Healing a Wound Lightly

Last week, the National Council of Churches voted to fund a massive effort on their part to call religious leaders across the United States into a time of healing the nation of its long festering wound of race hate.

They intend to initiate a movement of healing with a truth-telling event to be held on the mall in Washington, D.C. on April 4 – the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. That truth-telling is a crucial first step in what will be a lengthy process of trying to heal a wound that, when tended to in the past, was healed lightly, if at all.

It was the prophet Jeremiah who first uttered these words: “They have healed the wounds of my people lightly, crying ‘Peace, Peace!’ when there is no peace.” These words are relevant when the powers that be want to silence dissenting voices that represent the masses of people crushed under the foot of an oppressor. Public and visible action is taken to ameliorate those not in power, but no justice comes for no justice was ever intended. When the powerful have had enough, they unilaterally end the effort, crafting propaganda that suggests that real change occurred, peace has come, and all is well.

We saw this at the end of the Civil War, when after the Emancipation Proclamation and the bloody years of armed conflict that sought to free the enslaved, a peace was written that over the next years and decades proved to be insufficient to heal the deep wounds of racial division in this country.

A full century later, a Civil Rights movement sought redress to the now 350 years of oppression to people of color in this land. When a Civil Rights bill,  a Voting Rights Bill, and a Fair Housing Bill was signed the land cried “Peace, Peace” – but now 50 years removed from that we are seeing that once again this wound was healed lightly and no peace has come.

The pursuit of real peace is what we are searching for – the healing of a wound that has caused racial tension and division from the first days whites landed on these shores. Such healing begins with an honest account of the sins and atrocities committed. Such healing isn’t finished until those who are the real victims of these injustices say it is finished. Such healing will call not just for truth-telling, but reparations that account for the costs of the as yet not fully disclosed injustices.

Two critical points must be raised and understood this time around. First, the end of this healing process doesn’t come when those in power have had enough. That is how wounds get healed lightly. And second, the end doesn’t come when words of confession have been spoken, but when reparations are made that level a playing field made uneven by the greed and power of the oppressor.

Nowhere in our history have these two critical factors been sufficiently demonstrated – and therefore the wound festers long after those in power cried “Peace, peace” when there was no peace.

What is sought here is the healing of a nation. The wound of this festering evil imprints all – white and black and immigrant and native.

We don’t know that we will find the heart and will to finally heal this wound fully – but as people of faith we can never be satisfied with the silent complicity that sees the wound and ignores it.

I invite today to begin to pray for a real healing. I invite you to make plans now to join us on the mall in DC on April 4 as we speak our truth and call for the healing of a nation. I invite you to speak your own truth, and to prepare to make personal decisions to repair the damage.

May our Sacred and Spiritual Guide, the source of all peace and the Creator of all life, abide with us all on this endeavor – and surprise us with a new and lasting peace on this, our journey Into the Mystic.