FEBRUARY PASTOR'S NOTE
“We know better, so we do better.” That’s a refrain I sometimes use with the boys. Yes, when I was growing up, the rules about car seats and sitting up front were different, but now - “We know better, so we do better.” The same goes for using pronouns - both for ourselves and others, as a practice of inclusivity. At one point many years ago, Trinity staged a performance of “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” with the actor portraying Balthasar in black face. Dressing up as a “Gypsy” was one of my go-to costumes when I was growing up. It’s only in recent years that I’ve connected “the peanut gallery” with its racist origin. Characters in tv shows and movies still regularly use homophobic and ableist language as put-downs, and “crazy” is still widely used casually and often dismissively. More than once, I’ve said to the boys, “pause it!” - to engage in a mini-conversation on the harm of the language we’ve just heard on tv. I’m a lot of fun. But hey, “we know better, so we do better.”
We might happen to do better simply by operating in spaces that do better, and as the awareness of harm becomes more widely understood and addressed. But generally to do better, we have to know better, and that requires ongoing learning and education, as well as adopting a humble openness to correction, and a willingness to learn and make adjustments.
Last week the state of Florida rejected an Advanced Placement course in African American History, while currently in the pilot phase, “citing examples of what it calls “the woke indoctrination” of students that would violate state laws restricting how race can be taught in the classroom.” This goes hand-in-hand with their “Don’t say ‘Gay’” law. If we aren’t learning from history, and if we aren’t expanding our understanding of other people, and the ways that systems perpetuate power and oppression, how can we grow? How can we do better? How can we even begin to repair harms if we don’t know that harm has been done?
During Lent and Easter, we will have a few opportunities to learn together. The team will be facilitating a reading and discussion group around the book, “What Kind of Christianity: A History of Slavery and Anti-Black Racism in the Presbyterian Church” (https://www.pcusastore.com/Products/0664264670/what-kind-of-christianity.aspx). We will also have a few nurture sessions after worship inviting us to share and reflect on personal or familial stories of complicity in the structural injustices of our country.
The point of this isn’t for us to be laden with guilt, but instead to learn about the past so we can be aware of harm that has been done, and repent. Repentance means turning around, or returning to the way of God. We know better, so we do better. We’ll often find that the past isn’t so far back as we might imagine, and hopefully we will continue to learn and see the ways that structural injustices continue to shape our society, our institutions, and our relationships today.
Black History Month often offers extra opportunities for learning, and I hope we can seek them out and avail ourselves of them in the coming weeks. Consider it part of our preparation as we enter into Lent, a season of repentance. I hope we can continue to share with each other ways that we are learning more, so that we can do better together. And when we fall short - as we always do - may we offer ourselves and others the grace that is so freely and abundantly offered to us by God in Jesus Christ.
Grace and Peace,