category: Musings

A Letter from a Tired Pastor

By Rachael Keefe

Dear white Christian folks and other interested parties; I begin with this:  God loves you. Because we are joined together in Christ, I love you. I will also say that no one is more white than I am; I have the genetic tests to prove it. Up to 68% Irish and …

A Letter from a Tired Pastor

inthestreetDear white Christian folks and other interested parties;

I begin with this:  God loves you. Because we are joined together in Christ, I love you. I will also say that no one is more white than I am; I have the genetic tests to prove it. Up to 68% Irish and the rest is all equally pale. I have as much privilege as a white bisexual woman can have, and that’s quite a lot. That being said, it’s time to get real about what is happening in the United States right now. Black Lives Matter is a movement and a statement that ought not be countered with “All lives matter.” All lives have never mattered equally in America. Look at what white folks have done and continue to do to First Nations people. Those in power believe it is perfectly okay to run an oil pipeline through tribal lands and risk contaminating the water. There are so many things wrong with this, not the least of which is that we should not be building more oil pipelines; we should be decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. But the real problem is that we have no right whatsoever to risk water and land pollution on tribal lands. I do believe there are treaties to prevent such. I’m not an expert and I could be wrong, but didn’t the government give those lands that we don’t particularly want anyway to the First Nations peoples? By running that pipeline we are telling them, yet again, that their lives don’t matter nearly as much as white lives do.

Still not convinced? Friends, we wear our white privilege as casually as the rich man in the parable wore his regal purple robes. We have let ourselves be fooled into believing that we deserve a certain kind of treatment because our skin is white. Every day we walk away from Lazarus as he huddles wounded, bleeding, dying of hunger, thirst, and gunshot wounds. The poverty profiteering that goes on every day in every city across the country with our passive consent, keeps poor folks poor and only directly benefits bankers and politicians. Ask yourself why the CEO of the latest bank to have been caught in a scam still has his job when any other person who steals money goes to prison, particularly if they are a Person of Color. Also, every time we decide that an unarmed black man deserved to be shot by police because he looked like a “bad dude” or “had a wide nose” or the officer “felt threatened” or any other such nonsense, we are clearly stating that Black lives do not matter as much as white lives do.

The story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus is about making good choices, choosing to serve others, and not living in our own isolated bubbles of comfort. I realize that white privilege was not a concept Jesus or his first disciples would have understood. However, it is quite clear in this parable that Jesus was not on the side of the privileged. He did not support Abraham in his assumption that he was better than Lazarus just because he had money and pretty robes.

In the wake of yet more shootings of unarmed Black men by police officers, this time in Tulsa and Charlotte, I am begging you to open your eyes to what is happening all around us. The Body of Christ is bleeding and dying and we are carrying on as if we don’t need serious medical attention. Racism and white supremacy is killing us. If you and I are not willing to side with People of Color in demanding an end to racial disparity in our police departments, schools, judicial system, work places, housing, health care, banking and everywhere else, then we deserve the same fate the rich man received in the parable.

Friends, our sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, nephews, nieces, parents, and children are crying out in hunger, thirst, and pain. When someone says, “All lives matter,” it’s taunting hungry, thirsty people with food and drink that is just out of reach. And if you believe POC are fully human, fully God’s beloved and deserve purple robes as much as white folks do, and you remain silent, then you are just as guilty as the ones spewing hatred and supporting murder.

In the parable, the rich man begged to go back and warn his “five brothers” so they would meet a different end. We white Christians are the rich man’s siblings. We’ve been warned. Break the silence. Do something. Let’s bind up the wounds and stop lining our streets with Black bodies.

The Body of Christ is bleeding out. Will you stop to help or will you walk right by, pretending that everything is fine and there are no Black bodies in our streets and the blood is not flowing? This is white privilege in that you as a white person can choose to walk by, to close the web browser, to step over the dead and dying bodies, to close your eyes and continue on your way. The choice is yours.

May the peace of Christ transform and guide us all.

RCL – Year C – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 25, 2016
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 with Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
Amos 6:1a, 4-7 with Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Photo: CC-BY-NC image by Erika Sanborne

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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