Today is Friday and despite what many Americans believe, all Fridays (not just during Lent) are days of Penance in the Catholic Church. We are either to abstain from meat or we are to perform some other penitential act.
Today, this Friday, we need to direct our Penance toward our cultural sins. We need to acknowledge that the #CharlestonShooting was not simply the act of a crazy person. We need to acknowledge that Violence and Racism are steeped into our American Culture. In many ways we are the greatest nation in the world, but we are also broken. The election of a black president did magically heal the gaping necrotic wound of racism that we try to pretend either doesn't exist or only exists in the South. And Violence, where does not even begin to describe our pathological love for violence. Games, moves, tv shows, we raise our children on a steady diet of it. And please do not compare the bloodless cowboy movies of the 50's to today's mutilating blood soaked films.
If this young man had yelled "Allah u Akbar" before shooting we would be all over this. But because he just hated "niggers" we will pretend that it was the act of a lone crazy person. We will talk about it for a week maybe two and then we will go back to pretending that racism and violence are not still epidemic cultural diseases in America still.
Sometimes our greatest sins are sins of omission, what we have failed to do.
I grew up as a child in Danville, Virginia that prided itself on being the last capital of the Confederacy. I was in 5th grade before we integrated the schools. Have we made some progress in the 45 years since? Of course. But let's not pretend we do not have a long way to go. In 2015 I have heard members of my church and people in my neighbor use the word "nigger" and confess that I have committed the sin of saying nothing. I type the word because every time I hear a news reporter says, "He used a racial epithet" it makes me crazy. It's simply another form of denial.
On this day of penance, this Friday. Let us look into our own heart. Let each of us acknowledge the racism and violence that we have tacetly accepted or even felt. And let us pray for a true conversion of hearts, from sea to shining sea.