Centering dominate, white culture (even within in the church) must be disrupted in order for us to find new paths that we can walk together. We are in the midst of the season of Lent, a time in the Church when we acknowledge our brokenness. The same deep brokenness that caused religious and political leaders to conspire together to kill Jesus Christ, the bearer of love, rather than embrace his faithful witness is evident in the killings of innocent victims in Atlanta and the other-ing and violence across the country. Each one of us is called to disrupt our desire for comfort and familiarity, to enter a beloved community where all can flourish.Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia
This past week we saw the horrible tragedy of yet another racially motivated killing. Anti-Asian racism has increased drastically since the begin of the pandemic, largely due to certain elected officials using racial slurs to describe the virus. We at Riverside stand with our Asian-American sisters and brothers and condemn all forms of racism and bigotry.
What further made matters worse was the initial briefing by local law enforcement that suggested the killer “was having a bad day” and committed the crimes because of sexual addiction. This particular officer, who at one-point last year encouraged the sale of t-shirts that had a racial slur written on it, said he did not think the attack was racially motivated. I won’t go into the all the numerous details of why this horrendous attack was most certainly racially motivated; many other more nuanced and intelligent pieces have been written on the subject. To be clear, the attack wasn’t just racially motivated, but was intersectional cross matters of race, misogyny, and social status. There have been innumerable “bad days” that did not end up with eight innocent people dying.
I do wish to briefly address this idea that somehow the killer’s piety played into his vile actions. First off, it doesn’t. If the killer was a person of faith, particularly the Christian faith, he wouldn’t have resorted to any form of violence. In fact, Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.” That’s YOU, YOUR, your eye, not that of any other. To somehow state that the killer’s combination of faith and sexual addiction led to these actions is to minimalize the teachings of Jesus and to not recognize the effects of toxic purity culture in many churches. Jesus instructs us to handle our own affairs before we engage with others’. “… how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:5). I weep for the victims and pray for peace to come their loved ones. These victims were innocent, and targeted because of the racist, perversive beliefs of the killer.
We must continue to train our eyes to see each other as image bearers. We are all children of God and bear God’s image. When racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and the like rear its ugly head, it’s because of a failure to see God in each other. I pray for the many victims across our country who are in pain. I pray that God will not just be the Great Physician, but on this occasion the Great Ophthalmologist training and healing our eyes to see one another as we are, children of God.