I heard a stand-up comedian once say that on first dates, he would rather ask someone what they hated rather than what they just liked. His argument was that hate- of anything from pickles to racism to a certain part of town- got more to the heart of a person than their favorite binge show, or flavor of ice cream. Getting to the heart of a matter is difficult on first dates, on social media, and even in churches! A popular phrase used among pastors is "the questions beneath the question,” meaning, topics that get to the heart of any matter. It is never about carpet color, what’s for dinner, what business we work with on any given project, or what color flowers a family wants at a funeral. It is almost always also about something else. This is where the “question beneath the question” comes in- the heart of the matter. It is a helpful reminder as we navigate complicated times interpersonally and globally: it is almost never about the first thing.
One of these “heart of the matter” questions we could ask ourselves is, “What are we (am I) afraid of?”
Even before humans can speak, we have answers to this “heart of the matter” question. Spiders. Tornados. The dark. Losing mom, dad, sister, or brother. As we get older, the answers get greyer, deeper, and more complicated. We are afraid of abandonment. War. Hunger. Rejection. Weakness. The way we age. Death.
This week has been one of those “heart of the matter” weeks. Our fears have been on full display. For African Americans in this country, their answer to this question has often, rightfully, and tragically been racist systems in our country, which can often include the police. So many forces that I take for granted as a white woman are filled with fear and uncertainty for people of color, and this tide of fear and uncertainty is hard to stem in a world where events like the killing of George Floyd continue to regularly occur. For those of us who don’t have this experience, we can be afraid these days, too. If we are honest, racism can often stem from our fear. We are afraid of those who are different from us, the places they’re from, and particularly this week, the emotion that people of color have shown in the days after a public death like George Floyd’s. Our fear also stems from uncertainty, but not all fear is justified.
This Sunday in worship, we will address fear head-on. In the empowerment of Pentecost, we are taught to not be afraid of this world but, through the Holy Spirit, to work for God’s love and justice to be real and tangible. In perfect love, there is no fear, which empowers us to be open and loving to those who are different from us. For white people, this also means being open to hearing how fears can be legitimate in people of color, and how we can be part of the solution.
Suntree’s 4D Vision Plan commits us to the work of racial reconciliation and justice. We continue to do this work by first examining our hearts and minds, and asking God for help to see which fears are legitimate and which fears we can be released from to learn how to love those who are different from us. As a part of this, we will begin on June 10th our study of "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, which addresses fears specific to White People and our inability to address the way racism pervades our society. For me, to begin reading this is to get honest in my heart and mind about my fears, too. I hope you’ll join us for that and for worship.
See you then,