We Cannot Afford Unity at this Price
Daniel Johnson

The White Church in America is of White Society, generally speaking, when it should be of Jesus, of God, about Liberation. We should not be about the law but about the love behind the law, as Jesus taught.

Tragically, church is still the most segregated of all our institutions. Its “original sin” is the same as America’s: slavery, chattel slavery, as Jim Wallis profoundly testifies in his book to the White Church America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Yet we have erased the true horror of our original sin of slavery from our churches, our schools, our American conversation, altogether. It is left out of the very narrative of our country as if it never happened, as if the vestiges of it do not drip from our pores, poisoning everything around us even today, especially ourselves.

As White Christians it is our calling to fight for justice and liberation, to heal, to love our neighbor and our enemies which he reminds us we cannot do without loving ourselves. We cannot love that which we leave in shadow, that which we do not integrate into who we are. Denial kills us. Truth sets us free. We can only love ourselves and others when we truly admit who we are. Then we can begin to see with eyes healed and hearts opened. As White Christians it is up to us to name our sin, to confess it, to ask forgiveness of it and to be reconciled.

As James Baldwin said, “It is one thing to have done something, it’s another to deny it.”

We must stop denying and confess. In forgiveness we can be made whole and in wholeness we can do God’s Work: liberate, love, heal, and come together with our true brothers and sisters. This is on us, the White Christian church. We made this mess. We now must clean it up. And do it without fear as Jesus taught us.

Drew Downs, an Episcopal priest, shared a great homily today titled “Blurring the Lines – How Jesus Alters Expectations Of Justice” which you may find it in its entirety on his blog. For this response, I will just quote this pertinent part, “Today, the church honors the sacrifice of Jonathan Daniels and the martyrs of the civil rights movement. A sign of love and hope in the face of evil.

In 1965, Jonathan Daniels was in seminary. But he heard the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and left school to join him in Selma. Daniels marched. Then stuck around and worked for integration, serving a community which needed support. Changing the world, making the dream a reality.

He was murdered by a racist who was intending to murder a seventeen year-old girl named Ruby Sales. A girl traumatized, who testified at the murder trial, only to see the man acquitted by an all white jury. A girl who would grow up and go on to (then) ETS, the Episcopal seminary Daniels attended. Later she dedicated The SpiritHouse Project in his honor. She is his legacy. And GOD’s sign to the world.”

Thank you for this post, Daniel Johnson. And for your sermon, Drew. We need to hear both as the black clouds gather and too many churches still choose silence and choose to honor and seek earthly power rather than to choose the more important and lasting work (Luke:10: 38–42).

May we all fight to be a sign of love and hope in the face of evil, rise above the narrow confines of race and class to practice the radical, fearless Love and Justice to which we are called by the example of Jesus. May we all do the more important and lasting work together as one.