A post from Rev. Tom Snyder, Pastor Emeritus and Visitation Pastor, First and Christ United Methodist Churches, Ashland, Ohio.
Our local movie theater is being renovated. The marquee is finished and the first message on it is a response to Covid-19: "Stronger Together". I could not agree more! The effects of the pandemic on lives, families, public health and hospitals, businesses, social networks, education, and the functions of governments has been devastating. The call to "Stand Together" is timely and encouraging.
For a number of days, within blocks of the theater, there have been protests engendered by another epidemic which precedes the coronavirus by centuries, the toxic disease of racism. While racism is historic and systemic, the current reaction was sparked by the recent brutal death of George Floyd, suffocated to death by an office of the law. News of tragedies like this do not trickle down to us anymore: they are immediately present on social media and the news. This was on the heels of the equally senseless deaths of Ahmed Aubrey and Breonna Taylor. There is a tipping point.
St. Paul reminded us that if speech is human and even heavenly but is not spoken with love, we are no more than annoying, banging instruments. Following another recent tragedy, the 2017 racial unrest and violence in Charlottesville, fueled by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, the shear ugliness of racism was exposed yet again. So many went to confront and counter this blatant hatred with their Christian witness. They went in the spirit of Jesus and spoke his language of nonviolent love.
After Charlottesville, music teacher and composer, Kathleen Wissinger, wrote the hymn, "Let Love Be Our Voice" and composed its tune, aptly named, "Charlottesville". Let's first hear the refrain and internalize its message: “Let Love be our choice, Let Love be our voice.” The first verse finds us where we are right now as individuals, the church, every community, our nation: "In these time of pain and trouble, Seems the world has lost its way. Facing news of daily struggle/ If we don't know what to say:" then the refrain reminds us of not just the necessity to speak, but the very language that articulates its own message: “Let Love be our choice, Let Love be our voice”.
This week Kitty and I attended a peaceful march and protest at a local park. The issues addressed were racism and the lives and deaths of our black brothers and sisters. We heard scripture, prayed, then knelt in silence for the eight plus minutes it took for George Floyd’s life to be drained from him. Among the many young people who were there (and organized it!) were the young couple in front of us, she deaf and he interpreting the speeches by signing them for her, his face expressive, his fingers, hands, and body in motion. It struck me, standing with my sign with the refrain of the Charlottesville hymn emblazoned on each side, that he was using the language she understood. When the young African American woman who was the featured speaker shouted at the nearly all-white marchers, "You are my sister, you are my brother", she spoke the language I and all the others understood. There we were standing together and she was speaking the language of love.
Love language can get pretty squishy and sentimental; sometime it should. But when we are confronting the critical issues of our day, standing in solidarity with a suffering segment of God's people, naming evils for what they are, it takes the fortitude of faith. It takes courage. It requires decision: "Let Love be our choice". It takes the clarity and energy of our presence, our marching, our singing, our speaking, our witnessing. Standing together, we will "Let Love be our voice".
Faithfully, in love, Pastor Tom+