Trinity Church Wall Street is beginning its annual Discovery program, an adult faith and education series this week. Two words describing the program caught my attention: constancy and consistency. How do we understand these words in light of events occurring in our world today? Several crises are upon us: attacks on ISIL; Ebola outbreak in Africa; continued racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo; political elections in November to name just a few. Clearly, there are many more complex issues weighing heavily upon us. Let us begin with the PBS special last evening on “America After Ferguson”, where Correspondent Gwen Ifill carefully and skillfully moderated a very tense and complex conversation about race in America.
Last year I attended the memorial service for South African President Nelson Mandela. Here was a man who embodied the South African word “Ubuntu” or “human kindness” a bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” How does anyone of us in our personal and professional lives embrace Ubuntu? Is it possible to embrace Ubuntu with ISIL? Is it possible to embrace Ubuntu in finding a way to defeat and control the Ebola outbreak in Africa? Could Ubuntu work in Ferguson, Missouri or in American politics? If we are to solve any of these recurring problems it will, in my opinion require us to have an understanding of Ubuntu in our interactions around the world. It will also require constancy and consistency if we are to be successful.
Look, for a moment at Ferguson. For several weeks this beleaguered community has been struggling to find a way out of its mistakes, false starts and unrest caused in the aftermath of the death of an unarmed black teen Michael Brown shot to death by a white police officer. Now that is a mouthful! In listening to the residents and others expressing their thoughts on this tragic death which has torn apart its citizens one thing is quite clear: the great racial divide with blacks and whites in America continues. One need only listen to comments from both sides to realize America has a long ways to go. What makes the distance so long is our lack of constancy. We have good conversations about most polemics occurring around the globe however, the lack of constancy in our efforts creates the great disconnect. Without constancy in addressing our issues I am afraid it will be difficult to reach any sort of agreement.
To be constant in our effort to be truthful is a requirement for those who believe in a higher power. To be constant in our effort to be honest in our relationships is a requirement for breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions about people we do not know nor who look like us. To be constant and vigilant in our desire to be made whole is a requirement for breaking down racial and cultural barriers. Constant means unchanging or firmness and faithful and steadfastness in all of our relationships. Constancy is what leads us to freedom within ourselves. Freedom results from a forgiveness that is complete. We are the prisoner and not the one we need to forgive. There is Scripture to reinforce my point: Col.3:13. “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. . forgive as the Lord forgave you.” President Obama declared in a speech: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said: “the time is always right to do what is right.” What prevents any of us from taking in these powerful words of affirmation?
I continue to say to “I don’t have a need to be right as much as I have a need to be heard.” I don’t wish to throw out another’s beliefs nor my own, rather I want us both to be redeemed. The great racial divide, the great religious and political divide occur because we are so sure we are right in what we believe in. How can we be so sure we are right when those opposing us are so sure they are right? Most importantly we must find a way to create safe spaces and safe conditions where honest and truthful conversations can be held. So much of the disconnect within the U.S. Congress is that it is no longer a space where civil and honest discourse may take place. If I cannot express my thoughts and opinions without being automatically described as a racist, homophobic or gender insensitive then how can I ever change? I cringe at the thought of the NFL and the NBA are becoming the standard bearers of the discussion about diversity and inclusion. I am disturbed that the media has become the standard bearers for discourse in America on almost any topic. We are the ones we are waiting for to heal the brokenness and to find a still more excellent way out.
In my quest to be constant in my faith, trust and love I am always searching for a place which allows me to be wrong so I can be redeemed. This requires all of us to let go of people who dull our shine or who poison our spirit and who bring you drama. Cancel your subscription to their issues. Cancel your subscription to folks who remain in denial about almost anything that asks them to consider another point of view. May we not impose upon others what we ourselves do not desire. We consistently rely upon bad habits and opinions that have no basis in reason or fact except as we know them. Constancy is preferred because the God of my life is constant in loving me, in correcting me, in nudging me, in encouraging me to launch out into the deep. God is most constant in my life and God continues to keep me grounded so I may find an opening to do His will. And if you do not believe in God that is your right and privilege and you would be welcomed at my table. I will not cut you off from dialogue and conversation as so often is the case. I believe now is the time for us to recapture the dreams of those upon shoulders we stand. It is impossible until it is done. And so it is.