Yesterday evening a group of people gathered for prayer and Bible study at an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. These people, part of an historical African-American church in a historic African-American denomination gathered to worship an embodied God who knew suffering. Gathered to worship a divine human who is said to have called out in his anguish “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This line, in the Gospel of Matthew comes from Psalm 22, a psalm of lament that asks “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?”
There have been so many cries of anguish this year, this decade, this century, throughout our history. The anguish of dead black people, the anguish of hate crimes, the anguish of gun violence, of racism, of death over and over death. Senseless, pointless, unjustifiable death.
My God, my God, creative spirit that moves in every life and binds us humans together, where were you when the people in the Emanuel AME Church were murdered by racist hatred?
Me, far removed as I am from this situation geographically, culturally and racially, I still feel this question burning in my soul, God where are you, what are you doing and why?
And when I sit with that question I find answers in that furious tearful silence.
I believe that God is weeping. I believe that God is the tears, the wailing, the spiritual and bodily pain of those who are in shock and deep grief over losing their loved ones.
I believe that God is screaming. I believe that God is the rage, the fury, spiritual and bodily pain of those who are beyond sad and beyond sick of racist white people murdering black people.
I believe that God is holding. I believe that God is the hands, the arms, the voices of those who are reaching out to hold others who are most affected, reaching out with physical support, reaching out with prayers and vigils.
I believe that God is calling. I believe that God is the pull in our hearts, the coming together of our people, the knowledge that we must build a different world, that we must keep on resisting violence and racism every way we know how.
My Unitarian Universalist theology offers no simple answer to the psalmists “Why?” nor to Jesus’ echoed “Why?” nor to the “Why?” I feel today. There are many human reasons why a white man took a gun and shot black people in a church. I’m sure people are already discussing these reasons in both eloquent and frustrating ways. But my theology says there is no divine reason. My theology says God did not condone this.
Still I believe that God is present: weeping, screaming, holding, calling. As a force of undying love that is stronger than death. As a force of undying love that can be felt as a resurrection. As a force of undying love that has wept, screamed, held and called through every cry of anguish in our history. This God is present. May we too weep, scream, hold each other and move toward that call of a building a different world.
We join in grief with the members and friends of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were shot dead last night. We in the UUA Southern Region are sadly familiar with fatal attacks in our worship spaces. Healing thoughts and prayers for those most deeply affected and for our broken/unbroken world. On behalf of all your Southern Region staff, I will host an online vigil for Emanuel AME Church tonight (June 18, 2015 - ed.) at 8pm ET/7pm CT. All are welcome. You can join from PC, Mac, IOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/7035770799 Or join by phone: +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll) or +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) Meeting ID: 7035770799 International numbers available: gyros://zoom.us/zoomconference