In an Ash Wednesday pastoral letter, Bishop Jim Dunlop calls upon to Lower Susquehanna Synod Lutherans to “engage in a time of study and prayer about hatred and intolerance that has found new vigor and expression in our culture in recent times.” Click the photo to read the letter and access resources.
Ash Wednesday 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the beloved Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus affirms not only that Christians are commanded to love all our neighbors as ourselves, but also that this love finds expression in what we do. In other words, we are commanded not only to be but also to act as a loving neighbors to all.
Along with people of good will and love across the nation, Lutherans of the Lower Susquehanna Synod are shocked, saddened and angered by the rising number of assaults and threats against our neighbors based on their religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. (Some of the specific incidents are listed below.)
For the 40 days of Lent, from March 1 to Easter Sunday on April 16, I call upon Lower Susquehanna Lutherans to engage in a time of study and prayer about hatred and intolerance that has found new vigor and expression in our culture in recent times.
For the 40 days of Lent, I invite Lower Susquehanna Lutherans to:
- Daily read or watch or listen to the news for reports of vandalism, graffiti, assault or speech that demeans or harms others based on their identity. Write them down and add to the list every day. In each case, pray for healing and comfort for the victims, and for the perpetrators that God’s Holy Spirit would turn their heart and minds towards love of neighbor.
- Form or deepen relationships with others of different religions, ethnicities or sexual orientations. Listen to their stories with respect and an open mind.
- Engage in a Lenten “fast” from judgment and negativity towards others, especially those who are different from you. Ask God to help you love your neighbor as yourself.
- Study resources, either alone or in a group, that help explain the history and systemic causes of oppression, prejudice and hatred (resources below and on our synod website here).
- Speak up and act out against hatred and prejudice. Talk with others about what you have learned and what you become aware of. Write letters and make calls to your government officials. Plan a temple talk or forum in your church. Write a blog or Facebook posts to challenge inaccurate or misleading assumptions.
With intention and discipline, we can learn more about the demon of hatred and prejudice that still possesses our nation, and with God’s guidance we can help exorcise it.
Yours in Christ,
†James S. Dunlop, bishop
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA
Who Lynched Willie Earle?: Preaching to Confront Racism (Abingdon Press, 2017) by Will Willimon. To contextualize today’s racial tensions, the esteemed Duke Divinity scholar recounts the 1947 lynching of a 24-year-old African American man from his hometown, as well as the courageous Methodist pastor who preached prophetically about it.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Matthew Pillischer, 2012) by Michelle Alexander. Following the victories of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the government began its war on drugs and other initiatives that caused the prison population of black and Latino inmates to skyrocket. Alexander connects the dots to argue that the two phenomena are related.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, 2014) by Bryan Stevenson. A law professor at New York University, Stevenson tells the story of the practice he started to assist and protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our midst. In the process of serving them Stevenson uncovered and fought corruption, power, injustice, oppression and a legal system seems rigged against the impoverished.
America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos Press 2014) by Jim Wallis. The evangelical Christian and founding leader of the Sojourners community, Wallis tackles the social, political and theological underpinnings of racism in our culture, and he suggests ways to move forward.
ELCA Resources on Racial Justice: www.elca.org/Resources/Racial-Justice
ELCA Presiding Bishop’s Message on such topics as racism, immigration, refugee resettlement, Muslim relations and the Charleston church shootings:www.elca.org/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages
ELCA Webcast, “Confronting Racism,” featuring Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and William B. Horne Jr.
I Am Not Your Negro, an independent movie now in theaters. This documentary is based on the life and observations of the late African American writer James Baldwin who lived through the murders of three friends in the 1960s: Medger Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Powerful.
ELCA AMMPARO is a holistic, whole church commitment by the ELCA, as a church in the world, to accompany children today and in the future. Additional resources are available on the AMMPARO Facebook page.
ELCA Advocacy works for change in public policy based on the experience of Lutheran ministries, programs and projects around the world and in communities across the United States. We work through political channels on behalf of the following biblical values: peacemaking, hospitality to strangers, care for creation, and concern for people living in poverty and struggling with hunger and disease.
LAMPa (Lutheran Advocacy Ministries in Pennsylvania) advocates for wise and just public policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good in response to God’s love in Jesus Christ.
- In February, a gunman shot two immigrants from India in a bar in Olathe, Kansas, killing one of them. The FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
- Across the nation Jewish community centers have recently been threatened, and several cemeteries have been desecrated. Synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been subjected to vandalism and graffiti.
- Last month gunmen killed six and wounded eight in a Mosque in Quebec. Muslims across North America report an increase in harassment, assault and hate speech.
- Arsonists set fire to Mosques in Florida and Texas.
- Last fall Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American congregation, was burned and spray painted with graffiti.
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people been subject to an increasing level of violence. Last June a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Last month a transgender black man in New York was slashed while riding in subway.
- In 2015 a white supremacist gunman killed nine and wounded three others at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
- Across our land there is a rise in graffiti involving racial and religious slurs, as well as swastikas and other symbols of hatred and intolerance.