I had planned to write something nice about the start of a new school year today. And I suppose I still could have. I have the privilege to sit safely, celebrating #caturday as I write, not worrying about racism and hatred and violence in far-away Charlottesville. And that’s why I had to speak. Silence is a privilege not all share.
But then what to say? How to speak, when there are no words? When the same old news hits my screen again and again, until tears no longer prick my eyes, bile no longer rises in the back of my throat because the story of hatred is all too commonplace? Or because tears do come, and my stomach clenches in disgust and I find all the words stuck at the back of my throat, and I cannot speak and do not know what to say in any case —
But silence is a privilege.
So I’m offering my meager words, for whatever they might be worth. They come only in fragments, “shored against my ruin,” into some kind of broken liturgy. So it begins:
The Lord be with you
Call to Worship
“This is my Father’s World; O Let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s World; the battle is not done — Jesus, who died shall be satisfied and earth and heaven be one.”
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I confess my own complicity. I confess the times that I have sought the comfort of hanging out with people who look like me over challenging the status quo. I confess the ways I’ve let fear rule me instead of love.
Forgive me for what I’ve done. And for what I’ve left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I confess to having sat silently at family gatherings when people made racist comments. I thought I was trying to keep the peace, but I can see now that racist belief doesn’t spring up overnight. Racism flourishes in a culture of polite silence. Forgive me for silence; make me brave to speak.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Lord, Christ, have mercy on us.
I’m thankful for the Christian leaders who have spoken out clearly against racism and white supremacy. My city’s own Dallas Theological Seminary had this to say:
As a Seminary, we unequivocally condemn racism, white supremacy, and any denial that every person bears the image of God. #charlottsville
I’m thankful for those Christian leaders in Charlottesville who brought peace and love and light to the protests. May we all have courage to let our little lights shine — not as the blazing torches of destructive hatred, but as beacons of hope.
And I’m even thankful that what was hidden has been brought to light. So many times I’ve thought that racism was a non-issue in today’s America, or the province only of the very ignorant. Surely, by now, we know better.
It is not easy to praise when you want to lament. And we should lament. But I find that times like these call for Christmas music — those songs that show most clearly the contrast between our lived experience and our hope in Christ. Songs that say:
“Then in despair, I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth, I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, “God is not dead nor does He sleep.”
“Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world hath suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love song which they bring: O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.”
and this cause for joy to the world:
“No more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found!”
I believe in a loving Father who made all humankind in His own image He made them beautiful, creative, loving, giving, intelligent, as He is all those things. I believe that the curse of sin has marred that image — but that the Father’s divine stamp still seals each person as absolutely precious, absolutely loved, absolutely valuable.
I believe that the Spirit of God renews the face of the earth. I believe the Spirit comforts and convicts, and can both bring incredible peace to the hurting and change the hearts of those inflicting pain.
I believe that Christ, the Son of God, came to earth in person, died and was buried, and was raised to life again. I believe He has defeated sin, death, and Satan. I believe He triumphs over all hatred, racism, prejudice, and violence. I believe He is making all things new by the power of His resurrection, and He will return one day to bring His kingdom in full. I believe He will meet us in the tension with grace.
I believe; Lord help my unbelief.
I don’t have much to give, but here is the song I shared with my congregation this Sunday. Twenty years later, and still no one says it better than Rich Mullins:
I know no way forward but to start with myself. I pray, of course, for peace. For wisdom for our leaders. For protection from violence for those in danger. For God to melt hateful hearts with His love. But when I feel hopeless and ineffective, I pray for God to change me first. And here is what I pray:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon. Where there is discord, let me bring union. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, let me bring your light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds, it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.”
“And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be made well.”
Christine Hand Jones is a singer-songwriter, a professor of English and songwriting, and has served as a worship leader and church music director. She has a PhD in Literary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas, which she earned, in large measure, by listening to the collected works of Bob Dylan and writing about what she heard. When she's not playing music or fascinating her students with stunning lectures over comma splices, Christine can be found drinking coffee, playing devoted cat mom to Desmond and Molly, and roaming the shelves of Half-Price Books.