The Oasis - May 18, 2022

Author: Rev. Eric Dupee
May 18, 2022

     On March 26th I went to North Church of Portsmouth, United Church of Christ, to see the Rev. Traci Blackmon speak. Rev. Blackmon is the Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for the UCC. She receives requests to speak at churches and educational institutions regularly. 
     She reported two institutions of higher education recently invited her to come and speak. However, they proceeded to give her a list of words to avoid saying. One of the phrases she was asked to avoid was “white supremacy.” She was told it would make people uncomfortable. Rev. Blackmon turned down the invitations to speak at those two schools.
     We’re certainly seeing a lot about white supremacy in the news after ten people were shot and killed in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store on Saturday. It was reported the 18-yr-old suspect made statements indicating his hatred toward the black community and that he specifically targeted black people. 
     As I watched the coverage of the shooting in Buffalo, I couldn’t help but think of the 2015 white supremacist mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine black people were killed during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
      At that time, many people did not know Emanuel AME Church was once destroyed. At the church’s founding, white authorities took issue with the church members asserting their independence and attempting to educate the members of their black congregation. Responding to the threat of a slave revolt, angry whites destroyed the church building and murdered thirty-five black members.
     In my sermon on Sunday, I claimed Jesus didn’t just tell people he loved them. He demonstrated that love by acting on their behalf. To his followers, Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34b). Today, I’m wondering what loving my neighbor requires of me. In the face of hate motivated killing sprees, how do I demonstrate my love for those targeted with violence?
     For one thing, I can’t be silent. Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, once said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Secondly, love requires me to lean into my discomfort with all of this. I don’t have a right to comfort while communities of color are under attack. Thirdly, loving my neighbor requires me to educate myself on matters of racism and violence. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” How can my mind be renewed if I never change my mind? A fourth thing love requires of me is to pray for transformation. I believe America faces a spiritual crisis. Therefore, engaging the Holy Spirit through prayer is essential. There may be dozens of other things I could and should be doing, but that’s a start. 
     As folks were filing out of the sanctuary on Sunday, someone said to me, “The question to ask is this. What would Jesus do? I invite you to reflect on that question. How would Jesus demonstrate his love for a community in Buffalo devastated by the sudden deaths of ten of its people? I invite you to think and pray about what loving your neighbor requires of you at this moment in history.  


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