“My beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
If you are a close reader of our communications, you noticed a mistake in yesterday’s Epistle. A sentence in my short comments at the beginning was left unfinished. After numerous edits to that single sentence, Constant Contact must have grown weary from saving my changes and the final version was dropped in the completed e-mail. This small mistake was actually a sign of grace, an enduring testimony to my struggle with finding the right words to express my thoughts about the events of the past several days.
On Memorial Day, George Floyd was murdered on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, crying for help as he struggled to breath under the pressure of a knee pressing upon his neck for eight minutes and fort-six seconds. Just days before, Breonna Taylor was murdered in her own apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, a little more than a week before her twenty-seventh birthday. And just days before that, the chilling video of Ahmaud Arbery emerged, bringing to light the story of a young black man hunted down and shot while jogging through an otherwise peaceful neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.
While we might hope that these were isolated incidents from distant communities, they are only the surface of a much deeper pandemic that afflicts in our nation. Racism, often called the United States’ original sin, is a disease that has run rampant for more than four hundred years in this land, long before our founding documents were penned. In generation after generation, it has shown its ugly face in ways both old and new.
As a white man, I do not have words for the reality that I am six times less likely to die in a violent act than a black man. I do not have words for the feelings of fear I have never experienced or the anxiety of a conversation about confrontation my mother never had to have with me as white boy coming of age.
I simply do not have words to speak…. But, I do have ears to listen.
In these days, may we listen to cries of our black siblings. May we sit with them in the pain of their experience. May we hear their pleas for justice. May we lift up the names of those who have died and remember those whose names we will never know. There is much work to be done, but first let us begin by listening.
We need not have all the words. We need only to listen to those whose voices have been too often silenced. In listening to their voices, we will surely discover the still-speaking voice of the living God.
The Reverend Andrew J. Hege