It was my turn to submit an article for the Times this week. Hard to say what you want in 300 words, but I suggest that the way forward for our nation's racial (and other) issues lies largely in building relationships. That begins with listening...
Even 57 years later, I find that listening to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helps me gain perspective on what our African-American brothers and sisters are contending with today. The attached video features some of his most thought-provoking words from his April 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Those who have seen the movie Selma will be familiar with some of the footage.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As our nation struggles in the wake of the brutal killing of George Floyd, each of us struggles as well. Where do we even start? How do we come to grips with the painful history, the varied experiences, and the fear and frustration that have never gone away? Why does it seem that race and injustice are always connected?
The two are connected, not just in our nation’s history but in human history. In Egypt, the Israelites' situation changed when a king came to power who did not know them (Exodus 1:8). Unfamiliarity grew until it became fear, and in that fear the Pharaoh brought down the heavy hand of domination and supremacy. Thus began the long road of suffering for the Israelites and ultimately for the Egyptians as well.
As we walk our own long road, we find that we do not know our brothers and sisters as we ought. This goes for neighbors of different races, religions, creeds and cultures, points-of-view, and economic levels. This is the worst kind of social distance. Unfamiliarity grows into fear, and we become a nation suspicious, angry, and divided.
We’re supposed to be better than that. We were created as brothers and sisters under God, but violence and injustice have injured the bonds of our common humanity. Our greatness as human beings comes from what’s within us, as Dr. King said: the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. But how do we relate to one another at that deeper level?
There are no fast answers to this age-old problem. But perhaps the long road towards healing starts as we listen to the voices of victims of violence and injustice. Perhaps by sharing our own experiences with humility and compassion, we start to know each other. Perhaps then we’ll see more clearly the good God requires of us: “…to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)” and the world will begin to change.
Pastor Scott Lindner
Atonement Lutheran Church
Wesley Chapel, Florida