Reflections and Musings

We Who Are Many Are One in Christ Jesus

“Solidarity involves critique of self, of society, of church. This critique takes on and includes existential reflection, historical scrutiny, presence to memory, social analysis, acknowledgement and confession of sin, authentic repentance–change of heart, change of life, change of living.

A Christian praxis of solidarity denotes the humble and complete orientation of ourselves before the lynched Jesus, whose shadow falls across the table of our sacramental meal. In his raised body, a compassionate God interrupts the structures of death and sin, of violation and oppression. A divine praxis of solidarity sets the dynamics of love against the dynamics of domination–recreating and regenerating the world, offering us a new way of being in relation to God, to others, to self.” (Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom, 126.1)

What do you say when you feel like you have to say, but don’t know what to say? Where do you find the words?

Is it even your place to find the words, or are you just performing a heroic gesture to show you’re not one of “those” white people?

These are the thoughts I’ve wrestled with over the past month.

I’ve read the tweets and Facebook posts indicting white friends for their silence about Michael Brown and John Crawford’s deaths, while black friends wonder aloud if justice is possible.

I’ve read the tweets and blog posts and rants about how white christians have spoken out more about other evangelical crises the past week while offering crickets about Ferguson, MO and Beavercreek, OH.

And in all this pointing and wordiness, I didn’t want to say anything.

I read the “silence is complicity” posts and the slacktivism posts. And I know there’s a fine line between speaking up for “justice”/raising awareness/naming the elephant of racism in the room/call it what you will, and inserting myself and my white privilege in front of the voices of my minority sisters and brothers in Christ who have been far more vocal for far longer about the un-broached topic of race in America.

And then today it came to a head. I’ve tried to ignore it, tried to push it to the back of my mind, tried to see something laudible in my retweeting of other blogs and reading them instead of writing my own. But today that’s not enough.

In Romans 12, Paul encourages the Christians at Rome “not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Apt words.

I’m not just spitting out some Bible verse with the naive notion that it will be the all-healing salve that will bring Brown and Crawford back from the dead and bring reconciliation between protestors, citizens and police.

But, those words split the heart of this (huge) controversy. They get to the heart of the way we try to do church or spiritual formation.

Part of my frustration is that spiritual formation is about transformation of whole life. Spiritual formation is the reality that the gospel touches every part of human life–white/black/otherwise.

What the heck does not being conformed to this world have to do with Ferguson or Ohio? I don’t know, but a better question is what does it have to do with you? With your life?

Regardless of your assessment of these events, we can all mourn the reality that this isn’t an isolated incident, that black sisters and brothers are regularly subjected to realities I’ll never have to warn my child about.

I’m nervous of my own impulse to write this post. I don’t want you to think that I’m a white person who cares about black people. I also don’t want you to think that I’m a white person who doesn’t care about black people.

What I am is a white person who doesn’t know what to say, but that’s not an excuse for not saying anything. I don’t think everyone needs to trot out an opinion on this, but I do think that somehow we’ve missed the notion that we’re all connected.

Because if you’re part of this community called the body of Christ Paul says “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (12:5).

Bound, belongs, not chosen.

You didn’t choose this community, Christ chose you. You don’t bind this community together, the Spirit does. And you don’t get to decide who’s in or who’s out, who’s worth mourning and who’s not. Michael Brown, police officers, John Crawford, protesters.

Because the entry rite into this community is Baptism. In Baptism you die to yourself and put on Christ, not that you don’t live anymore, but you don’t live the same way. You’re beginning to be transformed so you don’t look like this world looks. And more importantly, the community doesn’t look like the world looks.

Because the ability to even be baptized is predicated on Christ’s death. And not just Christ’s death, but Christ’s life. The Incarnation. That moment when the Son of God didn’t think equality with God something to be grasped but took on your form, the form of a slave, the form of the oppressed and created life in a space of death.

Michelangelo, Pieta

Michelangelo, Pieta

To paraphrase James Cone, the gospel/Jesus is always on the side of the oppressed. Which means I can look at Ferguson and Beavercreek and imagine Jesus standing right next to Michael Brown and John Crawford as they were gunned down. And right next to the officers. And in the crowd as the tear gas was thrown, and in the line up of officers as they shot rubber bullets.

And with the church leaders who pleaded and prayed for peace. And in the office of every person who has wrestled with these events. With every pastor who has stood in front of her congregation and boldly preached a word of life into this space of death. With every lay person who sits in the congregation, wondering what to make of all this.

Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.

The pattern of this world is to point fingers, to name names, to objectify, to justify, to make excuses (all in the name of “justice”).

But the biggest lie and sadness in this whole debacle is just that willingness to make another person less than human. That’s the problem with racism in America. White comes to equal human worth and black comes to signify something less than that. You can tell me that’s not true (I try to tell myself the same thing), but it is.

The good news is that in Christ we’ve been called to a new community where something other than skin color determines our value and worth.

A community where you can be transformed by renewing your mind. I’m sure I’m doing some reading into the text here, but what if this week renewing your mind, meant receiving Communion–the body and blood of the oppressed Christ–and bringing life.

Christ died to bring life. Yes, we’re united in his death and life, but Christ died to end death. So, let’s stop creating dead spaces.

Let’s realize we’re part of the same body: or as Shawn Copeland put it, we’re in solidarity. Why? Because that’s where Christ is.

This whole journey of transformation isn’t into the image of some unknown God, but the image of a God who put his body on the line, right next to two other “criminals” by the empire’s standards.

But that solidarity comes at a cost. Solidarity means we have to confess the ways we’ve fallen short of true membership in the body of Christ. Ways we’ve left some out (intentionally or unintentionally), ways we’ve preferred to sit on the sidelines instead of putting our bodies with those criminalized by empire. Ways we’ve continued to be conformed to this world, instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

That word can be translated repent, which is just another way of saying, “change your mind.” I hope you’ve been in a better place than me. I hope your mind is much more transformed, but even if it’s not, that’s ok. Start now. Be transformed. Change your mind. Don’t settle for less than the body of Christ.

A professor taught me that if we don’t have all the voices at the table when we’re talking about God, then we’re not getting the whole picture. I’ll confess that I often settle for a fragment of the picture, instead of the full thing. Because it’s easy, because I’m lazy.

It’s easy to roll along with the status quo, to fall in step with the pattern of this world. It ain’t easy to change your mind.

So look, really look, the next time you take Eucharist and hear the words that Christ’s body and blood are broken and shed for you. Death offered, life given. For you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. For the opportnity to live a different way. For a chance to ignore the backwards ways of empire and live in solidarity with every other member of the body of Christ. To be transformed.

Because if we’re not doing that, what are we doing?


We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Black, white, brown, and all the colors of the rainbow in between and outside.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who would throw the first stone, those who are the stone’s target, those who feel the loss of the heavy stone’s work.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who hold hands high in prayer, following the Spirits very breath and dynamism. Those who sit and stand in orderly fashion, tuned to the rhythm of the Spirit.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who mourn at wars and rumors of wars, at violence and rumors of violence, at racism and rumors of racism. Those who don’t question wars, violence or racism.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who build fences and those who scale the fences in search for something more.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those with bread spilling over the table and those who don’t know where today’s bread will come from.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who are not masculine enough or man enough to make men’s money, and those who aren’t feminine enough to fit into society or the church’s box.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who harbor deep resentment toward others and peacemakers who put bodies between entrenched foxholes of hate.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who seek justice through a judge’s verdict and those who cry out for a greater justice, a wholeness, a peace.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those mouthpieces for the forgotten, the lost, the least, and those too busy with their own situation to listen to the cry for justice.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those of mixed motives, no motives, and those who are speechless.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who seek to impose and mandate, those who have no choice but to be imposed upon and mandated up.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those preaching life who continue to create spaces of death. Those living in death who find glimpses of life breaking in.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who know the ins and outs of church, theology, spiritual disciplines, community. Those who know that they are loved and seek only to share that love.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those respected by society, the All American looks, the proper image. Those so out in left field they can’t manage perceptions.

We who are many are one in Christ jesus.

Those who think another is less than human because of their creed, gender, or skin color. Those who embrace people as fellow persons created and loved by God.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who think racism is a bygone “issue” that’s been “fixed.” Those who tirelessly work for equity. Those who are privileged not to consider race.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those who justify their actions, thoughts, and goodness. Those with a humble and contrite heart.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those fleeing to the suburbs, and those trapped in the inner cities. Those struggling in the country, those thriving in the business district.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.

Those bound to national, family, or other identity. Those who have been raised with Christ to a new identity.

We who are many are one in Christ Jesus.


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