Saturday, June 20, 2015

In honor of Mother Emanuel

This morning a group of 40 or 50 people of faith joined together to pray on a street corner in a little city with a jackhammer working half a block away (with the quip "the world is under construction").  We sang "How Lovely are Your Tents, O Jacob," "We Shall Overcome," "Oh Lord Prepare Me," "The Soul You Placed in Me is Pure."

Black and white clergy prayed.  A rabbi talked about righteous anger.  A baptist preacher talked about forgiveness.  I felt the hard skull of the fetus in my womb crushing bone against bone, impatient.  And I suddenly regretted my very existence.  I regretted the act of bringing children into the world.  I regretted my whiteness and my safety.  I regretted my faith and its fears.  We who lock our synagogues during the day and hire police officers to monitor the crowd on holidays declared that no one should feel afraid in God's sanctuaries.  I feel enormously afraid - for my safety, for your safety, for my complicity which I don't know how to repair.

The rabbis teach that we should all be able to say, "The world was created for my sake."  So that if anyone is killed unjustly, we should know that it destroys the entire world.  The world was destroyed nine times over by a white man with a gun, who sat in a Bible study for an hour and failed to see the face of God in the faces of the congregation he sat among. The world is destroyed almost every week by a police officer who sees God's people as his enemies to be brutalized. 

Somehow the perpetual victims of this destruction can talk about forgiveness.  I don't have the power or the right to forgive.  I stood with my hands crushed on either side by white clergy, looking into the face of a black woman pastor, as she talked about healing, forgiveness, strength, love.  The words sounded like white noise in my ears.  Tears streamed from my chin onto my chest.  She came over and hugged me, as though I was the one who needed comforting.

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