Glenmary Home Missioners Director of Catholic-Evangelical Relations travels through Appalachia and the Deep South--building bridges between Christian denominations, writing on spirituality, social justice, ministry and culture.
Illustration by Vectorstock, Malchev, Andrew Glencross.
By Andrea and Frank Lesko
We invite you to join us in a virtual
(but real) social media prayer and meditation.
We'd like you to get comfortable
wherever you are--at your desk, on the subway or at home. And quiet.
Put yourself in the presence of
God. Or rather, acknowledge that you are already there.
We're going to say something, and
we'd like you to sit back and think about what comes to your mind when you hear
Close your eyes and begin to be
aware of your breath.
Allow your breaths to become
deeper and deeper until you can feel them down in your belly.
After a bit, allow your breathing
to come back to normal.
As you breathe in, imagine your
are takingin peace and love - imagine
them as feelings or as words, or however they form in your mind's eye.
As you breathe out, imagine your
thoughts and worries and preconceptions being exhaled.
Sit with this for a few moments -
breathing in and out.
Now I am going to give you a
phrase. Allow your clear head to simply feel or think whatever comes to mind
when you hear it.
There is no right or wrong.
Just allow your thoughts and
feelings to be.
The phrase is... Black Lives
Remember to continue to breathe
And breathe out.
Allow some time to sit with this
What comes up for you?
How does it feel in your body
when you hear the words?
Joys, pains, memories.
Be aware of any tensions,
Suspend any judgments,
conclusions or distractions, but take notice if you want to react in that way.
Just let the thoughts be.
Try to avoid leaving the topic
and jumping elsewhere.
This is not about the
This is not about "All lives
It's just the expression that
black lives--in their own right--matter.
Just experience it.
Maybe it's awkward to you,
Maybe you want to wiggle away and
change the subject.
Perhaps your breathing
immediately becomes more shallow.
Ask yourself where is that coming
It's perfectly normal to have
biases and prejudices. Even people who believe they are beyond having
prejudices probably have some subtle angst or awkwardness in relation to
somebody. There has probably never been a human who didn't grow up with some
kind of bias against somebody--except Jesus.
Whether it's the rednecks in
town, the "dumb Polak" down the street, "them Jews",
homosexuals, hippies, blacks, you name it.We all got somebody that we just can't stand... and perhaps hate. If you
are in a minority population, you might even pick up the sentiments of the
larger population and have a bias against your own group! You can say it's part
of human nature. It's tribalism--we stick with our tribe and have an implicit
bias against the others.
Jesus challenged this
continuously through the Gospels. He kept approaching people as fully equal,
human persons. It didn't matter if they were rich or poor, popular or
unpopular, whether they smelled funny, were sick, or were a member of the
"unapproved" groups of the day. He developed quite a reputation for
hanging out with "sinners and tax collectors." For a Jewish male to
associate with a Samaritan woman, for example, especially someone who was known
publically as "sinful," was to incur scandal upon scandal.It's hard for us to image for us today just
how scandalous that was.
That Jesus could do this so
consistently, without a hint of prejudice recorded in the Gospel narratives, is
perhaps more evidence for his divinity than any other miracle! Humans just have
a really tough time with that, and we've never met a person would could do it
as consistently and constantly as Jesus did in the Gospel narratives.
We can and should be held
accountable if we hurt people through our biases and prejudices, but we can at
least have some compassion for having them. We inherited many of them. We are
soaked in a culture that is full of them, some of them so subtle--yet
strong--that we don't even realize we have them. They are just part of the
fabric of life--birds fly, fish swim and black people are second class. It can
take a lifetime to untangle oneself from a culture rife with them.
There's a paradox. Shaming
yourself for these thoughts is not likely to be helpful.But those are also thoughts that need to be
purged and healed so that you can grow into the being God made you to be and
that we all can grow together in peace and harmony as one human family.
The problem becomes much more
urgent when our biases and prejudices are combined with institutional power.
This is what we call racism. That's when these prejudices are not just quirks
that individual people have, but they are put into practice and damage real
Police can gun black men and
children down in the streets over the most questionable behavior, with almost
no consequences whatsoever. Black people go to jail more often--and with
harsher sentences--than white people for the same behaviors. When people take
to the streets to protest, they are tear gassed and silenced--how dare they
speak up and question the way things are!
Even justice-minded white people,
who thought racism was yesterday's news, are coming to terms with this.How did we miss it?
Black lives matter.
Black people matter.
This is a good thing.
Let’s breathe into this thought.
If it's a frail idea to you,
build it up. Give it roots.
Give it strength.
If it is strong, imagine it stronger.
Let's think about the goodness of
Created in the image and likeness
Who show us something about what
God is like.
For far too long, they have been
treated like their lives don’t matter. Like they don’t deserve time and
To quickly change a discussion
from “black lives matter” to “all lives matter” only reinforces what many
believe in the first place: That black lives do not deserve special time and
attention reserved only for them.
So let's change that.
When people say, "black
lives matter," they are affirming what is rightfully theirs.
They are not demanding it.
They are not asking for your
You can’t give them value--their
value comes from the Creator.
They are affirming what God said:
"And it was good."
So very, very good.
Black lives matter.
Black lives matter.
Love it .
Suspend other thoughts.
Suspend the exceptions,
The qualifying clauses,
Just repeat after me:Black lives matter.
Black people matter.
This is a good thing, a complete
thought all unto itself that doesn't need any qualifiers, exceptions or
It is a thought whose time has
come--it is overdue, in fact.
God announced the goodness of
black lives at the moment of Creation. We've got some catching up to do.
There is a time later to talk
about everyone and everything else.
Right now, let’s just embrace the
thought that black lives matter.
Cherish that thought and the
people that go with it.