CLC Blog

Bad Alliances

Isaiah 31:1

Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help
 and who rely on horses,
 who trust in chariots because they are many
 and in horsemen because they are very strong,
 but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
 or consult the LORD!

Partnerships can be good, but not all of them. Israel made many bad alliances. They tried to rely on the military might of Egypt instead of trusting in God's power and protection. It cost them their sovereignty and their beloved city.

It makes me think of so many bad alliances in our day. Political parties and politicians aligned with donors and Super PACS. Recently we heard the Minneapolis School District and the Minneapolis Park Board ended their partnership with the Minneapolis Police Department. Many are calling on local politicians to renounce the MPD union leader whose PAC has donated money to their cause.

Many times, entering in partnerships make sense. They can be strategic. They can be beneficial to all parties involved. But they can also go wrong.

We are learning more and more about broken systems that depend on racism and racist practices in order for them to be sustained. Our purchases might seem innocent but might support unjust systems. All of these are kinds of partnerships that demand our attention and discernment.

We can't make all these changes at once. But we can start. Once again, I encourage you to join others in the book study on Me and White Supremacy. It will be a good partnership that will bear good fruit, and may be helpful in analyzing other parts of our lives where we are supporting unjust systems.

The Place I First Said Yes

I remember sitting on the balcony of our housing unit in Mexico on the final day of my first short-term missions experience. I was barely 19 at the time, and we had just spent a week in Juarez serving and working. Throughout the week, I had noticed an increasing inner pull and desire to serve at a greater capacity, so was spending time in prayer. Feeling called to continue in mission work, I remember praying to God, “God, if you want me to, I will spend my summer here in Juarez!” Almost instantly I heard a still, small voice say “Pine Ridge.” I remember responding “No Lord, I will spend my summer in MEXICO if you want me to serve you.” And again I heard, “Pine Ridge.” Leaving Juarez it was clear to me my call was to mission work, but if I were going to follow and surrender to the Lord, the path was not to Mexico, but Pine Ridge.

Choosing to spend two summers in Pine Ridge changed and transformed my life. Growing up I was taught about the battle of Wounded Knee and Custer’s Last Stand as great United States victories (I think each incident had a paragraph max in our history textbook). However, standing at the site of Wounded Knee and hearing the true story of the massacre that took place was appalling. Unarmed men, women, and children chased for up to four or five miles and gruesomely slaughtered at the hands of US soldiers. Pregnant bellies ripped open and unborn babies placed on stakes and spears, women and children scalped and murdered—all because those in charge of the United States deemed these humans as not humans and believed it their God given right to conquer the land and the people. There are legal documents in United State’s history that call for the extermination of indigenous peoples. The list of atrocities our white, United States ancestors committed horrendously goes on and on. To our shame and disgrace, the same mindset that allowed this and numerous other massacres to occur lives on today.

One of the theological concepts I was introduced to as a result of my summers on the rez was “corporate sin”—the idea that we are held accountable for the actions of our community as well as ourselves (Many of the OT prophets address cities as a whole, as does the book of Revelations when addressing the churches, etc). Living in Pine Ridge and learning the whole story of my people in this land changed my life, and became the place where I said “yes” to becoming an anti-racist (that is, someone who confronts racism wherever they find it…in themselves, in their communities, in systems, etc).

That yes has cost me a lot of things over the years—jobs, mentors, family/friends, dates, money, opportunities….and yet that yes has also given me my family, my balance, my call. That yes has defined who I am, and has transformed me into a kinder, gentler, more caring and compassionate human. That yes has killed me and continues to kill me and the things in me that need to die. And in those places of death, I have found new life, renewed life, redeemed and restored life.

Fast forward to our present times, and I am more committed to that yes than I have ever been (the yes to being an anti-racist is intertwined with my yes to Jesus and following the road set before me no matter the cost). I will be honest. There are days I am scared. I am aware of what happens to prophets and those who stand up for the marginalized and oppressed. I know how ugly and mean people can get in times of war, fear, trauma, and stress and I am so afraid that those I love but stand opposite of will seek my destruction and harm. I’m sad that divisions will arise and love will be lost—that we will forget that relationships and people matter more than anything and lose sight of Jesus and love. I’m scared of the ugliness in my own heart and the mistakes I will make along the way.

But these fears reveal two things to me. 1) I have more work to do/still have areas where I am still compliant with white supremist ways (this will always be true FYI...being an anti-racist is a lifetime journey) and 2) my own privilege in all of this…that at the end of the day, the truth is this is a choice for me. It’s not people that look like me that are being hurt by the system, killed by authorities, lynched in broad daylight. I am not the person the system is designed to oppress.

But my friends are. My community is. My brothers and sisters are. And it has to stop.

I believe we as the white church have a divine invitation and choice to make during the upcoming days and years. Will we step into the fullness of our history as white Christian Americans and seek to undo the oppression our ancestors have done? Or will be turn away because its not our fault? Will we recognize the systems of oppression that exist today and leverage our power to change them? Will we choose to stand with the oppressed and marginalized, no matter the cost?

I don’t know what your yes will cost you—that’s between you and God. I know at a minimum it will cost you your comfort, your control, your defensiveness and need to be right. But if you want to say yes to being an anti-racist; if you want to commit to doing the work, know that I am here for you and more than willing to walk this journey with you—my hope is as a community we can walk this together.

I had no idea that my “yes” to Pine Ridge would take me on the road it has. And as disappointed and frustrated as I was early in my missionary days for not being in more Spanish speaking countries (afterall, I do have a degree in Spanish), today I look back and rejoice over the path God took me on in life. As heart-wrenching and hard as the work is to do, it is an honor to get to be part of the liberation from and restoration of what has gone so terribly wrong in this country since its inception.

I love you all. I’m rooting for you. And I’m praying the grace and love of God over each of your homes today.

We Are Connected by Sent Ones

Philippians 2: 19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. 20I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But Timothy's worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; 24and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.

Paul wanted to send the people of Philippi the best of the best, and so he was planning to send Timothy to them. He lauds Timothy as one who does not seek his own interests, but those of Jesus Christ. 

I think we often forget how connected we are and need to be to other faith communities. It's easy to read scripture and notice that the early church was formed and spread by sending disciples from one place to another and back again. Theology was formed and reformed. Best practices were created and then renewed. All by sending trained disciples here and there to spread the Gospel of Jesus.

In the weeks since George Floyd was murdered we've been connected and informed by congregations in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. Holy Trinity Lutheran in Minneapolis and Bethlehem Lutheran in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul have become centers of justice and compassion for the community, as well as centers of truth for finding out what is really going on.

At all times, we need one another. CLC is not an island congregation without connections. No, we're connected to many local congregations and those around the world and our connections, the ones sent between us, make us stronger.

 

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