We are gearing up to host a Conversation on Race event at Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center May 20-21. This has me thinking a great deal about the issue.
I have tried to ponder, “What would a world without racism look like?” Imagine no hatred between Blacks and Whites and Hispanics and Asians. Imagine no hatred between Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Jews. Muslim Shiites and Muslim Sunnis. Maybe hatred is too strong a word. But replace it with mistrust, suspicion, superiority, pity…they all reveal a heart attitude that we label as racism. Racism is not a new phenomenon. It’s not a Central Florida issue or an American issue. It’s a human issue. As humans we have been wrestling with this since the beginning of recorded history. Oftentimes these feelings have led not just to mistrust and separation but to all-out war.
Some wars are over resources and riches; the very land itself. Other wars are over ideologies and beliefs. In this imagining I cannot help but think about John Lennon’s famous song, Imagine:
Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people, Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too
Imagine all the people, Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…
These are nice thoughts. I am not a cynical person by any means. Yet I don’t have a lot of hope that John Lennon’s imaginings will ever be more than just a dream. Why? Well it gets back to a doctrine of the church that essentially says people are broken. You might have heard it called original sin. Sin is a church word that references an archery phrase- To Miss The Mark. The distance from where the arrow lands on the target to the bull’s-eye was called “the sin”. In other words, sin is the degree to which humans fall short of their mark, their potential.
We weren’t created this way. We were created in God’s image. But we fell – we got lost – we are stained, damaged. And racism is just one more evidence of that damage.
I happen to believe there is a way back from racism, from sin. That way back is not a result of a government program or trying harder. The way back is by leaning on the help of God. Another church word describes this leaning on God’s help. It’s called grace.
There are moments when we glimpse a healed world. I long for more of those.
Some say triumph will come through the gradual evolution of our human potentialities: “Just give us time. Wait and see. We’ll get there.” But human history, wars, terror, famine, brutality, greed, injustice all cry out and say “No!”
Will human progress stop people and nations from sinning, from evil, from racism? Will human achievement ever wipe away all tears from our eyes or heal our broken hearts? To ask these questions is to answer them.
I can imagine a world without racism but only as I imagine a world where humans stop trying to fix ourselves and humbly ask for help, for “divine intervention,” for grace.
Join us in this Canterbury moment (click here) as we examine racism, a conversation where we will reflect contemplate, pray, hope, discuss, discern and not just imagine a world without racism but take steps both personally and corporately to change the world at least a little part of it.
There are other issues that plague and burden our earthly journey of life. If you are at a place where your life would benefit from a little “divine intervention,” consider Canterbury. Regardless of your level of spiritual background or training, Canterbury offers a “sacred space” where you can come to reflect, dream, discover and maybe, just maybe, experience a renewing level of God’s grace.
Photo credit: PeterThoeny via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA