This Sunday at Hickory Neck, we kick of a three-week series on James H. Cone’s book The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Only a few pages into the book, and I confess this will be a heavy discussion for us as a parish. You might be wondering why we chose such a book in Eastertide – isn’t race and violence a better topic for Lent? Or maybe you are wondering why we are talking about race – again – at church. Surely we can move on to talk about other topics!?
When my family I visited the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in April, something poignant happened to me as I shepherded our young children through the museum. There was an exhibit about the Jim Crow era in Mississippi. As you walked through the exhibit, there were motion detectors that triggered recordings. The recordings were of white men and women saying or shouting the things that were said or shouted to persons of color – about not belonging, about watching out, about even just existing in a segregated world. Since I had small, active children, the motion sensors were triggered a lot, meaning these voices were shouting at me constantly. I found by the time we exited that portion of the museum, my nerves were totally shot. The exhibit was a powerful reminder of how, even when civil liberties were won, African-Americans were still not treated equally. In fact, their existence then (and I suspect even today) was one of walking on egg shells – never knowing when someone would say something offensive, physically-threatening, or even life-threatening. That kind of lifelong anxiety must do things to your psyche and mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
But as a Caucasian, I have the privilege to not experience that egg shell kind of life. I have the privilege to decide when “we’ve talked about race enough.” I even have the privilege of deciding when a good season to talk about race is – lest we confuse happy seasons with sad or contemplative ones. And that is why we try at Hickory Neck to engage in at least one book or film study a year – to remind us of the privilege we hold because of something totally out of our control: our skin color. And if we are an Easter people, then celebrating resurrection life means bringing about the kingdom of God here on earth. One of the ways we advance the kingdom is to live out the gospel – to live out the life of Jesus, instead of one that is counter to the life of Jesus.
I know the reading will be hard, and I know you have hundreds of things to do. But for the next three weeks, I invite you to join us. Join us in setting aside the comfort of our privilege in life, and stepping into the shady places of life. Join us in being open to hearing other experiences, learning new things, and seeing race and reality differently. Join us in living into the true meaning of Easter – a life where the resurrection means reconciliation and renewal. Walking into the shady parts of life will allow us to more authentically proclaim the light of parts of life – the light of Christ.