Confronted By the Words

Reflections on the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Wheeler Book Reading

July 13, 2023 |

Image credit: Pastor CeCee Mills

On Saturday, June 10, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Wheeler joined the Racial Justice Network of the North Carolina Synod for a reading of his book, US: The Resurrection of American Terror at St. Paul’s Durham. The Rev. Dr. Wheeler also preached at the congregation on Sunday, June 11.

Dr. Wheeler is “a retired ELCA pastor, sought-after preacher, public theologian, and writer. He is a guest lecturer on pastoral leadership in the 21st century at Wartburg Theological Seminary, where he received a Doctor of Divinity Degree honoris causa. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Pastor Wheeler earned a B.A. in Religion from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and an M.DIV from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.” (kennethwwheeler.com)

“US: The Resurrection of American Terror offers a deeply vulnerable and piercing portrait of the human toll of white supremacy and points to the Cross as a place of hope and reconciliation. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the toxic and deadly interplay between anti-Blackness, nationalism, and Christianity in America.” (kennethwwheeler.com)

Thanks to the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Wheeler for his vulnerability in sharing his stories and Christ-Centered wisdom. His book can be purchased on Amazon.

Deb Tabert, member of St. Paul’s, offered this reflection on the event.

Reading Reverend Wheeler’s book was challenging, but as a white person, I must face the truth of what it is like to be a person of color living in a country that continues to make decisions based on centuries of advantages afforded to white people—white privilege and yes, supremacy. Hearing Dr. Wheeler’s stories—a perspective quite different than my own—was no more comfortable, but offered a revelation that what this country claims to be is VASTLY different from what it truly is for all!

Growing up in the Midwest, I was frequently told by my father that EVERY person was of equal worth and value, no matter the color of their skin or the job they did, and that all deserved respect. My father lived those words.

As the Rev. Dr. Wheeler read from his book, his voice cracked, full of emotion. I was confronted by his words and by the actions and injustices of white people, treating people of color as sub-human. I never knew that people of color practice unwritten rules of conduct to be safer around white people. It is still appalling that slavery ever happened in the US and that over 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, not much has changed.

This is NOT who Christ was, nor is this who He called ME—and us—to be. I’m pretty certain, given where He was born, Jesus was not white, and He desires ALL of us to live in harmony.

“Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.” John 13:34.

So, what does this mean for me, you, and the Church?

We are to see God in EVERY face, no matter the color.

We are called, as followers of Christ, to do everything we can to dismantle the system of white supremacy. Honestly examine your beliefs and attitudes. Do they align with the call of Christ?

Work towards changing the practices of law enforcement that treat white people one way and people of color as less. Research the candidates for public office, and support those who are actively working towards change. Question how decisions of those in power negatively influence those of color and unfairly benefit white people. Do something!

Examining attitudes and beliefs is difficult and potentially painful; it involves risk. So does getting involved. No one said following Christ was easy, but as the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi goes, “preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”

Thanks to Deb Tabert for reflecting on the stirrings of the Holy Spirit present as Dr. Wheeler spoke, exploring the fact that anti-racism isn’t about making white people comfortable, and inviting the synod into tangible, sustainable action.

Are you interested in joining an online community of learners from across the synod working together to critically examine the sin of racism in our lives and to listen eagerly for God’s call of love and justice? The Racial Justice Network is a network of Christ-followers learning to be anti-racist. Subscribe online to join.

Attribution:

Synod Staff

Kenneth Wheeler

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