‘We are cradled in God's embrace’ - from the keyboard of Rev Wendy Prior, Staff Chaplain, Synod of SA
On the occasion of Reconciliation Week and Reconciliation (Pentecost) Sunday
By Rev Andy Hogarth
Posted in Faith,Culture
The death of George Floyd and false accusation of Christian Cooper in New York has made me reflect again on racism. It’s so easy to point the finger at America’s racism, but what about ours? What about … mine? I’ve listened and observed enough indigenous Australians who regularly and graciously manage the clunky social interactions of white people who range from happy ignorance through to the “I’m not racist but…” in almost every room they enter.
Everyone at some time or other experiences insensitivity and painful and sometimes shameful interactions. There is a time for shrugging it off, staying strong and moving on with some positive people. Indigenous Australians do that to a degree I will never fully appreciate. Most indigenous Australians smile and navigate around the bumbling comments and understand that most people aren’t intentionally racist. Most indigenous Australians do not want everyone walking on eggshells. I have been chastened this week to ask again, “Why are the egg shells there in the first place?” The answer to that is a story longer and deeper than I could tell here. A simple Wikipedia search on “indigenous Australia”
will give most of us enough information. Racism is like a scar. It is the scar that I, a white Australian, am aware of from time to time. It is a scar the indigenous Australian has no choice but to feel.
I’m a pastor so permit me a little Scripture here.
Doubting Thomas wasn’t in the room when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after he rose from the dead. When Thomas finally positioned himself in the room, his eyes were opened. Jesus invited him to touch his scars and believe. I think I am a lot like Thomas. I have only seen the scar of racism when I’ve placed myself in the same room as those who bear it. I’ve only seen the hope beyond the scar when, in that sacred room, I’ve reached out in sadness and hope and good faith all mixed together. My life is better for having been in the room with those who bear the scar and who, without exception, have invited me to touch it without trying to ‘fix it’. Like Thomas, it’s in that room that I have received the Holy Spirit who restores the Imago Dei, redeems the loss and brings fresh hope.
My faith, the Christian faith, tells me we are made in the image of God and we are loved through sacrificial redemption by Jesus. It tells me we have an unshakeable, resurrection hope for the renewal of all things by his Holy Spirit. These three truths form an unshakeable door frame of human worth, redemption and hope. The graffiti of racism on the door and the scar upon the people within the room is not greater than these three resolute truths that open to all those who would enter. If Pentecost and Reconciliation Sunday means anything - it is that. It stands to reason that, in order to enter someone’s room, I have to be willing to exit mine. That is a little scary for me until I realise that the basis upon which I am doing this is the truth of human worth, redemption and hope.
All I have to do is be there with humble faith, two ears and one mouth and believe the story.
Here are some small things I have learned in my bumbling attempts to be in someone else’s room:
- Be private and personal - white people sometimes make it feel like we are running for office and want a good story of “my aboriginal friend”.
- It’s all a bit eye roll really so just be a friend.
- Be thoughtful - it’s the little things. The little note of acknowledgement appreciating that the day [eg. Australia Day] is all a bit mixed and that you are thinking of someone means a lot.
- Believe the story - the stories of racism are true. They are not the whole story but they are part of the story and the gift of listening is a very healing action.
- Follow the hope, joy and fun - indigenous Australians are, by percentages alone, the most gifted collection of people groups on the planet - follow the joy.
- When we walk into the room and dare to hear and see the scar, it can feel confronting. Sometimes the scar is unseen and seems healed.
- Sometimes it is inexplicably tender. Sometimes it is weeping a little and sometimes it is torn open like it never even began to heal. It is a scar. It’s there. The other side of the scar, when we sit in someone’s room, is hope. And hope is a very, very rich thing.
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"A good day?" - From the keyboard of Rev Wendy Prior, Synod of SA Staff Chaplain
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