Today in America, I can safely say we are there, in the Pit.
In the Pit because Young People, People my age who look like me, were protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue with swastikas and Heils and Nazi chanting. Because there is nothing we can call these people, but Nazis.
It hurts me that these people are very close to who I am: White, Straight, Cis, Christians, etc.
12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
Now there was some hope too
UVA students stood their ground against the increasingly violent Nazis
An African-American Cop bravely protected these Nazis, who are against his humanity.
Clergy went down for a counter-protest and blocked the Nazis path and peacefully singing “This Little Light of Mine”
I feel for Joseph who was betrayed by his own brothers, As a member of the Christian Church, knowing that the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are baptized into the the Christian Church like I am. I have to own that, I have to acknowledge the problem, so we can work on it.
What can we do? I heard a lot of POC clergy saying its time to step up our “Thanksgiving Politics” where you are trying to get along with family members and yet still call them out when behavior is inappropriate. Its especially hard because its thanksgiving and your supposed to be thankful for these people, and they are your family but they are just so annoying.
But the truth is, we are not so good at standing up to bullies, we are a lot like Judah, wanting to be nice and placate. Placation is not the same as peace, but often we stand up there.
And sometimes we are like Reuben and we come back and try to help later. I have a recent incidence of racism at a conference, where, too excited by my own self-importance, I did not listen carefully to my colleague of color and let other people tromp on her ideas and leadership. It was so humiliating when 5 minutes later I realized I had witnessed it but was too embarassed/self-invovled to say “knock it off”
The truth is, we a the church are not so good at standing up to bullies. We are too concerned with offending people, we are, in short too nice.
But we need to name it. Too often we ignore the problem and try to just get along with the person or cut the person completely from our lives. (Think how we handle Thanksgiving again). Notice what is in common with both of these ways of handling the situation, we avoid addressing the actual problem!
Better ways to handle bullying are to call the bully on their behavior by telling them “that’s inappropriate” and to “knock it off” or to simply go to the person who is bullied and treat them like a human being. Often if you go over and have normal conversation with the person who is being targeted, say a Muslim, and ask them how they are doing and treat them like a human being the bully backs down realizing A) That person is not an easy lone target B) They are human.
So that’s our job now, to address the problem, because thats the only way we stand with the oppressed. This is what Jesus does, he calls people on their inappropriate behavior or he goes over to talk to the lone woman, the leper and the tax collector and treats them like a human being. When he does that, the entire mob mentality becomes transformed, when he does that he starts to create community. Jesus stands with the minority/marginalized in this way! This means that this is our job too! We need to go out and do the work that is so obviously needed to stop bigotry. We need to acknowledge and address the problems and know Our God stands with the marginalized, and that God’s love is accepting of every skin color, gender, sexually and faith. That is our God, and its that God’s Kingdom we are building.