Becky Gillespie: An open letter to our Christian clergy
The times we live in echo the words of God speaking to prophet Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?” People are crying out for racial justice in our country, and Christian clergy are standing on the sidelines.
Nevada County may not have the diversity present in other areas of our country or even state, but there is racial injustice here and now is a time to speak and respond.
I am not an outsider; I grew up locally. I am a Nevada Union High School graduate. I came home to raise a family and to get involved in our community, including with one of our local churches. I write this out of my love for Nevada County and my fellow Christians.
I joined with many demonstrators for weeks this summer to bring attention to injustice. I attended the peaceful vigil for Black Lives in Nevada City. Most recently, I marched with BLM protesters in the streets of Nevada City. We encountered the rage of counter-protesters (I witnessed them shove a woman against a vehicle, rip signs from protesters’ hands, and yell at families with young children). Yet we marched on, even as the mob followed us on foot and in vehicles.
Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering that outright rejection.
With the exception of the evening vigil, where I encountered a clergyman from one church, our local clergy have been absent from standing up against racial injustice. The more I have prayed and reflected these past months, the more I understand why I feel like I am a homeless Christian in Nevada County. The Christian leaders of our community have been far too silent amidst the calls for justice. Dr. King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” specifically to his fellow clergy. He wrote it 57 years ago. The message is timeless; we need to hear it today.
Today, as in 1963, it seems that the greatest stumbling block toward freedom and justice is the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering that outright rejection.
When faced with the counter-protesters that Sunday in Nevada City, their ill will was obvious. I am completely stunned however, by the lukewarm acceptance from our own Christian clergy.
King continues: “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.”
The present tension we face is a necessary phase of transition to establish justice for all God’s children, including our sisters and brothers of color. I ask our Christian clergy; Will you hear us? Again, human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God … Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
I ask our Christian clergy; Will you act in Faith?
It is never too late to embrace positive peace. Go forth from our worship halls and into the world, actively living God’s words of love and justice for all. Courageously show us all how to set God’s words into action.
I ask our Christian clergy; Will you lead us?
Becky Gillespie is a resident of Nevada City.