Feeling A Different Kind of Pain
This week I was feeling a different kind of pain, not from surgery, but the pain many experience, or re-experience, after hearing the racist tweets from the President of our country (who denies their being racist) and the responses from others emboldened by these tweets. Impulsive racist tweets and responses reflect conscious or unconscious beliefs that have led such persons or others to embrace acts of hatred and violence.
For example: On the eve of their graduation, four white high school boys spray painted KKK, swastikas, statements against Jews, LGBTQ persons, and their Black high school principle on sidewalks and walls around their high school. It is another form of healing that never seems to occur as new wounds are created and old ones ripped open again by something operating deeper within that comes out in the words and acts of others—something I have also experienced sometimes occurring among us as Christians in our public meetings. Like the high school principle and the judge, these acts cannot simply be ignored. They must be spoken to and, for the perpetrators, find a way for them to bring healing to those harmed and for themselves to become cognizant of, and to heal, a deeper and perhaps formerly unconscious place inside themselves. The judge gave them jail time and community service hours. The principal asked his faculty to read Waking Up White.* What pain he must have carried and a hopeful persistence!
Leslie, who is part of an a cappella group that weekly sings to persons in palliative care at St Luke’s Hospital, shares with me a wide variety of songs they rehearse and sing to patients. This week she had come upon a song that helped me put into perspective what can get lost of God’s song we are called to sing and live, and what acts can help us re-find the angels speaking to us. The song, whose words were composed by Leonard Bernstein’s daughter and sung at a memorial concert for him, carry these lines:
Every man and every woman drops to earth on an angel’s wing Ripe with love and soft with mercy, full of God’s own song to sing. Then we learn our mother’s sorrow; then we learn our father’s fear. Schools of rage and bleeding nations, and our angels disappear. We all ride down the river of time, and it’s easy to see every sin and every crime, But the hard thing, the wise thing, to try (oh, yes) is kindness, kindness, kindness.
You can sell your life’s possessions, you can give away your gold, You can spend a bitter winter walking barefoot in the cold; But if you still hate your brother [and sister], if you aim a pointed spear, Then you’ll never hear your angel when [they] whisper in your ear. We all ride down the river of time, and it’s easy to see every sin and every crime, But the hard thing, the wise thing, to try (oh, yes) is kindness, kindness, kindness.
The song may recall for you, Micah 6.8, what God asks of us: “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God”—a Scripture text related to our Presbytery values and mission to “Embody God’s love, Proclaim God’s Word, and Promote God’s Justice.” It can be a challenge when the world is not following God’s call to all of us.
I hope my summer, like yours, can be a summer for re-creation: to hear the voice of the Spirit and our better angels, so that from the inside out, from our bodies to throughout the earth itself, we can find healing to hear and sing aloud again and again God’s own song that brings restoration to all life.
*2016 PCUSA Co-Moderators Jan Edmiston and Denise Anderson also recommended reading this book. Denise Anderson will be with us at our September 28 Presbytery meeting at the Holmes Camp and Conference Center as we address undoing racism in church and society, an overture to the whole church from that same General Assembly.