Ignore at your own peril. This was the warning given by my seminary preaching professor. He was speaking to those of us preparing to stand up in front of congregations around the country and wrestle with God’s Word in our lives.
We all knew what he meant. The Sunday following 9/11, the Joplin tornado, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We can’t say he didn’t warn us. We had to talk about those events and not fail to pray for those affected. We needed to respond to members’ searching for more and searching for hope in the midst of devastation.
And so now I write the week following the hate crime in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black lives were lost. Perhaps there have been too many words already. Perhaps too much talk and not enough action. But writing this Pastor’s Pulpit and not wrestling with the events in Charleston seems too much like ignoring at my own peril.
And perhaps more importantly, it would be ignoring the peril for all of us. Especially those of us who don’t have to fear for our lives daily. Especially those of us who don’t constantly live in the storms of racial violence and hate language.
Especially those of us who can do more.
Especially for the reminder that black lives matter.
I can’t help but watch the news unfold, read articles and commentaries, and scroll my Facebook feed without thinking about my daughter. Yes, I grieve for those who lost their life. Yes, I am angry that communities are afraid to recognize white privilege. Yes, I want all people to know they are loved and created by God. But perhaps right now, most importantly, I want my daughter to know the value of life and the responsibility she has in teaching others about valuing all lives.
As a pastor it’s my hope that churches can be those places where the value of life is taught. I want my daughter to know the church is one of those places where she’ll be able to wrestle with tough questions and not be given easy answers. I want her to be a part of a church that isn’t whole until all are welcome at the table and all are welcome to serve in leadership.
I want the church to be a place where she engages with people from different backgrounds, different thoughts, and different beliefs. I want her to read and consume as much as she can from voices at the margins, voices of liberation theology, feminist theology, and black theology. I want my daughter to question others when she sees discrimination. I want her to practice speaking up when she witnesses hate language and actions.
I want my daughter to love and be loved. To love so fully all of God’s creation that her heart is about to burst. To love so fully that she can’t help but reach out her hands and heart. This is a love Christ died on the cross for — a love given up for all this world and all people so that we can proclaim that Christ is risen for all.
Will you help me teach her?