Late last evening Chris Bellavita wrote encouraging a delay in my hiatus in order to comment on the shootings in Charleston. I wrote back, but did not intend to post anything here. This morning, after listening to some of the news coverage and comments by others, I have — for better or worse — copied below how I responded to Chris.
While I have never intended to obscure my own spiritual predispositions, I am of the opinion that in a secular, pluralistic, potentially post-modern culture, it is more helpful to use language that is less loaded and, perhaps, simpler than religious lexicons. But this may be an instance where to do so is to dishonor the victims. At least that is my self-justification for bending that principle here.
After writing Chris and Arnold I visited the Emanuel AME website. I wanted to know what parts of scripture the Wednesday evening Bible Study was considering. I did not find that, but I did find this quote:
Jesus died a passionate death for us, so our love for Him should be as passionate.
Sister Jean German Ortiz
I will be in Charleston most of next week. I have visited Mother Emanuel. Given the prominence of church spires on it’s skyline, Charleston is sometimes called the “Holy City”.
Especially since the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston the city has been very proactive in its engagement with the black community. Paradoxically, this event will, almost certainly, further advance that sometimes difficult-to-sustain process.
As you know, there is an ancient tradition of Christian martyrdom. In this tradition the martyr is a person of faith whose unjust death serves to inform and empower the potential for justice. Martyrdom challenges the living to recognize and respond to the call for justice with justice and compassion and courage and love.
At least in the Christian tradition — and especially in the churches founded by slaves and former slaves — the core of our faith is to be vulnerable… to each other, to the whole of reality. Recently I heard Sister Simone Campbell say, “We would be better off if we made peace with insecurity. We’re all vulnerable. Security is all illusion.” I would not be surprised that many of those killed during their Wednesday evening worship were in those pews precisely because of this awareness.
If Jesus is God and the crucifixion is fact then the central act of any authentic Christianity is to be vulnerable: To know that even God is vulnerable. If the Easter narrative has any meaning, we will be surprised by how being vulnerable to love — as well as all the rest — can overcome injustice and is the foundation of profound community.
Especially within the orthodoxies of Homeland Security, these are counter-cultural claims. Even among most who call themselves Christians to be this vulnerable is often beyond our ability. But in this inability is an invitation to another paradox: Emanuel is derived from the Hebrew meaning “God is with us”… especially in our weakness, especially in our vulnerability, especially in failure, pain, and death. In these arid places, especially God is there.
I would never have written anything like this for HLSWatch, but I will write it to you and Arnold… and myself.