Thursday, October 15, 2009

I got an email this morning that ticked me off. Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed. Everyone has the right to their own opinions. But I had previously asked to not be included on the type of emails this particular couple liked to send out to a mass distribution list.

Their email was from an article Pat Buchanan wrote. In the article, Buchanan writes (I won’t repeat the entire article):

“Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America. Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to... This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans.

We hear the grievances (from blacks). Where is the gratitude???

Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America's fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent? Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?”

Now, I’m not saying that the African American community has no responsibility to set healthy expectations for themselves. They do. We all do. But the tenor of the article, combined with the hateful rhetoric that has been spewing out of the media lately was finally too much. Instead of hitting the delete button as I so often do, I hit the reply all button. This is what I had to say:

Wow, talk about denial and ignorance. People should be grateful for being torn from their families, physically abused, sexually abused, taught they are not human, enslaved for generations, training them to be dogs, teaching them dependency, and creating systems to keep them “in their place”. Yeah, they have a lot to be grateful for. Yeah, right.

But in spite of all this, in spite of the horrific history we have as Americans treating some ethnic people (i.e. Native American, African American) as less than human, there is a lot that is great about America. To forget the past makes us vulnerable to repeating it. I would suggest that people read the book by Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States.

There are a lot of people who are grateful for being an American. The human spirit can overcome anything with God’s help. But we can’t ignore what our country has done to marginalize people here.

Buchanan wants to talk about being Christian? He needs to read his Bible. Take a look at the theme the Prophets repeat over and over. Don’t be oppressive. Have compassion on the marginalized. Jesus started his public ministry with these words, straight from Isaiah,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

For those of you who don’t know the significance of this passage, let me tell you. The “year of the Lord’s favor” refers to the Hebrew Jubilee year (every 50th year). You can look it up, but it was a time when the playing field was leveled. Those in debt were given a “pass” card. Their debts were forgiven. It was a means in which every 50 years equality took a huge leap forward. The marginalized were helped. That pleases God.

Do we always like it when it means we, the “majority” who have the most power, have to give up some of what we’ve got? No. But if Buchanan insists on talking about being a Christian, then he better get his facts straight. Being a Christian means you want to follow Jesus, you want to please God. In fact, you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus so much that you want to show that you love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength (that means ALL---your body, your time, your money, etc) in ways that please God.

And what does the Lord require of us? There were people who thought of themselves as the true “religious” people in the prophet Isaiah’s day. But their outward appearances --- talking about how religious they were, public displays of fasting, etc. didn’t match with the hardness of their hearts. What does God say to them (and us) through the prophet Isaiah?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe him,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Buchanan better take a hard, long look at what the Bible says pleases God, if he wants to call himself a Christian and wants to make our country even greater. Does he love our country and God so much that he will do what God says?


The saying “walk in my shoes” is important to me. God led me to an experience of this nine years ago. I literally walked (and drove) with a group of Native Americans for 3 ½ months across America. I saw what it was like being a white woman in the midst of a group of Indians. I saw the way they were treated compared to how I was treated when we were out in the public. I heard stories of pain and oppression. And I heard stories of triumph and the beauty of the human spirit. I saw a deep love of this land we call America. I pray that we, as a nation, will repent of the hatred and prejudice that so infects this great nation. I pray that we will do as the prophets of old said…do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed. We can’t do that if we don’t really understand oppression…the seeds of it and the systemic institutions that support it. We are all guilty. We are all sinners. But God is full of grace and mercy. Thanks be to God!

1 comment:

  1. You are so right! Empathy is the most important element in understanding other people. It never ceases to amaze me when someone says "Well, I never owned any slaves. Why should I feel bad about slavery? That was abolished in 1864." They fail to see the repercussions of a social system that was based on the dehumanizing of a group of people based solely on the color of their skin - attitudes which still exist today.

    Thank you for this excellent and heartfelt rebuttal to the hypocrisy of Pat Buchanan. We should all be inspired by the words of Isiah to become Repairers of Broken Walls.