in our reading from Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Wisdom today:
Feeling the joy of someone else as joy within ourselves--that is loving. Feeling our joy in others, though, and not theirs in ourselves is not loving.
The pertinent question then is, how do we feel the joy of another as joy within ourselves in that pure and lovely way, without it actually being our own sense joy located in someone else? Our own sense of joy from loving how someone one else serves our own pride or happiness? We get there by practicing the de-centering of the self. By having relinquished our attachment to selfhood and self-identity enough so that the joy of another can actually flow though us un-impeded and un-interpreted by our own hang-ups and desires.
In fact, we might describe an angel, as someone who has very effectively de-centered the self, so much so, that their selfhood is entirely abdicated, and instead filled up and given life by the Lord. Swedenborg writes:
They feel the inflow of divine love and wisdom from the Lord, and since they feel it and in their wisdom realize that these constitute their life, they say that their life comes from the Lord and not from themselves. (2)
This is the spiritual work that is before us. It is before everybody in all of our relationships, but specifically in this moment, it is before white people to let go of our narratives, defensiveness, embarrassment, and fear, so that we might allow our default centrality to fall away. This won’t feel comfortable. We all have habits of mind that protect the primacy of our selfhood, that protect our notions of our own rightness and goodness. But it is imperative that we find the will to notice how our acquiescence to white centrality has formed our society and has formed our institutions in ways that disadvantage our siblings of color. Jesus tells us to love one another. Figuring out how to de-center the self is “step one” in loving another. Not loving how they can serve us, not loving how loving someone can make us feel happy, but actually getting ourselves out of the way enough to hear how they are asking us to love them.
Until this de-centering occurs, the Swedenborgian vision of the Grand Human cannot be manifested in its fullness. Our vision of heaven on earth, the New Jerusalem, of perfect inter-connection and inter-dependence cannot be actualized while one group of people hangs on to centrality.
The main challenge in this call, though, is that we first have to focus on and engage with the thing that we ultimately will need to let go of. And the temptation is to imagine that all this necessary self-reflection is the culmination of the work, or to get so distracted by it that we never get around to acting. But to quote the writer and activist Rachel Cargyle: anti-racism is not a self-improvement project for white people(3). The point is not to *become* a loving person, but to *be* a loving person. Or, in this context, the point is not about becoming anti-racist and how that might make us feel better about ourselves, but about being anti-racist and how that might serve our siblings of color.
To quote Cornel West: justice is what love looks like in public. Love cannot be a vague notion; it is a verb that needs to be actualized, personally and communally. This will likely make us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. What if we do the wrong thing? News flash: we probably will. We definitely will, at some point. But a commitment to loving wisely and usefully (instead of a commitment to our own sense of goodness) means that we are willing to remain teachable and open and curious, it means that we are willing to apologize and try again, it means that we are willing to keep clearing out our own internal obstacles, over and over again. Not to arrive somewhere and be finished, but because the process of relinquishment makes room for God to lead us and guide us, makes room for a future that our selfhood alone could never have imagined. May it be.
(3) Rachel Cargyle, Public Address on Revoluation: Revolution Now, May 30 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leBPMyQ60HM&t=9s
6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Divine Love and Wisdom 47
Divine love and wisdom cannot fail to be and to be manifested in others that it has created. The hallmark of love is not loving ourselves but loving others and being united to them through love…
The essence of love is that what is ours should belong to someone else. Feeling the joy of someone else as joy within ourselves--that is loving. Feeling our joy in others, though, and not theirs in ourselves is not loving. That is loving ourselves, while the former is loving our neighbor. These two kinds of love are exact opposites. True, they both unite us; and it does not seem as though loving what belongs to us, or loving ourselves in the other, is divisive. Yet it is so divisive that to the extent that we love others in this way we later harbor hatred for them. Step by step our union with them dissolves, and the love becomes hatred of corresponding intensity.