Let me begin by asking you to excuse me for being on a tear today. Early on Friday morning I found out that a good friend, married and the mother of two, had this experience while walking along a subway platform in New York Thursday evening. As she walked, a male voice behind her began to repeat these words: “You better start saying your prayers, baby girl.” And again. And again. Being a strong and remarkable woman, she kept her head, kept walking, never looked back, and reached the street safely.
What? What! In the wake of the last two years now of the #MeToo and other movements, revealing the gross and even savage underbelly of human relations, this type of thing is still going on. Day by day. Moment by moment.
And in the broader landscape of our nation, this week saw ever-deepening and widening revelations among Virginia’s public servants of the depraved stain of racism that disgraces the United States. This is not only in Virginia, God knows. This is not only in past decades either.
Both of these sins against humanity are here and now. And you know what? They are a disgrace. Sexism. Racism. All the ways in which people devalue and diminish and fail to respect one another: each and all of these are a profound disgrace.
I was privileged twenty-nine years ago to complete and defend a doctorate on aspects of the historical and theological relationship between Judaism and Christianity. In the middle of the last century, in the middle of civilized Europe, Christians turned on their Jewish neighbors with viciousness and violence. If you trace the roots of what became genocide all the way back, you will be led to this truth: when the Jews had been defined effectively as somehow lesser human beings, lesser persons, then more and more terrible action against them could be undertaken and, supposedly, justified.
The Gospel of Christ called the people of that time to something more. Not mere tolerance. Not declarations alone of equality. The Gospel called them to love. To love one another. At that time and place, they failed to respond to that call. They failed to let it take root in their hearts (the only way it finally counts).
The way I see it, every day all around us right now, we are failing in the same way. Yes, we are. You and I can help in our place here at Saint Anselm’s by continuing to let Jesus’ love live within us and be expressed through us. In every time and place. In relationship with everyone. For God’s sake. Please.