Early this morning, eight innocent people in Atlanta were murdered. Six were Asian American women. They were killed by a white man. There is no clearer way to say this: These human beings were murdered in a terrorist attack. This kind of terror is propped up by systems of domination that encourage white supremacy, violent patriarchy, and the silencing of racial, religious, and ethnic minorities and essentially all women. These are the same domination systems that lead to the murder of nine church goers at Mother Immanuel Church in Charleston, SC, the murder Jews at the Poway and Pittsburgh synagogues, and the countless murders of women in intimate relationships every year in this country.
These systems are sins. They are communal sins that we all share in, some as perpetrators, some as victims, most as silent accomplices. Lent is a season of repentance, turning from the sins that bind us, that keep us in exile from each other and from God, that make us feel alienated from the Promised Land. Far, far too often in the Church we only imagine our individual sins, but today we must face our communal sins, especially the sin of silence in the face of such atrocities.
As we come to the final weeks of Lent, as we once more enter into the mystery of the resurrection, let’s not get confused and imagine that there is a mystery as to why Jesus was murdered by the State. Rome murdered all who dared to stand in the face of their domination system, and many good-intentioned people stood by as Rome went about enforcing “peace.” Even the Twelve Apostles did not make their voices heard when Jesus received the full force of the Roman Empire on his body; as he put is body in the way of the violence cycle and said “No more of this!”
In the US we white folks, particularly men, need to take some time as this Holy Lent comes to a close and repent of the communal sin of allowing terror to reign in the lives of women and people of color in the country. We need to repent of white supremacy, silence in the face of institutional violence, and tacit approval of the murder of “the other” how ever we imagine them because they are not they other, they are the neighbor we are to love as ourselves. Once we have done our repenting, then comes the even harder work of amending our common life, making reparation where possible, and taking one more step toward making this world into the Reign of God.