A police officer out of control in Minneapolis . . . senseless killing . . . rioting . . . looting . . . protesting . . . racism. Denouncing all of this is easy. At least it should be. However, it’s not so easy, but just as necessary to search our own lives and confess our own sin and our own racism. As a faith community the First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield stands against the murder of George Floyd and racism in all of its forms.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22). Jesus also tells us, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The proper reaction for Christians when presented with a great evil, like murder or adultery or racism, is not to plead “not guilty” but rather to ask where we too may be at fault.
As Christians we are called to a higher standard. We are called to recognize the hidden truth of our sin and acknowledge our own complicity with evil. We may not have been in Minneapolis or NYC marching and rioting and looting, but if we say that we don’t have racist thoughts or feelings, like a person who says “I’m never angry” or “I’ve never committed adultery” then we have failed to examine ourselves thoroughly enough.
If we believe in original sin, then we should be the first to acknowledge systemic racism and our part and participation in it. The doctrine of original sin tells us that, though we are created in God’s image, from birth we are fallen into corruption and all that we do is tainted in sin. John Calvin would call this total depravity. And so, it is with racism. For Christians it should not be difficult to recognize that our lives and our world are marred with racism. Whether we are conscious of our own sin or not, we are wrapped up, in the things we have done and in the things we have left undone, in the shared evil of racism.
Brian Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA had this to say, “We cannot claim to witness to this risen Christ and simultaneously allow our country’s descent into this racial abyss. We Christian people can make a difference. We must help defeat this draconian, systemic evil.”
So how do we open our eyes to this problem? We open them through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, who makes the blind to see and who not only forgives us but also makes us new. We should pray, not just prayers for unity but prayers of self-examination and confession. God will answer those prayers. We should listen to each other so that we can hold each other accountable in the ways we speak and the ways in which we think. We should speak—that is, speak up whenever we see racism.
And finally, we should act. The African-American brothers and sisters in our midst, we want you to know that we love you and support you. I am here for you whenever you need me. We can find places in our life, our families, our churches, workplaces, schools, and communities, where we can work for justice. I pray that I will do better.
Stay safe and God’s blessings,