time for change

The November 23 issue of Time magazine arrived in the mail. On the front cover: On the night of June 17, a gunman opened fire in the basement of a church in Charleston. Nine people died. Five survived. What It Takes to Forgive a Killer. Survivors and families tell their stories.

Inside, on pages 42-68, writer David Von Drehle with Jay Newton-Small and Maya Rhodan, and photographer Deana Lawson share, with sensitivity and care, vignettes and portraits from the lives of the dead, recounts of ongoing grieving by their families, and testaments of the peace of forgiveness and the power of anger and resentment.

One essay arrests my attention, perhaps because it addresses an issue I oft ponder: Searching for signs of a change in Charleston by John Huey. I have believed for quite a while that as institutional slavery was so key an element of the economic, political, and social foundation of America that racism remains an indelible and virulent strand in our national DNA. We, Americans, seemingly continue to teach and to learn to judge one another as “the other” based, in tenacious opposition to the ardent plea of Martin Luther King, Jr., not on the content of one’s character, but rather by the color of one’s skin. Huey, responding to his own question about meaningful change, answers “yes and no.”

As I have poured, prayed over these pages, I continue to dream of change. It is time. Long past time. Out of the depths of my hurt at what I still see and from the heights of my hope for what I long to behold, I recall and share a prayer I wrote some years ago:

O Gracious God, source and substance of light and liberty, in whom no dungeon-darkness dwells, you made yourself known to Hagar, a slave, when she was rejected by human hearts and, redeemed by your hand, you showered the succor of your mercy and grace upon her. For that she called you El-roi, God of seeing. By your Self-same Spirit, O God, pour upon us that gift of sight that we may be liberated from our darkness of ignorance and fear through which we reject others who appear and who are other than we. In your sight, may we see the better and brighter horizons of hope of reconciliation, and of peace among all peoples. This we ask in faithfulness by the favor of Jesus Christ, another rejected by human hearts and redeemed by your hand, who is our Liberator. Amen.[1]

[1] Race and Prayer, Collected Voices, Many Dreams, Malcolm Boyd and Chester L. Talton, editors, Morehouse Publishing, 2003, page 150

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6 thoughts on “time for change

  1. Yes, pour upon us that gift of sight! Amen, amen.

    Paul, I’m so glad you were persuaded to start this blog, and so very glad I happened to follow a couple of fortuitous links on that day.

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  2. Paul,

    Thank you for writing this post! It truly is time for change!! I’ve received my edition of Time magazine as well. I usually toss them to the side until I can quickly scan the articles before taking them to Mom’s group home for the residents and caregivers to read. But the title and description on the cover captured my attention enough that I decided to actually READ this issue before sharing it.

    Your post has given me additional incentive to read the cover story, hopefully by this weekend. I’m praying that there’s some hope for me in those stories because we really need some with all of the hate and judgement in this world. If that’s not the case, please know that I’ve found great comfort in your prayer. I pray that we can all begin to “see” those different from us in a new light and get to know them and their character before judging or hating them.

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  3. Loretta, I pray daily for all of us – myself, folks I know, folks I don’t know; again, all of us – that Gid continually pour out the grace of sight that we can see one another as equal in God’s view AND that we receive the gift. For I believe that God always is in the sight-giving-and-granting business, but that we humans resist and refuse to receive the gift. So, I pray…

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  4. It is so hard to believe one’s self capable of that insidious strain of racism, because my intentions are never to harm. But I know now, the also virulent privilege holds me in ways I will never consciously understand. I wish it were as easy to live as to dream.

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    • Amen, Alise, for wishing to live as easily as we dream. As for our unconsciousness, all of us, as human, are unknowing of many parts of ourselves. Part of the daily labor of living, I think, is wrestling to remain conscious that as much as I believe I know about myself, there are hidden, shadowy parts that are oft wholly inaccessible to me. That awareness alone oft makes me slower to make judgments of others and thus slower to act on what judgments (especially negative) I make about others.

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