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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Struggling

Over the past couple of days I've felt a bit down. Perhaps a bit homesick for Sweden as the big midsummer holiday unfolded yesterday. I enjoyed seeing many photos of people celebrating and we did get to Facetime with our normal crowd and join in some of the singing! Perhaps it was the ridiculous conversation I had with an older gentleman in the pool yesterday. He was talking about traveling in Europe and complaining about how bad the food was in Italy! WHAT? He must've hoped there were Olive Gardens all over Italy. "Worst pizza ever. Can't get ice. No salad dressing." Right guy...it's a different country. Why travel if you want things to be the same as in the US?
But no, beyond these feelings lies a deeper wound in my soul and I've had a hard time putting my finger on it. It has to do with the myopic attitude regarding race and guns in the US. My native country is clueless when it comes to these matters and it hurts me so deeply that I've had a hard time coming up with words to give expression to my feelings.
It's pretty grim when comedians John Stewart (watch link here) and Larry Wilmore (read his thougts here) get it more right than any other broadcast. I was alerted to what Fox News was saying via Facebook links. Their claim was that the Charleston massacre was an attack on Christians rather than being racially motivated. Incredulous. For readers who listen to Fox News for News...STOP DOING IT. They are clueless and actually hurting the attempts at moving forward because they refuse to report reality. True, most media outlets spin, but Fox reaches a new low with this incident. And perhaps you can't stand President Obama but he's getting it right at this time. He said in a recent statement, "I refuse to act as if this is the new normal, or to pretend that it's simply sufficient to grieve, and that any mention of us doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem." Another article that I read that really helped me to even begin to write this blog is written by a young woman named Austin Channing. (Read it here.) The title of her piece is "The Only Logical Conclusion." Her thoughts helped me to begin to articulate all that I was feeling and caused an ache in my soul for African Americans that I was finally able to write a little.
So I am left with the following feelings and I'm having a hard time processing everything. On race: I am a white female pastor and I feel the need to simply say this: This incident was motivated by a deep desire on the part of a young white man to assert his assumed white supremacy by being welcomed into a historical black church and then opening fire upon them. He has admitted that he wanted to start another civil war. He did not attack a white church because he's fed up with Christians. He attacked a historically significant black church in order to make a statement about black people in America and that statement is not a good one. He might very well have mental problems but he's a racist plain and simple. We have a huge problem with race in the US. If a black man had opened fire on a white church we would not be talking about mental illness. We'd be calling him a thug and a terrorist and use the incident to justify our white supremacy. We have to face our own racism. As whites we benefit hugely from a racist society. We need to have the courage to stand up and say no, I will no longer cash in on my privilege and instead I will face my racist attitudes and work towards changing them in my heart and in my society. I will write more on this in the coming days.
On guns: I have heard after school shootings and now church shootings that the solution is to arm teachers and pastors. As a former teacher and current pastor I want to go on record saying that I will never ever allow guns in my classroom or my church if it's up to me. I do not believe that further arming society will lead to greater peace. Violence begets violence. It does not shut it down. Until we decide that we have a huge problem with violence and that that problem is rooted in America's love affair with weapons, we will continue to live in the dark when it comes to shootings here. I have never, ever in my life felt more nervous about getting shot than I do right now living in Desert Hot Springs, CA. (Remember, I lived in Medellin, Colombia from 1986-1988, the time frame it was called by Time Magazine, " The Murder Capital of the World" and never felt the fear I do now.) The cavalier attitude about possessing guns and seeing them as means of protection makes me nervous. We live in a trigger happy society and I do feel that I could get caught in a crossfire one day.
Until we face the reality that racism is alive and well in the US and that a large part of the nation sees the way to peace is through violent gun use, we will continue to see unjust and tragic outcomes across this nation.
These are unedited, initial feelings. I hope to go deeper in the days to come. But as white Christian, I cannot sit idly by and watch as my black brothers and sisters continue to be slaughtered in the name of any thing other than pure unbridled racism.