America Has No Conscience
I sit here typing still in the early mourning stages for another young beloved child of God. Another name. #jordanedwards.
Say his name.
I have been reflecting more and more on a simple premise. It is not original. It in fact comes from the teachings and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency ask the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”
I have often tried to cajole, inspire, awaken, even romance the “American conscience” in my small sphere of influence. I have preached. Marched. Protested. Written. Donated. Had long talks with white peers and friends why my life, why Jordan’s life, matters. I have sat quietly while these same peers have rationalized my death in a completely unself-aware way. I have watched as my body is bargained over by these same folks, whom I love, like an auction block in the antebellum south.
I have led adult education forums in suburban churches about the prison industrial complex. I have done national webcasts with the presiding bishop of my denomination in an attempt to humanize the formerly incarcerated population, in which I am one of. Thinking that if people could see my smile, my faith in our God, and my utter humanness, they would start to be moved.
I have worked in intersectional movements because of the shared common interest. Survival. One I am still a part of #decolonizelutheranism. I have seen the same pain in the eyes of LGBTQ + folk. I have watched the erasure of my trans siblings from the American story like lines that never should have been scribbled in the margins. I have watched children become groomed into a system where the value of human life is no more than a sound clip on the morning news show. I have watched the rise of white nationalism to the highest office in the land.
I have been told to tone it down. As a seminarian and candidate for ordination in the ELCA it has been wondered aloud by my betters if I could even be a Pastor. How could someone lead a community of faithful who is this outspoken? The idea that challenging Christians in a Lutheran Praxis in our congregations is inherently bad. That somehow when you get to know me I am incapable of loving you. That despite all the things I have listed they have forgotten my hugs, caring words, or sincere desire to serve the church.
I have watch my Muslim siblings for the last 16 years be the whipping post for all the national trauma we experienced on September 11th 2001. They have been chased down in the streets, beaten, and have carried the full weight of our hatred and our own imperialistic sins. What thinking theologian could deny the possibility they are the incarnated Christ.
I have watched my Latinx siblings be relegated to pieces of paper. They no longer have a culture, but to simply be thrown in the bucket of undocumented. As if their names weren’t written in the book of life. Is that enough documentation for you?
I watched the water protectors become criminalized on their own land. I watched the pipeline run over their lives anyway. We have forgotten whose land we stand on anyway.
All this to say I am convinced America has no conscience.
I don’t write this lightly. One could easily point to several things happening now, the Moral Monday movement, the acts of resistance now so common we ignore them these last 100 days or so. The fact that several faith leaders, new advocacy movements, and even congress and senate leaders have stood up. But none of that matters.
America has no conscience.
It has now fallen on faith leaders, protest movements, civil rights leaders, and any voice for the oppressed in this country to enter a period of resurrection and construction. We must build from scratch the American conscience.
We must create a moral paradigm that amplifies, affirms, and creates environments within our society where abundant life can happen. This is the great burden of this generation and the next. We must actually shape, with our bare hands, a heart for this country large enough to see the resurrected Christ in everyone.
I say Christ at the danger of once again centering the Christian Church in this dialogue. But as the church we need to face the fact that we are often the purveyors of violence against intersecting identities that are margnilized and oppressed in this country. We have either overtly supported theological systems that give the rise to hate, or we have hidden behind words like relational to cover up cowardice.
My people couldn’t handle that.
I wouldn’t accomplish anything by talking about #blacklivesmatter in my rural setting.
I am already facing pushback because we have allowed an LGBTQ pastor to have a call in this area. I mean its 200 miles away but I should care for my folks.
Context. It’s not my context.
No. Your people don’t have a conscience anymore. It has been whittled away by systemic racism and white cis hetro supremacy. A system that no longer needs racist to function. No longer needs “gay bashing”. No longer needs me to cat call a woman for them to grow up knowing they don’t matter as much as men.
You are their conscience now.
Black Trans woman have an average life span of 35. Trayvon Martin was armed with skittles. Darren Wilson recently admitted that Michael Brown never even reached into his patrol car. Jordan Edward’s family is burying a 15-year-old little boy.
You are their conscience now.
If you have taken the time to read this then you are most likely the conscience of America. Or at least what is left.
I often say this, but it’s still true.
It is unfair.
If you have been in the struggle for liberation in this country for a long time, just by the sheer fact of who you are, or who you love, or how you choose to express yourself, I am sorry. It is unfair that you, we, have to carry the bulk of this work to reawaken the long slumbering soul of a country.
It is unfair you have to take to the streets or social media or the pulpit or your local legislators office to once again plead for your life. It is a slow death by a thousand cuts.
I bleed with you.
I write this as I think about a life I will never get to know. #jordanedwards
We need to construct the conscience of America. Because from where I’m sitting America has no conscience.