How can this be?
Gay L. Byron, Ph.D.
That in the year 2017, we are witnessing an incomprehensible horror show complete with vitriolic rhetoric under the guise of making America "great" again, scripts in the form of executive orders or actions, and props in the form of bullets and bombs. Unfortunately if we choose to unplug from the media the realities of the 'show' continue to wreak havoc in our homes, workplaces, and even worse in our bodies, minds, and souls. The recent banning of immigrants, the proposed wall to alienate our neighbors, and the unprecedented political appointments are all reflective of a worldview built on fear, privilege, and unchecked power.
How long will we go on watching the carnage? Listening to the rhetoric? And shaking our heads while wondering, "How can this be?"
Now is the time to remember and to take seriously the words of the Hebrew Bible prophets who challenge us to keep watch, to stay on the wall (Is. 62:6-7; Ez. 22:30), and to show care and concern for widows, orphans, foreigners, and strangers (Is. 1:17-23; Jer. 7:6; Hos. 14:3; Zech. 7:10).
Now is the time to remember how we have overcome slavery, lynching trees, water hoses, voter suppression, legal and economic discrimination, and other insidious manifestations of social injustice that threaten the life and self-worth of the "least of these."
Now more than ever we need pastors, imams, religious leaders of all backgrounds, laypersons, public officials, politicians of good conscious, public intellectuals, teachers, preachers, priests, artists, and poets to rise and bear witness to a vision of a better world, civil discourse and practices, and peaceful resolutions.
The words of the Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) proclaimed during the Holocaust are still ringing true today:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-
Indeed, in 2017, they are coming for the Muslims, for the immigrants, for the poor, for the unemployed, for the indigenous, for the same-gender-loving and transgender ones. Eventually, they will come for you; eventually, they will come for me.
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.
Yet we are people who make a way out of no way, and we stand on a rich sacred tradition that reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39) and regardless of the incomprehensible "horror show" unfolding before us; we have options, we can speak out and do something, and through it all – we know that the dividing wall of hostility has been destroyed and gives way to open doors for those who advocate for peace, equality, and justice (Eph. 2:14, 17).
Gay L. Byron, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Howard University School of Divinity
January 30, 2017
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