A Prayer of Unity by Baffour Paapa Nkrumah Ababio & Andy Taylor
Abba Father, King Jesus,
We come before You in humility and brokenness,
acknowledging our desperate need for You in these times.
We don’t have the answers,
but may these words a be a gentle reproach,
to spark flames of compassion in hearts of stone.
Yet may they also bring a heavenly peace
to calm the raging tempest
that tears at our hearts and minds.
-Baffour Paapa Nkrumah Ababio & Andy Taylor, HESA Class of 2021
The Glory of the Black Race
Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
God will not deliver him.
But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
My glory, the One who lifts my head high.
Psalm 3: 1-3
A lot has happened in the past month and like many of my Black brothers and sisters across the world, my heart and mind are filled with cries of grief, the agony of loss, a rally for justice and feelings of inundation.
Over the past few months, we have lost a disproportionate number of our fellow kin to the Corona virus because of the systematic and institutionalized lack of quality health care accessible to black individuals here in the US. In the past few months we have experienced the murder of Ahmad Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and very recently George Floyd by the very people supposed to protect us. Over the past few years we have lost more of our brothers and sisters to police brutality and violence; Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin and many more. Over the span of 400 years, our kind have been treated as less than human with everything working against us.
I am tired, I feel overwhelmed, and the problem seems so big I am beginning to despair. My brothers and sisters, I bring you a message of hope, a message that can carry us along this journey of fighting for justice, I bring you water to quench you thirst and food for the marathon ahead as we continue to protest and demand justice; I bring you the hope of the Word of God at this time.
When there seems to be so much evil present in the system and in the hearts of many; when it seems like the problem is too big to solve; when it seems the enemy of racism is rising up like a giant against us; when it seems like our lives are not worth protecting; when it seems like our lives are being mocked at; the Psalms provide us with light, truth and hope. In all these things, David says:
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
My glory, the One who lifts my head high
Brothers and sisters, the Lord is a shield around us. He will preserve our kind. We may lose some, but the evil will not prevail over us.
As we continue to fight for justice, one thing is sure; the glory will be ours.
Our heads will not continue to be bowed but will be lifted high in the pride of the glory that God will reveal through us.
We cannot grow weary of doing the good work of fighting for our dignity because we have promises in God that are Yes and amen in Him. These promises are not just for heaven but on for us on earth too.
There is hope for us in this marathon of seeking justice. There is hope for us and our kin. God is our glory and the lifter up of our heads. A greater glory awaits; THE GLORY OF THE BLACK RACE
One day when the glory comes
It will be ours; it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Oh Glory! Glory!! Glory!!!
Oh Glory! Glory!! Glory!!!
Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won
And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done
We’ll cry Glory, Oh Glory, Glory, Glory!!!
Oh Glory! Glory!!
– Glory (John Legend, Common)
Racial Justice coram Deo: Whiteness as Witness
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
And to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
During a recent assigned course reading, I came across a phrase which has resonated with me deeply in recent weeks: coram Deo, a Latin term which can be essentially understood to mean “in the presence of God”, or, perhaps, as I have come to think of it, “before the face of God.”
What a radical, challenging, and humbling idea: That every aspect of our lives is intimately captured and recorded by the eyes of an all-powerful, perfectly compassionate, yet ultimately just God. As I reflect upon the most recent examples of systemic racism and injustice that have so captured our attention over the course of the past few weeks, I have often found myself on the brink of tears. Tears of anger, frustration, brokenness, perhaps conviction. I cannot help but wonder if God, with His omniscience and omnipresence, with His incalculable knowledge and limitless emotional bandwidth, does He weep at our response to the sin of racism?
Learn to do good;
Seek justice, correct oppression;
Bring justice to the fatherless,
Plead the widow’s cause
For sin is the only way I can understand and describe what I have seen. The unbridled ferocity of men and women, sworn to protect us, unleashing violence and pain on our Black brothers and sisters, for decades. De facto executions, occurring on the streets, in the city parks, and in the houses of the self-proclaimed “freest” nation on earth. The very image brings bile to my throat, and anger to my heart. For too long, in the midst of such carnage and chaos, the cries our Black brothers and sisters seem to have been swallowed by a deafening silence: That of we in positions of relative safety and calm, those unaffected by the realities of a system built on the abuse and oppression of others.
I am a White man. This is an inescapable and unalterable fact of my existence, though not insignificant. There is no group in the history of the United States that has been afforded greater opportunity, privilege, and power by virtue of these objectively irrelevant demographic and physical characteristics. More importantly, I am a Christian, and therefore believe in the inherent and inalienable value of EVERY human life as an EQUAL being created in the image of God. As such, White Christians have what I believe to be a unique, specific moral imperative, obligation, and duty to call for justice from a position of strength, as we are so often given a platform when others are not.
However, as a White Christian, there is also an ever-present temptation to brush off any semblance of responsibility for dealing with clear examples of systemic racism as something that is highly individualized and personalized. This diffusion of responsibility denies the fundamentally systemic character of sin, and its ability to infiltrate and permeate systems and structures created by broken, inherently sinful people. I urge you, my White brothers and sisters in Christ: Resist this urge. Speak lovingly, yet firmly the convictions of the Holy Spirit. To remain “silent” is to stand before the face of God, looking upon His created children with an apathy unbecoming of those claiming to emulate one who gave His life in an empathetic act of transformative, unadulterated compassion.
Too often, our conception of “silence” is such that we equate it with simply choosing not to express ourselves in a public forum (today, tantamount to social media posts, comments, likes, and retweets). I would argue that a more accurate, and indeed, helpful understanding of silence is as a state in which our lives continue, uninterrupted, in the face of highly-visible phenomena which should prompt us to some form of action. I encourage us all, my brothers and sisters, to examine our hearts. How can we engage in some deep reflection as to what constitutes “silence” in our own lives? In what ways can we “disrupt” our lives, and in doing so, awaken from the apathetic lethargy that as been a boon to such prolonged racial turmoil in this nation? The answer to this question, I expect, requires ongoing reliance on the Holy Spirit for wisdom, guidance, and direction.
God cares deeply about the sin of racism, and we should too. Our non-White brothers and sisters deserve better than we have given them. The Peace Prayer of Sant Francis of Assisi seems especially poignant now, and so, Lord, let it be our prayer also:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life