To: The Sorest, Most Messed-Up Loser Ever
Yesterday our intern chaplain preached and near the end of her sermon our senior minister said in the chat that she thought it was one of the best sermons ever. It was a truly wonderful sermon on an incredibly challenging portion of the lectionary – Mathew 25: 14-30, The Parable of the Talents. I need to listen to it again to really understand intellectually how she handled the story and managed to salvage it from the usual smug, master-centered interpretations that typically freight it down. I’m clear emotionally though, that she was correct in keeping her focus on the enslaved person who spoke truth to power, that he was the one Jesus was aligned with in opposition to the enslaver and the system that perpetuates such gross inequities.
I also want to listen to it again so that I can see how she wove in a reference from a sermon that Reverend Dr. Traci Blackmon gave on Friday. This is now something like a fourth-hand story, but our preacher said that Blackmon said that a Black man in her congregation told her about his father who never (ever) allowed himself to be vulnerable, even at home with his family. This father always maintained perfect control and composure because it was too risky to do otherwise – ever. The point that was being made is that the system that White people in America have created to cater to our own comforts and our own ease comes at the expense of Black people’s sense of safety, comfort, and ease. This is the stuff that fuels disparities in high blood pressure, infant and maternal mortality, diabetes, and stroke among Black Americans relative to White Americans.
In this morning’s HP there was an article by a mom about her sensitive 7-year-old boy and how impactful it was to see CNN anchor, Van Jones, tearfully talk about what Joe Biden’s win meant to him (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/van-jones-cry-emotional-cnn-joe-biden_n_5fadbf22c5b6370e7e313ee0). The story about the boy is well done and carries an important message, but the reason for bringing up the article is Jones’s testimony. He struggles to maintain his composure as he describes how much easier it is now to be a parent, to be able to tell your kids that character matters, that the truth matters. As he wipes away tears he talks about how so many people have truly suffered from your cruelty, have been kept on edge and scared about what the next POTUS Tweet might mean for their lives. He reflects on how you gave permission to the racists among us to the point where each and every day Black people have had to worry about their children, themselves, and their loved ones and whether they could go about their business without someone saying something nasty. Or worse. He described the toll it has taken just trying to hold it together through all that.
It was heartbreaking.
And it was a study in courage.
And it was a gift to America.
Jones allowed himself to be vulnerable and tender and real as he spoke about the ordeal of existing in America these past four years. This wasn’t some abstract treatise on the impacts of racism and xenophobia – it was raw and it was emotional. This famous, accomplished man let us have a glimpse of the strain and the ugliness he has endured these past four years and he allowed us to see how deeply meaningful it is to him that he can finally let his guard down and breathe because you’re on your way out and someone honorable is taking your place.
May we all be safe from bigotry.
May we be willing to figure out a way of being together that is not predicated on inequities.
May we understand that everyone needs to feel secure and have space to be vulnerable.
May we all accept that we must never, ever repeat this sick chapter of our history.