Reckoning and Reconciliation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

The heart of this nation has grown calloused,
their ears are hard of hearing and they have shut their eyes;
so they might not look with their eyes, listen with their ears,
understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.

Matthew 13:15

[Beneath the menacing pulse of helicopters,
troop carrier convoys command empty downtown streets,
and armored police columns cordon crosswalks

while armed militias posture before protestors.
Now, my adopted hometown heaves
under the raw realization

that justice,
who long ago lost her blindfold,
sees only in black and white.

Under curfew, behind barred doors,
in flickering candlelight we wait, watch, worry,
as we listen to sirens and pray for peace even without justice.

Like so many families in other darkened cities, distant countries,
far-off times and places, we wonder:
How did it come to this and where do we go from here?
Louisville, Kentucky; September 24, 2020]

Seeker,
What role does your faith play when some lives and deaths
seem to matter less than others?

When curiosity and desire for conquest
carried our European ancestors to these shores
their cultural cargo included death dealing disease, weaponry,
and a divine dispensation to control natives and colonize nature.

With the cross came the crown.

Papal declarations permitted the exploitation of human communities
and consigned them to carve out gold and silver from the earth
to gild crucifixes and candlesticks in far flung cathedrals.

With the crown came chains.

Named and claimed for the distant monarchs of Christendom,
verdant wilderness was tamed and turned to cultivation.
New plantation populations were needed
to raise cotton, sugar, tobacco; and raise profits.

With chains came commercial opportunity.

As African families were abducted, shackled, shipped, sold into slavery,
more moral manipulations permitted prelates, preachers and presidents
to impose divinely ordained hierarchy and hegemony;
a travesty to cleave God’s family; making some subservient and others supreme.

With commercial exploitation came crucifixion.

Our faith story in these lands
remains insinuated in the filaments of this trifurcated root:
genocide, nature desecration and slavery.
Still, ‘Cristo Negro’ cries out breathless from the cross
and we remain shackled to a shameful legacy of privilege and supremacy.

With emancipation comes reckoning

How do faithful people account for participation in racial sin;
make amends, affect repair?

The Examen – listening, looking, learning—
predicates penance.
Confession precedes forgiveness.
Truth-telling comes before reconciliation.
Reconciliation demands restitution.
Restoration requires reparation.

But blessed are your eyes,
for they see,
and your ears, for they hear.
Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear,
but did not hear it.

Matthew 13:16-17

May we recover courage and shake off the shackles
of crown, commerce and cultural crucifixion,
to freely enter together the undiscovered country where we
black, brown, indigenous and immigrant people are all cherished.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression, and war.

John Lewis

joe

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