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The Ground of All Being – A Reflection

May 28, 2020

My heart is breaking and my anger at the murder of George Floyd by police which has led to the protests in Minneapolis. I have watched our country descend even further into the gloom of hatred, racism, hypocrisy, and all manner of *isms we are seeing today. It was only nine months ago that we were in Minneapolis and St Paul visiting United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities as I began the process of being enrolled as a student for their Doctor of Ministry in Public Theology.

I remember the racial tensions in The Cities when I lived there during my seminary years. It continued as the years went on. When we walked through gentrified neighborhoods downtown I wondered where the working class and working poor ended up. On one trip we were in Minneapolis not long after the shooting of Philando Castile in 2016 by a police officer. The anger was palpable then.

The voice of the voiceless is screaming now and I hope to God that someone listens and does the right thing. Am I dismayed at the violence on both sides? Yes. I believe that as a white, privileged individual I am being called to speak out. Dr King wrote the following in his Letter from Birmingham Jail about this. I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Council or the Ku Klux Klanner but 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 can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

As Dr King said earlier in the letter, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So where do we go from here? What is our calling? Thomas Merton speaks of the missing foundation for life in his book Love and Living.

Love is not a problem, not an answer to a question. Love knows no question. It is the ground of all, and questions arise only insofar as we are divided, absent, estranged, alienated from that ground. But the precise nature of our society is to bring about this division, this alienation, this estrangement, this absence. (p. 16)

Lord help us to humble ourselves and come to the table with our neighbors who are frustrated and angry. We must not come to the table with our solutions. We must come to the table and be silent. We must be silent in order to listen. The listening will be uncomfortable for many of us but it is required.

Before we can get to the ground of all, love, we must listen to the hurt, the fear, the frustration, the anger, and the rage of the people of color who are our neighbors. Then perhaps we will be invited to stand with them against racism and so-called white nationalism. But first we need to listen and honor their stories.

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