The Creeping Beggarweed has long, branched hairy runners that move to take over yards. It is a difficult weed that grows in hot climates, and is difficult to control. From the surface, it appears that the weed is of a single strand that branches out. The difficulty of controlling the weed, though, is because the individual strands aren’t independent of each other. They are connected and of one, single taproot that continues expressing itself as it branches out.
This week we find more news of another African-American church burning in our nation. The cause of this seventh church is not yet determined, but it joins a list of burnings that have occurred over the past few weeks and on the heels of the murder of nine African-American church members attending Bible study in South Carolina. There are statements by investigators and government agencies that include assertions that the burnings are not connected. I find this an odd statement. Odd like saying that the Creeping Beggardweed strands are individual plants. That’s not the only thing that appears strange to me. There are also investigative efforts and understandings that permit an act to be moved from the category of vandalism to hate crime, or not. In a NY Times article on June 30, entitled “No Evidence of Hate Crimes in Fires At Black Churches,” for instance, it was reported that investigators determined the Knoxville and Charlotte burnings to be acts of vandalism, not hate crimes. The article continues with comments from the Knoxville, TN fire investigation that explain that hate crimes often include the arsonist leaving a message of intent. There were no messages left in Knoxville or Charlotte, NC burnings, so they’re not categorized as hate crimes. Really??? It seems the starting of the fires are the message.
People of the Church are a people of history. We are used to looking back in order to understand today and look forward to tomorrow. The Bible is a historical document, yet we know the Spirit of God to move through it to speak to us, today. So, we look back. We look back to a young, white supremacist entering an African-American church gathering this June and killing nine people, back to the rash of African-American church burnings in the 1990’s, back to the racist backlashes to halt integration in the 60’s and 70’s, back to the systematic acts to deny equal rights, back to the church burnings of the early 1900’s and 1800’s, back to the terrible history of United States slavery, and we find, to no one’s surprise, our nation’s sad and haunting sin of racism and white privilege, which lives on today and is expressed in acts that may appear as separate and unconnected as the strands of the Beggarweed.
With the seven burned churches and countless others around the world, as brothers and sisters, united in the human race and the one Body of Christ, we look back even further to Jesus and the Gospel. In doing so, we find a Way that is of action to love the world into new being. May we be clear about our connectedness in and by the Body of Christ that we may see clearly that evil of racism in all its forms that we may more effectively and faithfully act with God to transform this world to be of justice and peace as God dreams for it to be. The love of God is the way to overcome sin, including the taproot sin of racism that is expressed in so many creeping expressions. May we be united in prayer for the seven burned congregations, and may we faithfully seek God’s guidance to see and overcome racism in all its forms, taproot and all.