Hearing of a school board banning Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, Invisible Man, I began thinking about taboo things forbidden to discuss, to touch, to know. The main character in Ellison’s extended metaphor discovers he himself is taboo, a nameless protagonist never seen as he really is, only as others see him. He’s invisible!
Sixty-eight years later in 2020, Black Americans must still contend with such invisibility! Ahmaud Arbery was seen as a danger, a target. His truth was invisible: a man with a birthright, out for a jog, enjoying the land, a descendant of one of the oldest families in Georgia, Americans who fought in the War of 1812, according to author Jim Barger. George Floyd was seen by those who killed him as someone less than human whose life was of no consequence. His truth—a promoter of Christian values who had relocated to Minnesota for a discipleship program, according to his pastor Patrick Ngwolo—was invisible to his murderers.
Yet, we’ve come a long way in many ways from where we once were but clearly not in enough ways and not with enough consistency, not with enough of an understanding of the sacrifices necessary to get us to where we all need to be.
Yes, we’ve come a long way. Many people from different races and faiths are now joining together to fight against the continued degradation of people because of skin color or because of any of the other differences that still divide us. And it does takes sacrifice.
Do the faithful in the body of Christ have a special understanding of the need to embrace sacrifice? Do the faithful in the body of Christ have a special appreciation for the grave need for the body of Christ to act on (not just talk about) the commitment of following Jesus by being vigilant in maintaining atmospheres of welcome where everyone can be seen, where everyone can be accepted as they are, where everyone can know that their human birthright is enough to assure them of a place at the table, where their lives matter? Can Christ’s body fulfill this calling while remaining segregated and silent?
We must build something new. Our churches must become places where radical inclusion is modeled for the world, where everyone is truly and fully welcomed in!
This is our father’s world, and we all must be able to feel at home in it.
“Our God has made this world; oh, let us ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”