Litany for Addressing Racism

Hello, my name is Fran and I’m a racist.* I don’t intend to be a racist, and I don’t want to be a racist. I’m committed to uncovering and clearing it out from within myself. This may take my whole life. I know I can’t easily escape hundreds of years of cultural imprinting. This kind of deep principality can only come out by means of prayer, fasting, and long-term intention and work.

I’m less of a racist now than I used to be, I think. Which is good. But I’m nowhere near done with my transformation. I don’t have any degrees or credentials in the subject, nor have I read all the books (I’ve read some). My street cred as an advocate is next to nothing. I defer to folks who have done this work far longer and far better than my imperfect bumbling. And I defer to my sisters and brothers of color who have lived experience inside racist culture.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been pondering a few things related to current events and cultural programming. One is Thanksgiving - how the narrative taught to school children regarding the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is largely inaccurate and whitewashed, as well as hurtful to Indigenous people.  Another is the tear-gassing of impoverished Brown people at the US border. Another is the result of recent elections, particularly those in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi; all of which were influenced by racism against Black people (example).  

People of color have been seeing racism all along - they bear its effects in their family histories, their bodies, their bank accounts. This is not new. It’s us white folks who have waking up to do. It’s up to us to pray with humility and educate ourselves. Also: not enough white pastors are preaching about it. So this litany is for us; for white individuals and congregations who want to pray into this deep-rooted system of injustice, and posture ourselves to work for the liberation and restoration of our siblings; and who want to uncover racism where it lies hidden in our own hearts.

Oh God, we are gradually waking up
To the knowledge of our deep and hidden sins;
Most particularly, to the sin of racism
Which has affected our culture, psyche, and practice.

We thought we could say, “Oh, those racist generations have passed on. The civil rights movement already happened.”
We thought we had leveled the playing field.
We thought we could ignore Whiteness.
We thought we didn’t have to see color.
But we know that we have more work to do,
To cleanse, heal and establish justice.

We quit before the work was finished.
We were wrong.

Help us to see what we couldn’t see before.
Help us to examine everything:
Every custom and system,
Every group dynamic and assumption,
To leave no stone unturned in our mission
To rout out injustice;
To take every thought captive (1)
To the loving ethic of Christ.

This work is messy.
We feel sensitive about it.**
We feel overwhelmed and ashamed.
Help us not to minimize or shirk,
Nor capitulate to our fragile egos,
Nor be blinded by our privilege.
Give us robust hearts,
Willing to take an unflinching look at the racism within us.

And as we sift through our habits, culture and customs,
Examining them with a new sensitivity to injustice,
Help us to embody hope,
Peacemaking,
Restoration,
And above all, love for our neighbors.

Make us aligned to the Community of Heaven,
Diligently working for liberation.

Amen

1) 2 Corinthians 10:5

*If you are a white person of privilege and you say you aren’t a racist, well, you’re probably wrong and it’s best to just face it. Read more here.

**Our feelings of sensitivity as white people are small compared to the feelings of people of color who experience oppression and fear for their lives. But that doesn’t mean the feelings don’t get in our way regardless.


Litany for Waking Up

I have heard this story so many times: this narrative of people waking up to injustice or abuse in institutions, then trying so hard to help the institution wake up, then discovering that there’s no forcing change and that trying so hard is burning their hearts down, then waking up to the reality that leaving is the only heartbreaking option. I don’t know if it’s actually getting more common, or if I’m just paying better attention to it, having lived it a time or two.

I have heard this story in marriages. In churches. In businesses. In nations and governments. Over and over again. It’s a dark, painful story that calls to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:14 (and Luke 9:5) to “leave...and shake the dust off your feet when you leave…”*

I don’t think Jesus says that glibly. He knows that leaving is a painful decision; he also knows that trying to force anyone to listen or change is a futile effort, and graciously give his disciples permission to move onto different, more open and receptive spaces. And that’s another thing I see happening. I see new spaces being created. I see a new reformation happening. I see new ways emerging. I see hope and freedom sprouting up. I see a winnowing.

But waking up is still hard. There’s hope and life in it, but also discomfort, grief, and sometimes confusion. It takes great faith to throw our precious grain up in the air, and trust that what falls back down, after the wind has carried the chaff away, will be enough.**




God, you are the one who wakes us up
When we are ready.
You wake us up to injustice.
You wake us up to love.
You wake us up to injury.
You wake us up to hope.

Sometimes we wake up and realize
That our institutions need change;
That our theology needs change;
That our habits need change;
That our politics need change;
That our hearts need change.

Sometimes we must suffer the scathing heartache
Of leaving behind ideas or institutions
That don’t work anymore, now that we’re awake.
Sometimes our waking requires parting.
Sometimes we can’t support.
Sometimes we are no longer supported.

It can feel like homelessness,
Like up-ending,
Like disowning,
Like failure,
Like giving up.
We wish it weren’t so.

We can only allow ourselves to change at your prompting;
We can’t force others to understand.

Let those of us who are waking, painstakingly and in various ways,
Have no judgement toward those who aren’t yet ready to arise.
Let no arrogance exist among us,
But only patience and compassion.
Let those of us who can stay and enact change,
Be strengthened and encouraged.
Let those of us who must leave,
Leave wisely and lovingly.
 

Amen

* I appreciate Sarah Bessey's writing on the topic of leaving, and also on staying.
**Matthew 3:12

Litany for Hatred

This week's Lectionary...

You shall not render an unjust judgment;
you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great:
with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people,
and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor:
I am the LORD.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin;
you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:
I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:15-18)

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:36-39)

 

God, we acknowledge that, at some point in our lives, we all harbor hatred in our hearts.
Forgive us, oh God.
We all, at some point, render unjust judgements on others.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of loving our enemies, we have hated them.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of welcoming the stranger, we have shunned them.
Forgive us, oh God.
Instead of listening to the voices of those who are different from us, we have silenced them.
Forgive us, oh God.

We have sat silently by while others gave way to hatred.
We have hated and been hated.
We have forgotten that all humanity is our kin.
We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.

We have hated those who’ve hurt us
Those with whom we disagree politically or theologically
Those whose color, ethnicity, appearance, gender or orientation is different from ours.
Those whose sins are different from ours.
Those whose customs are different from ours.
Those whom we perceive as dangerous.

Scour our hearts free of hatred
Fill us full of love instead -
Lovingkindness from your heart.
Let no injustice remain among us.
Rescue us from the walls that divide us,
And bring us back to Holy Communion.
Amen

 

Litany for 45

I was at an event recently in which someone asked the speaker, who happened to be Michael Wear, this question: What we should pray for 45?  I thought what a good question it was, and resolved to try to answer it.

For my friends who love Trump, this will perhaps be easy for you to pray, and a good reminder to do so. But for my friends for whom Mr. Trump presents a fair degree of stress and difficulty, I hear that, and I'll say this: you don’t have to like him to pray this prayer.

In fact, praying this prayer (or one like it) is in itself an act of hopeful resistance. It is for some of us a tangible living-out of Jesus command in the Sermon on the Mount "love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you." It is a step toward embodying Jesus' best and most subversive ideas. It is moving in the direction of flooding the world with forgiveness.

Extra bonus points for praying this alongside someone with whom you disagree.

It may feel like sandpaper on your skin or sound like nails on a chalkboard at first. Sometimes the Good News does that. But I think it's a path to peace.




God, as you have made yourself known to men and women, over countless generations all over the world
So, make yourself known to Donald Trump.
As you have inspired good works, loving actions, peacemaking, and depth of feeling and thought in the hearts of humans,
So inspire Mr. Trump.

We ask for your merciful guidance on the 45th President of the United States.
Be to him a light.
Set his feet on the path of peace,
And his mind on selfless love.
Give to him a wide perspective and listening ears,
That he may seek the good of all whom he governs.

Instill in him a strong desire to do justly,
A love for mercy,
Humility,
Discernment,
Curiosity,
Willingness to learn,
Strength of character,
And wisdom from heaven.

Surround him even now with wise women and men of depth, character, experience,
And above all, of unflinching honesty and integrity.
Strengthen him even now with energy and zeal for doing good, robust heart,
And willingness to endure sacrifice for others.
Let the leader of this nation abound in compassion and integrity,
And all the people of the nation prosper under just government.

Where he is weak
Make your power apparent.
Where he is needy,
Provide for him.
Where he is vulnerable,
Protect him.
In the depths of his soul,
May he be filled with your love.

Amen


 

Litany for Government

God, we seek your wisdom for how to live today, in this time and place.
We ask help from you
To remember that we are citizens of heaven first and foremost. (1)
Help us, oh God,
To live with integrity and fidelity to Christ even while under human government.
Help us, oh God,
To practice peace and resurrection in our every action. (2)
Help us, oh God,
To exercise our rights and privileges on behalf of the vulnerable.
We need the mind of Christ.

We pray for those human leaders in authority
That they may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly; (3)
That they may overcome self-interest with self-sacrifice;
That they may listen to the voices of the people they serve;
That they may have vision for good for all, beyond partisan goals and nationalism;
That they may resist temptation to wield their power for personal gain;
That they may resist tyranny, totalitarianism, and autocracy within their ranks;
That they may speak truth, and uphold it; (4)
That they may hold fast to laws which foster justice, and root out those that discriminate against the weak.
That they may seek peace and pursue it;(4)
That they may work for equality and benefit for all races, all genders, all religious and cultural expressions;
That they may champion the beauty of humanity from cradle to grave;
That they may regard kindness and cooperation as strengths;
That they may lead with humility, morality, compassion, and creativity.

Let everything that is hidden come to light -
The light that is Christ. (5)
And let all people live in the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Under the law of Love.

Amen

 

  1. Philippians 3:20

  2. “Practice resurrection” is a line in Wendell Berry’s famous poem “The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

  3. Micah 6:8

  4. Psalm 34:14

  5. John 8:12

 

Litany for Endurance

The Lectionary text from the Gospels for November 13, 2016 is Luke 21:5-19. The Lectionary is for me a rich source of inspiration on this Election Day Eve.


God, Help us to remain calm in troubled waters,
When things to fear are real or imagined.

When we are tested (1),
Help us to endure.
When we are criticized,
Help us to endure.
When we are misunderstood,
Help us to endure.
When we miss the mark,
Help us to endure.
When things are loud around us,
Help us to endure.
When peace seems impossible,
Help us to endure.
When common ground feels like compromise,
Help us to endure.
When we are thwarted,
Help us to endure.
When discouragement seems like the only reasonable response.
Help us to endure.
When we are tempted to prepare our defense (1),
Help us to endure.
When those we love feel like enemies,
Help us to endure.
When our enemies are hard to love,
Help us to endure.

We know that we gain our souls
By quiet, uncomplaining endurance.
We know that endurance
Expands our souls.

In all things,
May we have the mind of Christ.

Amen


(1) James 1:2-3  “testing… produces perseverance.”

(2) Luke 21:14 “Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance.”


 

Litany for Humility

The Lectionary passage from the Gospels for October 23, 2016 is Luke 18:9-14. And, well, I encourage you to read it because I'd say here’s a passage we can use about now.

In fact, just the other day I read an article written by a pastor which declared that anyone who stood against his preferred presidential candidate to be under no uncertain terms a “pharisee.” I confess I was a bit offended and judged that pastor to be judgemental and pharisaical himself. After all, I’m only trying to navigate these murky waters as best I can, just like we all are. And they are VERY MURKY, stick-your-hand-in-and-it-disappears murky. And besides, I think you are wrong, nameless pastor. Dead wrong. Actually I’m certain that you are. And I am right, and I see through these murky waters more clearly than you do because I am further along on the path of enlightenment than you are, obviously.

And my certainty and righteousness leave me no room for humility. My defensive stance leaves no energy left in my heart for self-reflection. My internal list of all the good qualities I possess, which I immediately begin to recite whenever someone questions my motives, drowns out the small voice that invites me to spiritual formation, to consider how I might be part of the problem, what I might do to be part of the solution.

Does this narrative sound familiar?

I think we can subvert it. I think we can, in a sort of grassroots, guerilla way, which in my experience how mercy usually operates, BE THE CHANGE. We can reject mudslinging and turn our cheeks. We can lower our defensive fists and invite contemplation. We can loudly and decisively reject oppression, and then live prophetically and humbly into what comes after it is gone. We can listen to the chorus of angry voices around us, find where the pain is, and set about healing it. We can do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

At least I hope we can.

 

God, we turn toward you now.
Be merciful to us, sinners.

We feel we must defend ourselves.
We take refuge in you.
We feel we must silence others.
We choose to be still instead.
We feel we must rebut every argument.
We look to you for what is right.
We feel we must make ourselves appear powerful.
We remember that your power is made perfect in weakness. (1)

Help us to not point fingers or launch accusations.
Help us to quietly and peaceably stand up for what is good.
Help us to take care of our own hearts before criticizing others.
Help us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

We recognize that we are sinners
In need of mercy.
We recognize that we all see in part,
In need of divine perspective.
We recognize that we are all fighting a great battle,
In need of kindness. (2)

May we imitate the humility of Christ,
Who accepted punishment,
Who endured humiliation and slander
And used them for good.

We turn toward you now.
Be merciful to us, sinners.

Amen
 

  1. 2 Corinthians 12:9

  2. Quote attributed to Ian McLaren

Litany for Diversity

Do I have to say anything about this litany? Do I have to point out the headlines, the twitter feeds, the political season? I think not. I think we can acknowledge that we have some problems accepting one another, problems loving one another, problems with being kind. And I think we can acknowledge ways in which this political cycle has shown us our own hearts and characters in ways we needed to see. Some have said that it is God's judgement. But I am inclined to think it is God's mercy, moving us forward.

God, you have made people of every imaginable kind
Colors and shapes,
Privileged and marginalized,
Rich and poor.

We have differences of every imaginable kind
Perspectives and worldviews,
Countries and cultures,
Philosophies and theologies.

We acknowledge that we tend to fear what we don’t understand,
And that love is more powerful than fear.
We acknowledge that we must work to understand each other
And that this work is Kingdom work.
We acknowledge that each perspective brings your nature into clearer picture
And that we need each other’s points of view.

Help us to love one another
Even though we are different.
Help us to celebrate one another
Even though we may not agree.
Help us to be kind to one another
Even when we have been hurt.
Help us to open the doors to our churches
    Homes
    Organizations
    Governing bodies
    Dinner tables
Even though it may feel awkward and impractical.

We know that the diversity of the people of the world is a good gift
For our growth and edification;
To help us see your vision for the world
Where there are neither slave nor free,
Male nor female,
One race nor the other;
But we are all free, beloved, and united
In the peace of Christ Jesus.

Amen


 

Litany for an Election Year

When we want to run away,
Help us to stay present to what is important.

When we want to post nasty things on social media,
Help us to vent in more appropriate ways.

When we are tempted to spend time indulging anxiety,
Help us to fix ourselves on your faithfulness.

When we are uncertain how to vote in good conscience,
Show us a way forward.

When we feel reactive,
Help us to become contemplative.

When we feel frustrated,
Help us to trust that the Kingdom of God is unstoppable.

When we feel afraid,
Help us remember our hope, joy, and the power of love.

When we are tempted to criticize those who disagree with us,
Help us to speak gracefully, or not at all.

When we are focused on pointing out the negative,
Help us to find ways to help make things better.

When we feel a sense of dislike or loathing for anyone, ever,
Help us to remember compassion and kindness.

When all we can see is ugliness,
Help us to turn off the screen and go outside.

Amen

Litany for Rebuke

Edit: Saturday morning 7/9/16: This litany was written on Thursday before the shooting in Dallas Thursday night. I was feeling angry and grieved when I wrote it. More bad things have happened since then. I still feel angry and grieved and confused and baffled and sad, and more aware than ever of ways that I AM THE PERSON I'M REBUKING. I am complicit. I can change in ways I haven't yet perceived are necessary for me to change. By simple apathy and laziness, I have been an enemy of peace. I need rebuke and correction. I need a fresh dose of perspective and compassion and grace and love. I am still mad at those cops who killed Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile and all the others who have been unjustly put to death. I am still mad at the shooter who killed 5 police officers in Dallas. I'm mad and I want things to change and I want to change. So I pray the traditional orthodox Jesus Prayer:
 


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

You who are enemies of peace;
We rebuke you.
You who are wolves in sheep's clothing;
We rebuke you.
You who govern masses and only consider the interests of a few;
We rebuke you.
You who pay lip service to justice but do evil;
We rebuke you.
You who kill without thinking and have no regard for human life;
We rebuke you.
You who are enslaved to fear of a certain type of person;
We rebuke you.
You who allow evil and corruption and ignore what is right;
We rebuke you.
You who have no language but violence;
We rebuke you.
You who worship money and power over others;
We rebuke you.
You who perpetuate injustice;
We rebuke you.
You who have decided that the white, the straight, the affluent; are more deserving of life than the black, the gay, the poor;
We rebuke you.
You who shed innocent blood;
We rebuke you.
You who choose to remain enemies even while we offer peace;
We rebuke you.

We are all brought to shame by your actions.
We are all brought to grief by your violence.
We are all brought to rage by your power over our society.
We are all brought to repentance by your misdeeds.

We refuse to swallow your lies.
We refuse to bend to your way of violence and power-hunger.
We refuse to be blinded by your distorted version of prosperity.
We refuse to allow violence and fear to found false peace.

We offer you forgiveness and reconciliation.
We offer you a place at our table, generosity instead of greed.
We offer you one cheek, then another.
We offer you our cloaks, and shelter from the storm.
We offer you loaves and fishes, though you’ve given us a snake.
We offer you the Way of Love, an antidote to hatred.
We offer you the Way of Peace, an antidote to violence.
We offer you the body and blood of Christ, who is able to heal your disease.

Come now, Christ, in your mercy and in your peace, in the dazzling beauty of your love, in the creativity of your re-imagining this world, in the justice of your Kingdom.
Amen

Litany for Trump and Hillary, or, What To Pray When You're Worried

I love to vote. The year I turned 18 was an election year, and I drove 2.5 hours from college to my hometown just so I could vote in the presidential election for my first time. I appreciate the right to vote. I think voting is, not a perfect system, but a strong one. As a woman, voting is an especially cherished right. When I think about women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and others who organized, were imprisoned, and in some cases died fighting for women’s suffrage - you can bet I’m damn well gonna vote.

We vote all kinds of ways: on ballots, with dollars, by participation. Some we are conscious of, some are tacit. This is human economy. This is a system of government generations of people, people we know and love, have defended to the death, mostly with honor and courage and good intentions. I’m grateful that I live in a relatively safe society (tragic events of this weekend notwithstanding, we are generally safer than, say, Syria), a relatively free one, a relatively functional one, a relatively just one; thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears of those women and men who came before me and stand around me. I think we collectively are grateful.

We’re grateful, but everyone seems worried lately. 49 people were gunned down this last weekend, which is worrisome to say the least. We are worried or angry or both. One group is worried that Trump is going to be elected president. Another group is worried that Hillary Clinton will be elected. The other group is worried by the idea of either candidate arriving in the White House as one of the most powerful politicians on the planet, potentially causing the whole voting-economy-government system to crumble. We're convinced that someone is going to send us all to hell in a handbasket.

I’m tempted to worry too. I’m tempted to stew on my bafflement. I’m tempted to judge and condemn people with whom I disagree. I’m tempted to stop trusting in Jesus and start trusting in a politician or political party or system of government to save me from my fate of brokenness, war, poverty, sickness, consumerism, greed, hatred, and power-hunger. I’m tempted to bury my head, withhold my vote, stop reading news and interacting with people, and indulge in false consolation. I’m tempted to get stuck in anger.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think there’s any voting in the Kingdom of God. I think the best system we’ve come up with for governing human beings doesn’t even come close to the goodness of God. I think our best attempts at a fair and functional economy cannot compare with the gold standard of the currency of God, which is Gracious Love. I think we cannot even conceive of the Justice of God, and our best imitation of it is only a shadow, subject to corruption. I think the best political leaders the world has ever seen will bow before Jesus along with the rest of us when he comes.

So.

I wonder if there’s another way for me aside from worry and anger. I wonder if there is a way to walk on top of murky waters. I wonder if there’s anything I can do that might be helpful. I wonder if there’s an alternative to despair.

If you are worried and wondering too, I invite you to pray with me.


 

Maker of All Things, we invite You now
into our feelings of discomfort, confusion, anger, fear, and worry
over How Things are Going to Be.

We are reminded:
That Jesus did not resist the political regime of his time,
     but instead preached the Kingdom of God.
That Jesus did not condemn or punish,
     but instead healed, fed, traveled, talked, and ate meals with people.
That Jesus did not worry,
     but instead prayed when he was troubled.

We acknowledge that human leaders are flawed.
We acknowledge that human systems fall short.
We acknowledge that hardship is always present this side of eternity.

We acknowledge that Jesus will save the world.
    Not a politician. Jesus.
    Not a judge. Jesus.
    Not a celebrity or even a pastor. Jesus.
We acknowledge that Jesus has already begun that work;
    In us, with us, through us, Jesus is saving the world.
We acknowledge that the Kingdom of God is expanding, unstoppable.

We ask for Your Gracious Love.
We ask for wisdom and compassion.
We ask for strength and courage to do our best work for Your kingdom, work that will last.
We ask for goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives.
We ask for our faith to grow.

We set aside worry; instead we take up grace and peace, which You offer abundantly.
We put our hope in Jesus Christ, and in His kingdom.
We give thanks that our future is safe in Your hands.

Amen


 

Litany for Loving Those With Whom We Disagree

God of Love, fill us anew with the energy of your love
For we find ourselves in conflict and disagreement with our sisters and brothers;
But we want Your heart to move us.

We confess our tendency to cast judgement on those whose ideas differ from ours.
We confess our tendency to consider ourselves superior.
We confess our tendency to blame, call names, castigate, and demean.
We confess our tendency to speak truth in righteous indignation, and not in love.
We confess our tendency to use sarcasm as a weapon of righteousness.
We confess our tendency to obsess about being right.

Help us to have patience with those who do not share our perspective.
Help us to have grace for those we consider to be in the wrong.
Help us to extend forgiveness to those who hurt us or those close to us.

May we find, in each circumstance, those places where we are complicit.
May we attend to the log in our own eye.
May we remember that the good news of the Kingdom of God is steadily creeping in,
   That fear, defensiveness, and violence are alien to it;
   That peace, beauty, and gentleness are its hallmarks.
May we compass our movements by Love’s true north.

We relinquish our need to win arguments.
We relinquish our need to demonstrate our superior worldview.
In those opportunities we get to peaceably speak our opinion, may we do it with
    Love
    Joy
    Peace
    Patience
    Kindness
    Goodness
    Faithfulness
    Gentleness
    Self-control
And may Christ be glorified by our every word and action.

Amen