Reflection from our Director: Addressing Racism
Jun 04, 2020|Written By: Nathan Walton
Dear Abundant Life Family,
The past few weeks have been an incredibly challenging time for so many of us. While already adjusting to life during a global pandemic, we have been vividly reminded of the much deeper and longer lasting realities of individual and systemic racism, the pervasiveness of white supremacy, and the ongoing need for racial healing.
None of this is new.
The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are heartbreaking, yet they are symptomatic of deep-seated biases and discriminatory cultures that have always been a part of the fabric of American society. We as Abundant Life board and staff are deeply saddened by this, and we categorically and unequivocally reject the hate and fear that has contributed to these ongoing realities. Instead, we affirm the mutual dignity that all people have as a result of all of us being equally made in the image of God.
In theory, America claims to be the home of the free, where all are created equal. But in reality, we are not all free. Being black in America places you between a rock and a hard place. Or to use the imagery of Christian scripture, Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. On the one hand, on the path towards freedom there are threats like Pharaoh; threats that happen in a specific moment or season, such as the current pandemic that is seeing blacks disproportionately representative of COVID-19 related deaths. But on the other hand, there are threats that have always been there. The Red Sea of white supremacy, the dehumanization of black and brown bodies, and the disposability of those bodies are staples of American society, and have been for centuries. They are in our nation’s bones. They are even in the bones of the American church. True freedom and equality have remained elusive dreams for black communities.
In moments like this, it is vital that we practice the discipline of lament; that we give ourselves and others the space to sit in the deep grief and sadness that comes with the ongoing devaluation and loss of precious God-given life. We will never fix our nation’s problems without first feeling them. At Abundant Life one of our eight core principles is listening to the community. So we must not turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to the struggles of those who have been marginalized and persecuted in this country. What’s needed in our moment is deep lament, and active listening, recognizing the truth in the cries of those who are hurting, especially in the black community.
But we cannot stop there.
While we must listen to the voices of those echoing the needs for systemic justice and cultural reform, we must also join those efforts in seeing that change occur. From addressing racism in our nation, to addressing it in our neighborhoods, to addressing it in our own families, to even addressing it in our own hearts. We can all do better. We can all be better. Praying and longing for reconciliation is great, but the path to reconciliation is through repentance – both for the historical sins that we have inherited, and the unjust systems and cultures in which we all participate. God invites us to repent; to have the courage to allow God to expose the sin in our own lives and around us, and the courage to believe that God has enough grace to make us new. That is my prayer for us during this time. I invite you to join us in continuing to walk alongside those in our own community, as we all recommit ourselves to seeing every person, family, and neighborhood experience an abundant life.
With Hope and Sadness,
Nathan Walton, PhD.