I am drowning in words.
Every day I scroll through my news feeds and see words of lament and anger, of frustration and grief. They are words that increasingly reflect the chasmic divisions in our land. The cracks in our society are so deep and so wide that they have caused millions of other, smaller fractures, a spiderweb of brokenness that spreads over everyone and everything. These smaller divisions are what’s showing up on my feed this week as a constant, cocky barrage of criticism. Someone makes a statement about systemic racism, or the actions of our government, or the actions of the Church, or about their feelings, and there is a whole crowd of people waiting in the wings to tear apart whatever they’ve said. Someone expresses outrage, and someone else yells at them for being outraged about the wrong thing. Someone makes a statement of support, and someone else screams that their statement didn’t go far enough, or wasn’t written quickly enough. Someone offers a prayer or a symbol of support, and someone else scoffs that we’re long past the time for prayers and symbols.
I feel like I’m choking on the words.
Now I understand that the kind of criticism I’m talking about is not the same as violence at the hands of racists and racist systems. I understand that my discomfort at watching my friends and colleagues tear each other apart is only that – discomfort. But it is still disheartening, at a time when the unity of the Church and indeed of all faithful people is critical to effect positive change in this nation, to watch the speed at which people are jumping to judge, criticize, and ridicule others from the relative safety of their living rooms as they type ferociously into their phones. Of course, I understand, too, that many of these words are pure reaction, born of fear. It’s hard to be thoughtful and compassionate when your body is pumping with adrenaline and most of your higher-order thinking has been shut down for the night. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that many of the words that are being spoken in our public forums are cloaking the world in more and more darkness.
And then, this morning, I was graced with this sliver of light, written by the Rt. Reverend Steven Charleston, former Bishop of Alaska and former Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School. I pray that when you read this, you, too, will feel the same rush of breath deep into your lungs that I did, that you will feel your heart lift in your chest and the ground suddenly firm under your feet.
"Now is the moment for which a lifetime of faith has prepared you. All of those years of prayer and study, all of the worship services, all of the time devoted to a community of faith: it all comes down to this, this sorrowful moment when life seems chaotic and the anarchy of fear haunts the thin borders of reason. Your faith has prepared you for this. It has given you the tools you need to respond: to proclaim justice while standing for peace. Long ago the Spirit called you to commit your life to faith. Now you know why. You are a source of strength for those who have lost hope. You are a voice of calm in the midst of chaos. You are a steady light in days of darkness. The time has come to be what you believe."
My friends, we are not children of the darkness, but children of light. The time has come to be what you believe.
What, beloved, will you be?