Post Author: Mihee Kim-Kort
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. (Psalm 51)
“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?” – bell hooks
Black History Month.
In my childhood it was a month of learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement and reading accounts about people that were hardly talked about in social studies the rest of the year: Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman. Always, it felt like an odd break in the year and almost obligatory. Some teachers would share the information enthusiastically, while others seemed reluctant and half-hearted. While we would read biographies and laud their subjects’ heroic efforts to pursue justice and equality for all humanity, I remember sometimes shifting back and forth in my seat. It was hard to ignore the reality that we were turning our attention to the sins – the atrocities, the violence, the crimes – of the founders of this great country, our ancestors and forefathers.
And, of course, how we inherited these sins, too. There was no getting around it. Later I would come to see and acknowledge how we participate in these systems of violence, and enact antiblack racism. Even I, as a person of color, participate in these systems. I confess my ways of benefiting from a white feminist politic that privileges certain bodies and voices over others.
When it was less complicated during those early school days there was always some big report or essay due at the end of the month. The same stories. The struggles. The same speeches. And, after a while, I felt them became more than just pieces of information. They became a part of my identity in terms my desire for repentance. My desire for compassion. For forgiveness. For justice. But, it meant that listening would be different. It wouldn’t be listening for the sake of information, but for the sake of transformation.
It’s these stories that help shape the way I listen and live out God’s Word whether they be words of lament or stories of overcoming hardship and strife. They put flesh and blood onto these pleas for help. They breathe and harmonize God’s spirit into these supplications for redemption and salvation. And they make me see anew the possibilities of God’s transforming presence in the world. It’s not about upholding a particular theology or stance, but recognizing the lives that matter around us, and that yes, all lives matter, but we need to work even more to show that black lives matter now and today.
Mihee Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian minister and serving as the staff for UKIRK @ IU in Bloomington, Indiana.
Image by: TheFeministWire.com
Used with permission