July 8, 2016

What Now?

Photo by Eric Schuman

Photo by Eric Schuman

Dear Ones—

Are your hearts as broken as mine?

My heart began to crack in mid-June, as the news revealed the heinous murders of 49 people in Orlando, most of them LGBTQI, nearly half of them Latinx.  Here at Starr King, we held a vigil to honor these fallen souls and to recommit ourselves to freedom, to the opening of every closet door.  And then I put my head down to power through the next few weeks of work and presentations at General Assembly, looking to the other side of June for some peace and quiet, hoping for a little rest and respite from the simmering hatred that is troubling our world.

But there is no rest to be found, because there can’t be any rest until there is justice; no peace to be found so long as those of us who live on the margins have no peace of their own.  While candidates and pundits and wannabes of all kinds continually stir the pot of misery, we who are relatively safe in our privilege keep waiting for things to die down, so that we can return to our regularly scheduled lives.  We turn off our Facebook notifications so we don’t have to hear about all the things that make us hurt and scared and tired; we do news fasts for self-care, or binge mindlessly on Netflix to keep the fear at bay.

But none of that will work, you see.  Because Bagdad, Iraq and Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Because Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas. Because the hits to humanity just keep on coming.

What now?

What each of us does now is what must be done, if we are to survive at all.  Most urgently, we recognize the astronomical human cost of white supremacy and the racism that is its symptom. We count the tremendous losses of our siblings across the country and the world, as well as the wounding and the trauma of survivors in places we will never see.   For a while, we own it all; we grieve and rage against what seems today like the dying of the light.  Meanwhile, we practice endless kindness in all things, not as an example for others, but as a healing balm to our own brokenness.  We gather our scattered thoughts about what we can do, what our witness will be in these sad days. We choose one thing we can do individually and one thing we can do in concert with others in a practice of resistance so that we don’t sit alone in helpless pain, but begin to re-enter our troubled and difficult world with purpose.

What we do now is remember our primary task as people of faith:  we go on. Unclear, unsure, largely unprepared, we go on.  We cannot know whether it is too late to turn the continuing tide of hate and violence on the ascendancy.  We cannot know who will win an election or declare a war.  We can, however, know and live our own intentions: we can look at what is evil and not turn away; we can speak peace in a world that delights in conflict; we can struggle relentlessly for justice, even when we cannot immediately see the results.

My heart is broken this afternoon; perhaps yours is, too.  Amid my prayers and my plans to take the next right step, I am taking comfort from the words of Mother Theresa: “God has not called me to be successful; [God] has called me to be faithful.” In the midst of our anger and grief today, may we each hear our call to faithfulness, and may we answer that call with all our strength.



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