One thing I can say about being a black Orthodox Christian and among the leadership in the Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, is that there is always a reason to go forward beyond worldly standards. That my aim, our aim as Christians, is to live as citizens of the eternal kingdom while in the midst of this earthly one.
With the recent racial incidents in Charlottesville and other issues, it is so easy to be distracted with wanting to embrace earthly protest and forget that we don’t battle against flesh and blood (as said by the Apostle Paul). Much like Dr. Martin Luther King, we must embrace love even for those who oppose us. If we adopt a tone of animosity and hostility, we make the Gospel invalid and little more than a worldly tool to achieve a temporal victory. As African-Americans, we have a tradition of forgiving those who have exploited us. As Orthodox Christians, we have the witness of saints who chose to die to this world so that they would have life in the next.
Dr. Albert Raboteau, Professor Emeritus of the Princeton University School of Religion pointed out how necesary forgiveness is to give a beacon of light to a world that so easily spirals downward. The example of Fannie Lou Hammer who suffered an atrocious torture kept going forward working for the right of black Mississippians to vote. But, she kept going not in a spirit of vengance. Her aim was for a reconciled state and nation where all citizens had equality. This is a bright, shining star compared to the obsurd fearfulness white nationalist have that their race is threatened with extinction.
Fr. Justin Matthews of St. Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church in Kansas City retold the stoy of Prince Lazar. He was given a choice of an earthly victory for his Serbian people that would seperate him from the heavenly kingdom. Or, he could suffer defeat in this world for a crown in the world to come. The saint chose the later and fell in the fields of Kosovo. His example to his Serbian nation was that of love for one’s people as the people are committed to be servants of God no matter what the earthly cost may be.
From these two and other speakers, it seems to me that however black and other Christians are to stand against the injustice and hate of this world, we must do so with a commitment to loving God, our enemies, and being willing to pay the cost of that love in this world. Like anyone else, I want to see justice roll down like a mighty stream. But, a narrow and earthly definition of justice that is not informed with the healing balm of forgiveness and reconciliation leads to revenge. And isn’t this what has happened in history when revolutionaries gained power on earth? With the exception of South Africa, overthrows of oppressive governments are usually followed with bloody purges of former officials. We must be aware not to let such desires build in our hearts and minds.
So, as we have returned to our various homes and parishes, we must find ways to fight the good fight in a good way. Deacon Turbo Qualls gave a great analogy; Saul’s armor does not fit us. To slay the Goliath before us, we must use our own sling and the stones that God has smoothed out for us.