Prayer vigil in Charleston/Nomader - Wikipedia

Finding Order out of the Charleston Chaos

By Andy CastroLang

“Don’t you care?”

This is a typical lament of children.  They think they have been forgotten, when really, they have only been put firmly to bed.

This is even a joke phrase, “Hey, I’m dying over here”, when someone is in a bind and can’t get their friends to help out, with the dishes, the finals, lifting the heavy box on their own.

But the dying going on over here, and over there, is no joke.

The chaos of the storms of racism, and murderous hate, are raging around us and we are being swamped.

The deaths of black men and boys, of brown people, by other people — the deaths of nine Christian people in a prayer circle a Wednesday night in lovely old historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston S.C — this is the storm of chaos that is overwhelming us.

And I am as mad and scared as any disciple on a boat, I want to shake Jesus awake and yell at him and shout: “Don’t you care, we are perishing here!”

Our neighbors, our friends, the sons and brothers, the sisters and mothers, the beloved grandma — they are gunned down in cold blood.

Jesus, don’t you care!?

Wake up, for pity’s sake, wake up and save us!

Scholars of Scripture tell me that there were at least four professional fishermen, knowledgeable and skilled, in that boat and they were in a panic too. (Mark 4:34-41)

There are all sorts of people, of power and influence, out there who I hope are in a panic right now.

If you are not sick of this slaughter of our children, our friends, our neighbors, our teachers, our ministers — then you are numb and your heart and your brain are asleep. It is time to wake up!

I hope the hate groups are in a panic. I hear that the young man who murdered those nine people said he was hoping to start a “race war.” Nope. We won’t go there.

Even more than hate groups, I hope the people who benefit from our racist culture, who thrive on the advantages of their white privilege, who practice bigotry of the most brutal and yet often, so subtle kind; in jobs, opportunities, education, community, business, government, religion and science; God, I hope they are finally scared.

The system of bias and bigotry in our police departments, our justice “system” that is so unjust. I hope people are scared in there.

Because this is enough, more than enough.

I feel the anger of the disciple who says, “Hey, wake up, we are in trouble here!”

And what do we hear in this story?

Jesus wakes up and calms the chaos, calls the sea to order, tells the waves to settle down.  “Peace, be still.”

Did you know that some of the families of those murdered have already spoken with the murderer and told him they forgive him?

Did you know that one of them asked him to learn about Jesus so that he might feel peace, instead of the chaotic mess that is inside him right now?

I do not know what storms, what gales of grief, these families have had to go through, and may yet see again in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, yet they have already begun to experience the order out of chaos  that are the strength of Jesus.

I really don’t know if I could do it.

But they have already done it. Found some semblance of quiet, of calm, of dare I say it, peace — from the mighty example of Jesus and his peace, and his power, the power of God, not people.  To hold on to the good, and strive toward the true. Even in the face of great evil.

I admit, I feel it is beyond me right now to forgive that young man and his racist worldview.

It is probably beyond me right now to forgive myself, for my collusion and passivity  in our racist white privileging society.

But I will do what I can, right now; and that is to be stubborn, and loud, and funnel my loathing toward the system into which I am embedded, into work to dismantle it.

The racism in America is deep and pervasive, and those in power who benefit from it, never want us to admit it, or react to it, or fight it. They don’t want us to feel it.

They don’t want us to feel bad to be white.

Because whites are taking advantage, they have the advantage. In bitter irony, I realize I don’t have much chance of being gunned down in my church. I am a middle class white woman.

I don’t have to worry every day and every night about my son or my husband being shot in the back, choked to death, beaten unconscious and left to die. They are white men, and they have so many advantages.

It doesn’t feel nice to say it. You may hate me for saying it.

But we are the privileged ones in a corrupt system and if we don’t stand up and say, “Stop, you storm of chaos,” then we have learned nothing from Jesus.

But, “Jesus is God, and he does things we can’t do”, is that what you are thinking, perhaps?

No. Jesus takes on the world, and calls us to do so also.

Jesus heals people, frees them from unjust systems, lifts up the lowly, feeds the hungry — speaks the truth to the powers of the world — so must we.

If you have the power, and oh, good people, you are all white sitting here with me this sunny Sunday morning, so yes, we have lots of power.

If we have the power, then we have the chance to help make the changes.

The office of the police ombudsman may be in disarray right now, but it will need your support.  The NAACP needs our support. The Spokane Tribe, and other tribes, need to know of your support and mine.  The Sikh community, the Muslim community, the Jewish community — all of whom are targets of hate in our area — they need our support and our friendship and our action.

Accountability, training in anti-racism, stepping up to stop the voice of ignorance and bigotry when you hear it…wherever you hear it… this any of us can do.

It is the least we can do. It is our chance to do as Jesus did, and stop the chaos.

You may do more. You may advocate for tighter gun control. Or better education in the reality of our diversity, greater cultural awareness and sensitivity.

You may run for office, or you may read different sorts of stories to our children. You may decide it is time to make new and different friends. You may go to your first pow wow, or Juneteenth celebration.  You may change your neighborhood, or change the conversation at your dinner table.

What we must not do is nothing. What we must not say is that it is not our issue.

We have to accept that we get a lot of breaks, and a lot of perks, by just being white, and this is not fair, or just or right.

We have to admit that the violent storm of racism is blowing across the lake of our nation, threatening to drown us all, in this boat called the United States of America.

Wake up, Jesus!

Wake up, all of us, who carry his name when we say, “I am a Christian”.

Wake up Jesus within each of us; Jesus who will speak to the chaos inside and outside and say, “Peace, be still.”

We may be like the disciples because we are despairing, because we don’t believe it can get better, will get better, we don’t know how to help make it better.

Jesus looks at us too, and challenges our shortsightedness, our lack of faith, our lack of will.

I have African American colleagues, and white colleagues, who are not despairing, they are working to dismantle the racism in our society, the injustices in our streets and our workplaces, our government, our neighborhoods, our prisons.

I now know of dedicated strangers, of martyred ministers and church members, who were dismantling racism to their dying breath.  The murderer who gunned them down said, “I almost didn’t do it because they were so nice to me.”

How dare I give up, when they did not?

How dare I turn my back, because I am alive and white and don’t want to be uncomfortable?

This Christian life which you and I share is not easy; Jesus and the disciples were in a storm, a storm that threatened to drown them all…well, we are in a storm too.

We have to have the courage to wake up the Jesus within each of us, the one who has the power to sit up and say to the chaos, “Peace, be still.”

Our story today ends with everyone still in the boat.

But Jesus did not stay in the boat, he stepped out into the land of the Gerasenes, into foreigners country, and there he confronted even more darkness, more suffering, more hurt. His first act is to free someone from a legion of demons.  And I am telling you, racist murder, injustice, corruption and violence seems pretty damn demonic to me.

I pray for us, all of us, that we have the courage to continue on, with the courage of Jesus to guide us, the strength to face the darkness and say “Peace, be still.”

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Tom Schmidt

Well stated, Andy; you picked up on the key need: for us NOT to do nothing. Sure, as a white I can publicize my “goodness of heart” by showing up and linking arms around a church, knowing that it probably will be protected for the quarter hour I lend my superiority and privilege to the cause. Then I can go home and feel good.
I must instead always ask, , Since I am priviledged, I can always leave here and live my peaceful life. But I need to resist that. I need to let go of my priviledge and find out how I can put my body where my good intentions really are. Maybe stay around and change churches, getting my friends at my home congregation to join me in joining a “Black” church. Maybe stand and listen as I am told by those who are really threatened what to do. Listen, ;join, participate in the effects of our racist heritage. Risk crucifixion. Others have done as much. I could too.

Jan Shannon

Strong, powerful, important words, Andy!! We have a LOT of work to do!

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