Today’s Word from Rev. David Bieniek…
The events of the past few weeks have weighed heavy on my soul. I grew up in a single-mother, lower economic household in South Texas. Racism was all around me. And I hate to admit it, but it is embedded in my family history as well. None of my family was around in 1861, because the entire family emigrated in the late 1800’s, but if they had been, my family would have fought (and lost) with the Confederacy. There is still a pride in my family that I do not understand.
In fourth grade, I had a life-changing experience. I went to an integrated school. I remember clearly that my three best friends were a white boy named Ted, a black boy named Anthony, and a Hispanic boy named Gus. For whatever reason, we all clicked and enjoyed each other’s company. I came away from that year realizing that race did not matter. I am not sure I knew that, as much as I felt it. Gus and Anthony were not thugs looking to rob me or take whatever they could from the government, as the systemic racism taught me at home. They were just people. They were…friends.
Almost 50 years later, I realize that I still struggle with racism, from my childhood as well as from the media, political figures, and society as a whole. No matter how much I believe the words of Martin Luther King Jr., that we need to be judged by the content of our character instead of the color of our skin, the old tapes continue to run.
Whidbey Island is the whitest place I have ever lived. It is hard to face racism when we do not have much of a chance to interact with people of different races in the world around us. Yet, it is what we are called to do right now, in this time, and by Jesus of Nazareth, a poor person of color.
I do believe Jesus had to confront his own racism in his life. We read the story of him calling the Syro-Phoenician woman a dog because she dared ask him to heal her daughter. I believe that event is not just a nice story, but a time when Jesus realized he was human and had to confront his own upbringing in a society that looked down on many other groups.
I also believe that we, too, are called by today’s religious leaders to speak out and act to end racism. The Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, just this week spoke to us and challenged us to do several things when faced with racism:
– Do not deny our anger, but use it to bring about change
– Remain disquieted
– Work for peace; not a passive peace, but a peace to build a just society.
She ends with a statement that until the white majority feel the pain of black and brown people as OUR own pain, it will not be safe to be black or brown in our country. (Follow this link to see Bishop Eaton’s video message: https://youtu.be/OuvLb1iZDrc ).
People of God, we have our marching orders. We need to confront not only the racism without, but also the racism within. We can grow from this, and we can build a more peaceable Dominion of God where the wolf lies down with the lamb, and the black child, the brown child, and the white child, can play together in peace.
Ted, Anthony, and Gus, I have lost track of you over the years, but wherever you are, thank you for starting the lesson in me so long ago.
Rev. Dave Bieniek
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