The mood was incredible. I was gathered with my closest friends in the world. These were the same people I had spent 2008 with, the same people who came to my wedding earlier this year, and the same people who help me try to navigate this world as a young black man. We were greeting each other and listening to music, sharing jokes and stories, talking about our plans for tomorrow and next week. But as the night went on the mood got somber and darker. We talked less and watched more. We laughed less and stared more. We looked to the future less and longed for the past more. We were terrified and broken, and felt ashamed of the country we lived in. He had won the presidency, and our faith had left us.
Our faith had left us because for 18 months we had been telling each other and anyone who would listen that we lived in a country that was “better than this.” We had been telling each other, even believing deep in our core, that we lived in a country where our bodies would be protected and our humanity would be valued. We had been telling each other that with all the justice-loving people we knew, this could never happen in our country.
Well, it has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen for the next four years and I am not quite sure what to do except this one thing — tell you. I tell you that your black, Latino, immigrant, undocumented, female, Muslim, disabled, queer, and otherwise marginalized brothers and sisters in Christ feel deeply vulnerable in this moment. We have been failed by so much of society, and have been failed by the church but yet we still turn to you, the church, in one last exasperated breath, teary eyed and bruised and say, we need you and for the sake of our very existence, we need you to be the boldest you have ever been in your entire existence.
We need you because we aren’t sure our black lives matter. We need you because we aren’t sure our families won’t be deported. We need you because we aren’t sure we can wear our hijab without being assaulted. We need you because we don’t feel that when we are raped and assaulted we will be listened to. We need you because we don’t feel that we will be forever free to marry whomever we choose. We need you because we sure as hell feel like the least of these and are wondering if there is a balm in America.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that the only real litmus test for the kingdom of God will be whether or not a person tends to the needs of the least of these. This week our nation has indeed failed that test, and now that same question — “What did you do for the least of these?” — lingers before the church, specifically the white American church.
If exit polls are to be trusted and if history is to be told accurately, the white American church has already failed that test. By refusing for centuries (outside of a few rare exceptions) to fully and wholeheartedly confront racism and bigotry, and abolish this system of white supremacy (once and for all), it has made itself utterly complicit in and deeply responsible for the dark and dangerous reality we all now face. Despite this present moral failure due to the church’s silence, timidity and refusal to be prophetic, our God always offers another opportunity for redemption. Like that forgiving father or the generous landowner, God always extends the opportunity for us to live into our Zacchaeus ethic and do right by the ones in which we have wronged.
In the coming weeks, months, and years, the White American church will have ample opportunity to redeem itself and do right by the people it failed this week. In fact, the white American church has that opportunity today. It can redeem itself by being bold and fighting with all its “heart, soul, mind and strength” for the rights of the least of these in this new America. The church can dedicate itself to the work of total liberation for their most vulnerable brothers and sisters. The church can commit itself to risking it all so that some might be free.
Today, I pray that the white American church may find the courage to be bold and muster up a fight, like a fire shut up through their bones, so that vulnerable brothers and sisters know that in God’s kingdom on earth — they are loved and matter, and won’t have to wait until they meet their Savior to experience their liberation.