Carol Hallman: Examine our hearts, acknowledge the bias
Dr. Sharon Ellis Davis, a former Chicago police officer and current affiliate professor at McCormick Theological Seminary spoke at our first Lenten Sunday Supper this past Sunday evening. Dr. Davis challenged us to examine our hearts, to acknowledge the bias within. She said that until we do, until we begin to change our hearts, to repent we are not forgiven. This was a pretty bold statement that got me thinking.
We tend to hold onto the belief, like Paul, that we are saved by grace alone, not by works, but how can we be saved if we don’t acknowledge our need in the first place. If we don’t repent, a good Lenten word meaning to turn back, to change directions.
On Ash Wednesday gun shots rang out in Parkland, Florida and we found ourselves in the middle of another school shooting. So many lives lost, so many dreams destroyed in such a short time. As I write this there is another funeral today. And yes, like so many other school shootings the “thoughts and prayers” started but then something changed. The students began to stand up, to speak, to take us to task for not doing something to have prevented this. There are protests planned, marches, and walkouts, people are talking but will it go anywhere?
I have long thought that we’ve needed more than “thoughts and prayers”. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we need those also, I do. But I also believe as the book of James says, “faith without works is dead.”
We’ve been bogged down time after time, from Columbine to Newtown, to Pulse, to Las Vegas by our biases. Some say guns are the answer, others say guns are the problem. Some say we need to arm our teachers, others say that teachers are trained to teach not be social workers or police officers. Others say it’s the fact that God isn’t allowed in school which is just really bad theology in and of itself. Others say we have to do something about mental illness, or family responsibility, or-well you get the drift. All our pre-conceptions get in the way of having a meaningful conversation and finding an answer to something that we all care about.
Lent is a good time to examine our hearts. To look within and to acknowledge that within each of us bias exists. Acknowledging that one thing might be the first step in beginning a journey towards, not only answers on school shootings but on healing our communities torn apart by our various ideologies. These ideologies keep us from fully seeing each other as one of God’s beloved children even though our opinion may be different than theirs.
Until we are willing to put those biases aside and listen, really listen to each other things are not going to get better, they’re just not. Perhaps with God’s help, love and grace this time might be different. Maybe this time we’ve finally had enough and we can begin to see that we have more in common than what is currently trying to tear us apart.
Carol Hallman is resident minister at First UCC, 207 W. Horah St.