By Bonnie Underwood
I was in Atlanta over the Thanksgiving break. Our youngest son works at a local outlet mall and to make things a bit easier for him, we dropped him off and picked him up from several shifts at work so he didn’t have to face the ultimate challenge of locating an available space in the mall parking lot. For as you probably know, Black Friday doesn’t begin on Friday any longer, but on Thanksgiving Day. And Cyber Monday is no different, for there’s no need to wait until Monday for online shopping bargains.
I found my head spinning, reflecting on the reality of this frenetic, crazed shop-ping weekend following the news from Ferguson. I obviously wasn’t on that jury. I don’t know how facts were presented, or how good or bad a job the prosecution did, or how the grand jury was instructed, or how well the jury fulfilled their obliga-tions. But my heart broke at seeing the destruction, hearing the hurt and angry voices, and seeing the suffering. What a juxtaposition of events! While there were some protests in downtown Atlanta, some voices speaking out, it didn’t slow down for a moment the shopping on the suburban north side of town, a primarily white area. And now this week, we have another incident in the national news, with protests over the lack of an indictment over Eric Garner’s death.
We hear today in Isaiah about the problems of power, power that is misused not only by the leaders, but also by the people. Jerusalem has stumbled, Judah has fallen, and there is chaos in society. The people have fallen away from God, their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. The power-ful have crushed the people and oppressed the poor. And while the people may not face divine judgment, all will certainly face the consequences of their actions.
Does any of this sound a bit too familiar? What can we learn, what can we dis-cover, from events like Ferguson, especially during this season of Advent?
We can learn that inequity within our structures of power still exists. And regard-less of how you may feel about the particular circumstances of Michael Brown’s or Eric Garner’s death, we can acknowledge that we have not yet moved as far away from the troubles of the racially charged past as we would like to, nor have we made as much progress as we need to.
We can learn that it is time for real conversations about racism, conversations that can lead us towards re-building trust and a sense of community, conversa-tions that reveal what the world could look like if there was equality and dignity for all, where each and every one of us is recognized as a beloved child of God.
In this season of Advent, I’d like to challenge each of us to take the time to simply start a conversation. Take a chance and discuss racism by shining a light on problematic structures of power. Let’s take the opportunity during this season of anticipation and hope, this time of waiting for Christ’s triumphant return, to shine the light of Christ on our existing political, economic, and religious systems, eval-uating them in the clear light of God’s justice. For it is through Christ’s love that we can begin to envision a different kind of community: a community that lives into justice and equity, by loving God and our neighbor.
So take that step. Begin that tough conversation. Help to shine Christ’s light into those dark places. For we are called to help lead towards paths of reconciliation and rebuilding of community, for that is the mission of the church—to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
About the Author
Bonnie Underwood, T’15, is from the Diocese of Atlanta. Bonnie comes to Sewanee with a heart for advocacy and mission after years of lay ministry. Underwood has raisied five children and had a secular career that spanned executive positions within both a large corporation and a small business, as well as serving in the United States Marine Corps.
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