GAWDAMighty, people! It sure is meeting season. The Unitarian Univeraslists were in Portland, the Episcopalians were doing their thing somewhere, the UCC folks converged on Cleveland, the Presbyterians were off confabbing somewhere — and we all had lots of meetings, lots of
debates faithful conversations, lots of meals, lots of worship services and lots of selfies, by the looks of it.
How was your gathering?
Are you feeling GOOD for GOD?
If you’re not, that doesn’t matter.
These times do not call us to feel good, in case you haven’t noticed.
There’s a lot of change and transformation happening and it all feels particularly urgent (if it doesn’t, it should) because there is a fresh awareness of the evil of racism in our land.
I know we’re already showing up for a lot of things, people, but if we do not get that this moment is about white people finally getting off their asses* and realizing that wherever they are, whether or not they have people of color in their personal communities or congregations, it is time to confront the entrenched racist attitudes and systems that continue to keep life a precarious proposition for African-Americans.
If you’re a white pastor and you haven’t preached a sermon explaining why “All lives matter” is not an acceptable Christian, UU, Jewish, Buddhist, response to the Black Lives Matter movement, what are you waiting for?
If you’re white and you’re not wiling to be accused of making your community uncomfortable for being “too political” or “talking too much about racism,” just realize it’s not going to get better and there is no other time than this moment we have today.
I have written about this over at PeaceBang.com and you can peek at those posts if you want to, but here we talk about clergy image and here I have some things to say in love, even if I’m not going to say it tenderly.
If you’re still pushing back against the message that clergy need to be sharp, shiny, put together, and as impressively dignified as we can muster in our bearing and our attire in the public square, let me tell you that your schtick isn’t just old and tired, it’s dangerously lazy. It’s unconscionable, in fact.
Who are you to slob around in jeans and Tevas looking like you aren’t ready to stand up against the most powerful evils humanity knows how to dole out? Who are you to throw on a fringed batiked sundress and go out into the community representing an institution that just suffered the cold-blooded murder of nine of our sisters and brothers?
If we are all not in mourning right now and walking taller and sadder and pained today and for a long time to come, I would like to know why not.
I would like to know why any of us thinks we can show up to represent the Church — the place which, for African-Americans, is under attack by racist terrorists right now because it is the center for Black social justice — with dirty hair and a wrinkly T-shirt and a casual “hey, dude” demeanor.
Someone walked into our house last week and murdered nine of our people in cold blood as they were studying Scripture. While a pastor and his small group were strengthening themselves in spirit for the incredibly difficult commitment of being faithful to Jesus in a sick, racist country that daily shows forth its hatred of black bodies, they were targeted for assassination for being black.
And any of us is going to complain that it’s too much trouble to stand up straight, wear a suit, and groom our distractingly scraggly facial hair that we love because it makes us feel like a unique individual?
As the urban prophet Sweet Brown once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
If anyone with a bemused expression asks you why you’re so dressed up, you tell them you’re dressing to show your respect for a pastor who will never again be able to preach. See if that doesn’t start a conversation.
When someone gives you s*** * for wearing a tie or a nice dress to church because you’re too formal, tell them that as far as you’re concerned, you can’t be formal enough for the witness the Church has to make right now.
Are they aware that six black churches have been burned down in the past few weeks?
You see this usher at Emanuel AME opening the door for worship DAYS after his pastor and eight saints of his congregation were shot dead? He’s wearing white gloves.
You go ahead and try to tell me it’s oppressive to expect you to wear a pair of closed-toed shoes when you lead worship, and while you’re at it, explain yourself and your sloppy appearance to that little girl in that pink dress. This lay member of the church is wearing a morning coat and white gloves to usher people into the church and to their seats. You tell me again how much suffering it causes you to make sure your arms aren’t bare and your pants are properly hemmed and you had to shine your shoes?
If you’re walking around in chinos and a sweat stained golf shirt or a pair of jeans and a comfy cotton top and it seems too expensive and inconvenient to put some elegance into your attire and attitude, let me ask you to consider what it means to PAY respect. We pay it. It costs something. It has value.
*There are two cuss words in this post, if you’re counting.