Looking at race — Through their eyes

Looking at race — Through their eyes June 22, 2015

Unsettled.

There it is again.

This has been happening plenty lately as I’ve gone to the Middle East, marched with Ethiopians and now this.

It’s just three days after the horrific shooting in a church in Charleston. Nine people, open bibles, heads bowed, seeking God. They should have been safe. They shouldn’t have to worry about murder and death.  Mothers. Fathers. Sisters. And a pastor…gone, snuffed out by a man bent on starting a war between the races What he didn’t know is that he actually might have ignited a campaign of love. 

What he intended for evil, God will use for good.

We sat outside the Denver Shorter African Methodist Episcopal Church. Not a single part of the long name resonated with my being or background, except “Church”.

“What are we doing here?” Yet God told me to do this…

I was first moved after I heard the love and forgiveness given by the family of those who were killed on Friday. Did you see that? I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.” What manner of love is this?

The families aren’t demanding riots or protests or violence. They are calling for repentance for Dylan. They are calling for repentance for a nation. Are we listening?

And then I heard Glenn Beck who went to Charleston just to pray and show love. He said this “Something has begun and it has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with LOVE.” An MSNBC anchor heard those prayers and the songs and got choked up, and even said “amen” on the air. Two sides, completely opposite, moved by something greater.

AME Church2Going there

So what is a middle-aged white guy in Denver supposed to do? I can’t fix the bigger problems in society. But I’ve been prompted by friend and editor Deidra Riggs to “go there” when it comes to race and building relationships. And Iranian Christian ‎Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan has been encouraging me to go outside of myself.  I had to go there. Maybe not Charleston, but to the AME church in Denver, whose pastor was personal friends with the slain Charleston pastor.

Admittedly, we wondered how we would be received. After all, it was a white man who sat in the middle of  prayer service that killed the Charleston nine. We bowed and prayed before we went in — not knowing if we would be intruding. There were politicians there … and media. “Please God, not a sideshow, please.” But from the moment we walked in, we were loved. We were welcomed and received with warmth. It was great to sit near my new friend, Patricia Rayon. But even if she wasn’t there, we would have felt at home.

The sermon was out of Job, and the passage focused on the words, “the Lord restores.” Job lost everything, and yet God restored Job with all that…and more.

“We might endure for a night, but job comes in the morning. God will restore. God will make a way. God will show up.”

Pastor Timothy Tyler preached with passion. He was forceful. He was emotional. And he had every right to be. He lost his friend for no reason, except to evil. “I was mad a God. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t talk to Him. But people who are mad at God have great faith, because you can’t be mad at someone you don’t believe in.”

He also spoke out against the rush to forgive. “First, we must grieve.”

And grieve they did …and we cried with them.

AME ChurchI’m pretty sheltered. I’ve never suffered like so many others. I’ve always been employed. I’ve never been unjustly arrested. I’ve never been at the end of a racist joke or been pulled over just for looking a certain way.

But my lack of experience in your world doesn’t disqualify me from caring.

Friends, you are not alone.

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