The Underbelly of the Church
By Rev. Erik Swanson
I’ve been a pastor for most of my life. I love to promote really good things the church has done through time. I like to celebrate the places where she has lived out the gospel in powerful ways and made healthy contributions to the world. Sometimes, I have gone too far in holding up the good.
Particularly since the murder of George Floyd, I have become ever more painfully aware that there is another side of the church that often gets glossed over. The Church has an underbelly. It has participated in the shadow side of our world. It has turned a blind eye, and participated, in injustice.
Lately, Spirit has led me to engaging with the local indigenous people of the Muwekma-Ohlone tribe. Their chairwoman is a remarkable woman whose people have been through unimaginable suffering- much of it, at the hands of the Church through the mission system. A system of the Church that was responsible for some of the greatest atrocities that humanity can perpetuate against other human beings. Clearly this flies in the face of what Jesus taught his disciples.
I am convinced that we cannot be those who turn away any longer. As those who seek to follow in the way of love, justice, compassion and grace, we have a lot of work to do to actually face into what has been done AND work for healing. Yes, this work can feel enormous, heavy and uncertain of where/how to start.
One way we are taking a small step towards healing is having a conversation with the tribe’s Chairwoman. Would you join us to listen and learn more? We’ll hear her story, the story of her tribe, and how their struggle is currently unfolding. Another way we are seeking to engage this work is by partnering with them in a recycling project, as well as, planning a land acknowledgment. Small acts, but don't we have to start somewhere?
Even if you can't come, would you join me in asking the question: How can I face into injustice beyond my fragility, and wanting to defend or deflect? I am convinced this is holy work. I wonder, for you today, where might you being called to act today?
If you would like to join me in facing this issue head on, with hearts open to what the Spirit might be leading us into, I look forward to seeing you on the zoom screen Sunday, August 14th at noon.
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