Well I sure hope today, you are all ready to get your PRIDE on. Today is PRIDE Sunday. I can tell by some of your faces that you may be a tad bit confused. Coming out day was a couple of weeks ago. And, let me see, it’s definitely not June – Gay Pride Month. This date October 25th doesn’t appear on any LGBTQ calendars that I know of because it’s not specifically LGBT. Today is Lutheran Pride day. Or as Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber stated in one her sermons — Lutheran Pridefulness Sunday.
So, yay Lutherans. Of course, we are bit more low key than the Gay community. Although it is Reformation Sunday, you will most likely see no Lutheran parades. You might even wonder about my comparing Lutheran pride to Gay pride. After all in this country being Lutheran has not been illegal, being Lutheran is not a reason to discriminate, Lutherans have been able to get married, adopt children, and can even give blood. No one has shamed us for being Lutheran. You may wonder do we even need Lutheran pride.
And anyway isn’t pride, being proud a sin? Isn’t it in that list. The 7 deadly sins– greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth and of course pride. Doesn’t all this talk about sin, sining, sinful, doesn’t that create a lot of shame, and sin and shame are nothing to be proud of.
Isn’t that the point of shame and shaming, especially public shaming isn’t it supposed to knock us down a a peg or two–make us less proud.
You know, instead of talking theoretically, let’s get real. And actually, to me that’s one of the gifts of being Lutheran. Sin is really real.
Take what happened this past week just a bit north of us in Whitefish Bay, with Bucks player John Henson and the Swanke-Kasten Jewelers.
I hope most of us heard about this, payed attention to this in the news. Does anyone want to tell us what happened?
attempted to enter the store, hoping to purchase a rolex watch, he and 3 friends, the employees of the store locked the door, hid in the back and called the police. The police questioned him, investigated his car.
And, how did we hear about this? John Henson posted on instagram, and the story got out.
Why would he do that, make this public?
He brought to it out in the open.
To tell everyone that those people in the jewelry store are bad people?
No, I don’t think so. If you didn’t get a chance to read his instagram post, go ahead.
No, he doesn’t say that these employees are bad people. But let there be no doubt. They did a bad thing. They did a racist thing. They had the power to shut the door, they had the power and privilege to say when afraid — you black men are not shopping here. They had the power to call the police even though he had committed a no crime–except of being a young black man, driving a nice car, going to a jewelry store in Whitefish bay–to the employees in the store that meant he was a threat. And, that is racism.
Now just imagine if you will that Mr. Henson wasn’t a wealthy professional basketball player. But just someone, a regular person, a black man, maybe not wealthy, but just some guy who had just scrimped and saved all his money in hopes of going shopping. Or even a black guy who just wanted to walk in and look at all the pretty, beautiful jewelry and watches.
Money and fame bought this one black man the ability to publicize this example of racism. But the reality for Blacks and other people of color (what we like to call minorities) is that this suspicion and fear doesn’t follow them, it precedes them wherever go. In all my long 45 years of living, this has never happened to me, and I’m pretty sure I will never experience anything like this. That is my power and privilege as a white woman.
You see, that’s the thing about racism. It impacts even people like me good, well intentioned, a good person. I do not really know what it’s like to be seen as a suspect wherever I go. Racism is not just the sin of white supremicists. Racism has infected us all. And this my friends is a good Lutheran understanding of sin. It is a reality that permeates our human condition. Put a different way, racism is bad, but that doesn’t make us bad people.
I think that’s a key difference. And why I actually don’t like shame–public or private. As author, ted speaker, sociologist Brene Brown writes in her newest book — “Rising Strong”, “There’s a huge difference between I screwed up (guilt) and I am a screwup (shame). The former is acceptance of our imperfect humanity. The latter is basically an indictment of our very existence.”
In other words, there’s a difference between I did a bad thing and I am bad. Making someone feel ashamed makes them feel bad about themselves. And I guess the church can be guilty of that. I know that I have felt and still feel sometimes that I am not at all a good person. However, that’s not how God sees us. And that is what is really at the heart of the Reformation. It is the totally amazing, mind-blowing, life changing belief that God’s love declares us good. It isn’t anything we do, or say, or pay, or even pray and confess. Saved by grace means that God forgives us for absolutely every screw up, every mistake, every bad call, bad judgement, even every un-loving thought. God utterly, absolutely, and unconditionally loves us.
The Lutheran way to look at this story, to analyze it. The employees in the store did the wrong thing because of racism–that is a sin. By making this public, Mr. Hensen has brought this to all of our attention. And, for whatever brief moment that I was so angry about what I read and heard and those moments and I judged those employees as bad people. I did a bad thing– I sinned. All of those people who deny that racism is real– that is a sin.
But God utterly, absolutely and unconditionally loves and forgives: mee, for thinking what bad people work in that store, the employees for acting out of fear and racism. And God loves those who may not share this analysis, this awareness. God loves us all. So, God is calling us into relationships of honesty and forgiveness. So I can admit my racism, and also work to end racism – be anti-racist. God loves us so much, so deeply, so completely, so radically that we can be really changed. We don’t have to just shake our heads in disappointment. We don’t have to be silent about this. No longer do we have to be ashamed and hide.. We can be part of the healing, the mending, the salvation of this world, We can be really changing this world. And people, that is something we can be proud of. Amen.