Wednesday, 1 February 2017

How Do We Preach in These Troubling Times?

I'm troubled. Really troubled. I don't know how to preach with integrity. Maybe you've got it figured out. In which case, help welcome.

St. CHL Epiphany 2017
This is Black History Month. A must-read book for all of us who wish to understand (as best one can when one's skin is pinky-white) is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  A Black man's letter to his Black son. On the jacket cover: "Americans have built an empire on the idea of 'race,' a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men - bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?"

Today, I came home to the next book I'd ordered: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, Ph.D.
Page 3-4 ... "The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up. A formidable array of policy assaults and legal contortions has consistently punished black resilience, black resolve."

"The truth is that hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights Movement caused a reaction that stripped Brown (v. Board of Education) of its power, severed the jugular of the Voting Rights Act, closed off access to higher education, poured crack cocaine into inner cities, and locked up more black men proportionally than even apartheid-era South Africa..."

No point in quoting the entire book... because this is only scratching the surface. President Trump, though not our president north of the border, signed executive orders including one blocking people, even those with visas and some in transit, from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. Despicable and also terrifying in its implications. 

Saturday night, a mosque was burned in Victoria, Texas. Sunday evening, a white, 'Christian' Quebec man who openly has supported Trump's ideas, walked into a mosque in Quebec City, massacred 6 Muslim men at prayer and wounded 19 others.  

When our provincial government, several years ago, attempted to place a ban on religious symbols for all civil servants - a poorly veiled attempt to prevent Muslim women from wearing the hijab, the number of violent and/or racist incidents here multiplied ... while previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to ban the niqab (how many women actually wear the  niqab in Canada? Very, very few) - and set up a hotline where Canadians could report neighbours for 'barbaric cultural practices.'

And - it's not like there are options. Much as I loved and respected President Obama, I learned recently that the US was (is?) bombing in seven different countries. And he supported the use of drones - that kill innocent people. 

In Road Trip Rwanda, I read that when General Romeo Dallaire pleaded with the UN for troops to help prevent a coming genocide, the US, Britain and France prevented it happening. "Kill, kill, kill" was screamed from radios across Rwanda. There was a giant radio tower that could have been disabled, but apparently Bill Clinton, the only one with power to disable it, refused to, citing freedom of the media. 

At a children's ministry workshop on Saturday, one group mentioned prayers they had used in a youth worship:  eg - One person says, "The world is falling apart." The other responds with a Biblical quote. Sunday, I borrowed the idea and used the response from the first reading of Epiphany 4: Micah, vs 8 : "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

I also read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad yesterday. Heart of Darkness was on our reading list in first year university English 211 with Michael Bryan. 1966-1967.  I couldn't read it then - I mean really read it. It was before I realized I was a breakdown waiting to happen. Heart of Darkness was way too dark. And now I hear echoes of Mr. Kurtz's last words before dying: "The horror! The horror!" Kurtz represented the Belgians who raped the Congo of ivory and then rubber, and who enslaved and massacred up to a million people. No one knows how many. They were black, seen as less than human, and had no names. Our countries were and are still implicated in the rape of African and other countries.  

Sometimes, I wonder where I've been much of my life. 70 and still learning. That's where. "No names" reminds me of the hundreds of black and 'colored' babies and children listed in the death indexes of early Bermuda records as No name. No name. No name. No name. No name. 


No names. Who are the people today with no names? Invisible? Refugees? So many more. Make your own list.

How do we preach hope? Without being facile. With as much knowledge and understanding and openness to the realities of the world around us as we can gain. Not just on the world stage. Being present to abused children and their families. The dying. 

Without simply saying, "The world has already been saved." Which it has. But ...

You all know the children's book, "I'm Going on a Bear Hunt." Or lion hunt. You come across obstacles on the journey and everyone repeats: "You/we can't go over it. You can't go under it. You can't go around it. You have to go through it!"

So, yes - we go through it. "Help!" is a good prayer. But honestly - I don't know how to preach right now. Suggestions welcome, if you've trudged through this far.

And to regain some balance before continuing with Anderson's book White Rage, I'm reading light - L.M. Montgomery's Along the Shore, discovered yesterday at a book shop in Lennoxville with my friend Anne Hill. And, I'm going to church. And to walk in the snow. And to hope in spite of everything that threatens to destroy hope. Or seems to mock us.

North Hatley, QC, January 31, 2017 (RM)

North Hatley, QC, January 31, 2017 (RM)