Radvent Day 17, Evening – Open Blind Eyes

Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 
1 Cor. 10:24

“I sincerely believe that a unique opportunity lies before us as Christians – an opportunity to repent for the ways we have not shown up when the disenfranchised, the hurting, and those who have been treated unfairly desperately needed us to show up. We are being called forth. The only question now is how we are going to respond to that call.” 
Brenda Salter McNeil, “Becoming Brave”

Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord,
Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord,
Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord,
Nobody knows like Jesus.

Brothers, will you pray for me?
Brothers, will you pray for me?
Brothers, will you pray for me?
And help me to drive old Satan away?

Refrain

Sisters, will you pray for me?

Mothers, will you pray for me?

Preachers, will you pray for me?

***

While 2020 has been a lot of things, I look back at the year and see it as a bright spotlight, shining its light on the deepest cracks that exist in our culture. 

The murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor shone a light on persistent racial injustice. The coronavirus pandemic illuminated flaws in our medical system and rampant individualism. The resulting economic crisis has highlighted economic inequity and holey safety nets that are not prepared for sustained pressure and need. A common theme that has run throughout has been a solid lack of empathy. Until an injustice is thrust before our eyes in a way we cannot ignore, we are content to turn a blind eye to it. 

Historically the dominant church  in America has been largely silent and accepting of injustice despite the life and words of Jesus proclaiming and directing otherwise. She has been content in her complicity and active engagement in the oppression of marginalized people and willing to self-segregate to avoid having to see the outcome.

While some may scoff at this historical truth, it only takes a look outside the traditional history textbook to see the ways Manifest Destiny and its vile interpretation of scripture was used to slaughter Native people. The fact a “slave Bible” existed and was utilized widely to proselytize enslaved people but make sure they never received a word of liberation is blood on the hands of the Church. Church bells ringing to end a service while simultaneously opening a slave market or announcing a lynching was a regular occurance of those spending one minute singing hymns of praise to Jesus and the next engaging in the separation and sale of families and cold blooded murder. Eyes gripped tightly shut to the pain of others and solely focused on self so that one can sit silently while others are in torment is the death of the soul.

And while it may be easy to see in those examples the depravity of the individuals involved, we tend to assume we have evolved past that level of evil, or that as part of a marginalized group we are exempt from this lack of empathy. Yet most of us can attest to clamping eyes shut while families were torn apart at our border and children in diapers were gassed by our law enforcement. We go about our days knowing that George Floyd is but one small example of the injustice experienced daily by Black people in this country. We gather unnecessarily with groups of friends and family while COVID ravages communities and disproportionately kills Black, brown, and disabled people. Many families move to a new district or pay for private options to send their kids to the “best schools” while allowing other children to remain trapped in schools that all but assign them to a life of poverty and disadvantage. We are not so very different from our ancestors.

This Advent I believe we need a spiritual awakening such as that Brenda Salter McNeil calls us to. Not only because the Bible calls us to it in far more verses than just 1st Corinthians 10:24, but because the witness of the church and the health of our souls hangs in the balance in this precarious moment.  We need to no longer be content to not see and know the trouble others experience, leaving our siblings in Christ on the margins praying to be considered.

Open your eyes Church! Bear witness to the suffering, pain, and anguish of those around you. Lament alongside those who are hurting and walk forward in empathy.


Elizabeth Behrens works as an independent contractor for BIPOC owned organizations. Motivated by goals of justice and equity, she works predominantly with fellow members of majority culture, utilizing research and personal experience to understand the role they play in the world at large. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri with four children, her husband, and a naughty dog. When Elizabeth is not busy parenting or working, she can be found in her garden listening to audiobooks and podcasts or sneaking away for a happy hour with friends.

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