“I have thought of Senator Pinckney’s words since the terrorist attack on Emmanuel AME Church, but instead of the account of Thomas in the Gospel of John, who came to believe after seeing what his sisters and brothers were telling him, I have thought about a different post-resurrection account in the Gospel of Mark: “Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen” (Mark 16:14). I feel sad because it feels as if many are seeing and hearing the testimony of their sisters and brothers of color, but yet they refuse to believe. The hardest part for me when it comes to racism in America is this: My sisters and brothers won’t believe me when I tell them my own experience of racism in this country. They refuse to believe my brown, black, and Native American brothers and sisters, too. There is a dogged refusal in many parts of our country and in our church in this nation to listen and believe the testimony of our sisters and brothers when it comes to the reality of their lives, especially when it relates to the pain and effects of racism.”
“I thought about a church gathered for prayer and Bible study last night, and how they had opened their circle to let a stranger join them. And I thought about a mosque in Arizona, and how the faithful walked past angry, mocking crowds with guns in order to worship. And I thought about the temple in Maryland, and the anti-Semitic graffiti they found one morning this spring.
There’s a reason the hateful choose houses of worship. It’s because that’s where so many of us put our hope. You can commit a hateful act anywhere, but if you really want to hurt a community, you choose the place they worship. You bomb the synagogue. You shoot up the church. You point your gun and shout at small children trying to get into the mosque. That’s how you cut the faithful so deeply that their hearts never stop bleeding.
But the ones who choose to do evil in the gathering places of the faithful forget one thing: These are not mere buildings. They are the symbols of communities, built often in resistance to hate. They are the places first built by new immigrants, or freed slaves, or spiritual refugees, or genocide survivors. They have known pain before. And they know how to survive it, and transform it. They know how to thrive in the face of the worst that the small-minded and hateful can do. And they know how to live with a faith that those who take up violence will never understand.”