Danger! The church has blood on her hands once again. When we are silent or soft-spoken about the evils of empire, the blood of the innocents cry out in condemnation of our cowardice. Too long have we pretended that the United States of America is a democratic republic founded on the principles of Christianity and ignored the fact that from the very moment the colonies organized themselves they conspired to defraud, murder, and remove Indigenous Peoples from their homelands. This has always been an empire and acted this way, and therefore this empire is rotten to its core with moral hypocrisy. From our founding fathers forward we can hold forth that all men are created equal endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights while the same author busied himself fathering children by his own slave. It should then be no surprise that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, a place built by slave labor, can traffic in overtly racist hate speech and condemn white supremacy simultaneously.
Plato taught that ideas are the eternal reality and hence cannot be eradicated; they simply take new expression (Griffin 1999). The recent domestic terror attacks in our nation cannot be removed from the racist rhetoric of those whose job it is to craft the narrative of the nation. Our nationalist tradition allows us to cling to the constitution at the expense of the lives of our most vulnerable. The Second Amendment gives us the right to bear arms, and that is holy in this empire, even if it means our children have to be sacrificed in their schools or our citizenry is unsafe in their acquisition of grocery items and basic necessities (let’s be honest – Walmart is no high-end luxury establishment). This is the same constitution that rendered Black people three-fifths human (The Constitution of the United States with the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Incorporation 2005). While economic realities certainly influenced the rise of racism and slavery in the early South, theological notions that first raged across New England drifted southward and infected southern white minds in the period just before the civil war (Griffin 1999). The church of today has allowed our moral voice to be silent far too long, and it is costing our nation innocent blood.
When is the church going to awake from her slumber and realize that our passivity is the engine of radical evil? The greatest delusion is that radical evil does not exist and/or that the United States is incapable of housing and demonstrating said evil. History has proven time and again that this empire is able and more than willing to engage radical evil with the end goal of preserving imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy in all of its demonic manifestations. Our sin of passivity is catastrophic because it introduces chaos and disharmony into our culture in fresh and living ways (Farley 1990). The dominating culture’s male fragility backlash to the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo moment is to declare that no one is truly “woke” or that there is no authentic progressive way of being in the world, and that there is no expert on what humanizing behavior ought to be. The church must say that there is no neutrality that is acceptable when the President continues to fan the flames of hatred which lead to acts of violence, and who uses xenophobic and racist language meant to underscore a sentiment that will produce full endorsement of dehumanizing government policies. The church cannot forget white supremacy and its audacious counterparts do not even need active racists to function. Supremacy is a demonic system that interlocks with other demonic systems in a life of its own. These systems reinforce each other in cycles of death and we all pay the price (Duncan 2019). Silence endorses and sustains the evils of these interlocking systems of oppression and domination and makes all those who rest in it’s comfort complicit with these evils.
Justice minded people agree that there is no peace without justice and that there must be justice before peace, but we cannot ignore that there must be love before justice (S.J. 2002). We have to call for a radical love not situated in sentimentality, rather in firm accountability. Love that is rooted in care, knowledge, respect, and responsibility (Fromm 1956). We have to stop allowing the culture around us to practice cathecting around an imperfect constitution written before semiautomatic weapons were in the hands of young men emboldened to act out their rage by a nation’s leader with no agenda other than power and domination. If we believe that God continues to show up on the side of the oppressed, then why are we silent when those at the center of power and privilege continue the work of marginalization that disinherits the masses of people? What are we afraid of? Has our theology become so corrupted by the social location of most of our celebrated theologians that we no longer hear the cry of righteousness? Are we starting to believe the rhetoric that we are irrelevant and have nothing to speak over this country’s politics and movements (Duncan 2019)?
The task of the church is to provide a visible manifestation that the Gospel is a reality (Warnock 2014). The future of our nation depends on a church that is willing to be militant in our stand against tyranny. The evils of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy must not be under estimated in our time. The damage caused by these interlocking systems of oppression cannot be overstated. If the church is to have any purpose true to the person and work of Jesus, then we must sound the alarm and speak truth to power with a clear voice. May we once again find the truth in our tradition and have the courage to be true to the truth!
Non schola, sed vitae,
Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Interim Director of the Doctor of Ministry | Assistant Clinical Professor
SEATTLE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY
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Duncan, Lenny. 2019. Dear Church: A Love Letter From A Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. Minneapolis: Fortress Press .
Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press.
Fromm, Erich. 1956. The Art of Loving. New York: Continuum.
Griffin, Paul R. 1999. Seeds of Racism in the United States of America . Cleveland : The Pilgrim Press .
S.J., James L. Empereur. 2002. Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person. New York: Continuum.
- The Constitution of the United States with th Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Incorporation. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of The Black Church. New York: New York University Press.