Empty the Pews

I don’t want to talk about this. But for too long, the silence has been deafening. The elephant is not only in the room, but friends, it has shat the bed.

I’ve always been a clean-as-you-go kind of person, but how can you clean when you pretend there’s no dirt? Every time you sweep it under the rug instead of out the door, the deadline for reckoning looms larger.

It’s time to recognize. Identify. Flip over the rug, give the elephant a bath, do the laundry, open the closet door even though 500+ years worth of hella clutter is going to fall out.

Our North American system of freedom, democracy, and the pursuit of happiness is built on a graveyard of slavery, colonization, oppression, and genocide.

To the people who were here before us. To the people we forced to come with us. To the people who are trying to live their lives alongside us now.

And throughout this violent history, the church, the one place out of ALL places that is supposed to provide a safe haven for foreigners, women and children, refugees, slaves, impoverished, outcasts – has played the role of Chief Sweeper, until we arrive at last weekend: where a race war is fought on Saturday, and it’s normal for nothing about it to be mentioned from the pulpit on Sunday. To do so would be political and divisive.

But where does politics end and humanity begin? Do we realize that God himself would rather there is no one in the pews on Sunday if that means we’re out fighting for justice?

 

Signed, the Original Social Justice Warrior

This revelation has not been easy for me. I grew up in the American version of Evangelical Christianity. I can remember clearly, at 10 years old, making statements like, “Separate but equal! Gay people are disgusting! Women who dress immodestly and abort their babies should be punished! Indians are savages! Black people are scary! Mexicans are lazy! We need to take this country back for CHRIST! God is going to kill everyone who stands in his way!”

TEN. YEARS. OLD.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m 25% Mexican myself? From a tribe of people that would enslave villagers to be brutally sacrificed to the gods so their crops would grow?

Or that it was completely socially acceptable for my Southern Baptist pastoral grandparents to have live-in help from black women, to call their children “pickaninnies” because they’re so cute? The same SB branch that had a surprisingly difficult time denouncing white supremacy in their church and country earlier this year?

Or that it was completely normal to go to my private Christian school every morning, place my hand over my heart, and chant,

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
And to the Republic, for which it stands,
One nation, under God, indivisible
With liberty and justice for all.

What if I never left the States? Would I still be making the statements I did when I was a child, but with 30 year old religious fervor?

Would I be marching against my fellow humans with a Bible in one hand, a torch in the other, and a gun in my pocket just in case, determined to take my country back…for Jesus? Would that be normal?

My heritage is not great. And it most definitely does not need to be made “great again”; it needs to be redeemed.

But once I acknowledge, once we acknowledge the complicity we’ve contributed to, how do we change? How do we turn this ship around? Because where we’re at is not sustainable. The Egyptian empire knows that, the Roman empire knows that.

We will self-destruct if we don’t destruct the Self.

The Self that says, “I am better than you. Because of where I live, because of my skin color, because of how I worship, because of who I love, because of my connections, because of my education, etc etc.”

Absolutely nothing makes us supreme to anyone else, and the opposite of supremacy is humility. That’s the only answer I can come up with.

If we truly want to “take back a country for Christ,” maybe look at the radical humility and love that he displayed to everyone. Look at how he condemned religiosity, and empire, and oppression in the name of supremacy.

Until we as a body of believers acknowledge that our centuries of silence has laid waste to humanity, our words will mean nothing. Our sermons, our podcasts, our live television, our songs, our blogs, our Twitter feeds – all utterly useless.

Instead, a new silence must come forth, a silence that listens to the marginalized voices, that listens to historical and current events through the ears of the oppressed. Listen to the stories of the times we have fallen short, even if it makes us squirm. Humility is not comfortable. It may cause you to grieve, feel anger or betrayal, lose some faith. Embrace it. Accept it.

And when the time is right, stand up. Go outside. Light a candle. Sing. Be confident because you are a child of God, and humble because everyone else is too. (Glennon Doyle) Renounce your heritage, adopt a new one.

All our Creator requires of us is to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with him. (Micah 6:8) That’s where I’m going to start.

I’ve discovered some really engaging voices online in my attempts to uncover racism in my heart and heritage. If you’re also in that place, look up Luvvie Ajayi, Heather Caliri, Broderick Greer, Kaitlin Curtice, Melanie G. Lyall, Kadee Wirick Smedley, Jory Micah, Idelette McVicker, Sarah Bessey, Nish Weiseth, Craig Greenfield, Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minajh, John Pavlovitz, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Elizabeth Esther, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle, Kristen Howerton, Rachel Held Evans, Ashley M. Easter and Shane Claiborne. Imperfect Americans and Canadians who are doing some hard, holy work. They are the reasons I still have hope.

 

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2 thoughts on “Empty the Pews

  1. I’m so glad to read of how you’ve been transformed–it’s so freeing to start seeing others with eyes wide open, instead of half-blind and deaf to the sheer immense beauty of all people groups. I’m repenting of this graveyard we stand on with you, sister. Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Carly as always you’ve opened my eyes further. I agree we must keep our eyes wide open to what God hs for us and where he is leading. It is absolute truth that no one, non of us has anything up or better then anyone else….we can only boast in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. Keeping eyes wide open I see groups of people banding together screaming for their “right” to stand in the sun citing atrosities from the past and I wonder what of those of the far distant past (prehistory) who experienced those same divisions and atrocities. They are also related to us. Bringing it forward again with eyes wide open I see people running in circles and away from the only One who can save them….right into the arms of the one who seeks to destroy and kill them, turning them into pawns of his destruction. Those who are and claim to be believers in Jesus Christ need to be in constant prayer for the salvation of this world for it is only through that will we be at peace. We must not let fear take foot in our hearts which is what is taki g place and has done for centuries regarding racism and genocide. I too have wrestled with the church and sitting on pews seemingly lacking interest or action….but know that God created the church for a purpose and that He loves the church (not the building) and in obedience to Him that’s what I will do. Bless you my friend and thank you for the insight 😀

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