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"This is America"

We said from the beginning that this sermon series, “Privilege and Promise: This is America,” would make us all uncomfortable. We said from the beginning that this series would make us incensed and mournful. We said from the beginning that this series would challenge us but also, we hoped, teach us. We said from the beginning that racism is layered, multifaceted, and intersectional. We said from the beginning that subtext abounds in this series through our titles, subtitles, images, and words. Today in this weekly sharing of resources to accompany this series, I lay bare one major piece of that subtext.

“This is America.” Why that phrase as our subtitle? One answer is, as I’m sure many of you figured out weeks ago, Donald Glover. Or, more accurately for this particular piece of art, his stage name: Childish Gambino. Two years ago, Glover/Gambino released a music video entitled, "This is America."

Warning: This video is disturbing. This video is also brilliant. It is about the Black experience in USAmerica, so it cannot help but be disturbing. I am convinced we — all of us, but especially we who are White* — need to watch this and try to take it in. We need to be disturbed.

 

If that video upsets you, consider this: Today, August 28th, is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington at which John Lewis was the youngest speaker and at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 57 years. You know the one wherein Dr. King offered that line, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The line White people love to quote as a way to decry Affirmative Action, one of the few programs actually offering some small form of reparations, actually working to bend the moral arc of our universe toward justice.

Honestly, how much has actually changed for Black folks in the USA in 57 years? That’s why this video is necessary and necessarily disturbing.

And if we — especially we who are White — are tired of this racism conversation after just six (nonconsecutive) weeks? Imagine how tired all our Black and Brown neighbors are of living with it every second of every day of their lives.

Watch the “This is America” music video above today.

Engage in worship with us Sunday.

Join the conversation on Zoom after worship, in which Woodridge Police Chief Brian Cunningham is scheduled to participate.

Together we can be the actively antiracist church Jesus calls us to be.

Leave a comment below and/or email me your thoughts

*I continue to include this note because this change continues to be jarring for me too. Why is White capitalized? The AP style has recently changed to capitalize Black but not White. I’ve read arguments for this distinction and arguments against it. I will capitalize both because I find most compelling the reasoning that we who are White have for too long hidden behind a generic cultural sense that positions us as the default. I am convinced that has contributed to us being blinded by our White privilege and unable or unwilling to see the reality of racism in our systems and in ourselves.

Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

March into Good Trouble

Sunday, Pastor Danita gave us a powerful sermon about a legit American hero: Rep. John Lewis. I’ve spoken previously about how, shamefully, I was in my 30s before I really knew who John Lewis was and why he was so important to our country’s history — and present. As I’ve said a number of times, I highly, highly recommend Lewis’ book, March.

Yes, it is a graphic novel in three parts. So what? Don’t let that keep you from reading it! It is absolutely amazing. (If you buy from Amazon, be sure to make it Amazon Smile and select Woodridge UMC as your charity. Or buy if from a local comic book shop. Or a local indy book store. Or...) If you don’t want to buy it, get it from your library. Or, if you leave a thoughtful comment on this post, perhaps you can borrow the church’s copy. You’ll be glad you did.

So far these posts of resources related to our “Privilege and Promise: This is America” sermon series have followed the pattern: you’ve heard the sermon, now learn some more. For this week, I thought I’d try switching up that order. As you’ve hopefully read in the eNews or on the website or on our church Facebook page, this Sunday I’m preaching about the role Christianity has played — and is playing — in our country’s racism. Here’s a chance for you to read ahead! Some articles that are helping to shape my sermon:

White Supremacist Ideas Have Historical Roots in U.S. Christianity, from NPR.

Racism Among White Christians Higher than Among the Nonreligious. That's No Coincidence, from NBC News.

How "Race Tests" Maintain Evangelical Segregation, from Religion Dispatches. (Don't let that title fool you: we Mainline Protestants are indicted in the article too.)

Slavery and the Founders of Methodism, from UM News.

Those are all rather uncomfortable reads, especially for we who are White*. But they are extraordinarily important and necessary reads.

For a much deeper dive into how Christian history intertwines with White supremacy, I found Jemar Tisby’s book, The Color of Compromise, excellent (if harrowing).

I know we all wish the facts were different. But, as I wrote last week, we can’t fix our oppressive systems unless and until we are willing to squarely look at the truth no matter how ugly it is.

I hope these resources and our sermon series help us do just that as we continue down the road toward becoming actively antiracist. 

*It still looks off somehow to capitalize White. Why is White capitalized? The AP style has recently changed to capitalize Black but not White. I’ve read arguments for this distinction and arguments against it. I will capitalize both because I find most compelling the reasoning that we who are White have for too long hidden behind a generic cultural sense that positions us as the default. I am convinced that has contributed to us being blinded by our White privilege and unable or unwilling to see the reality of racism in our systems and in ourselves.

Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

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