By Father Casey
The killings this week of eight people in Atlanta have brought renewed attention to the prevalence of hatred and violence against people of Asian descent in our country. The problem has a long, bitter history. In the 1800s, Asian immigrants were stigmatized and abused. Even as they contributed to the growth and expansion of the nation, they were treated with mistrust and scorn. The law treated them with blatant partiality, and at several points, immigration from Asian nations was specifically targeted. 20th century American wars in Asia further stoked animosity, resulting in the fact that, even as our nation has grown more diverse and multi-ethnic, Asian-Americans continue to regularly experience hatred and bigotry. Just this last year there was a 150% increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
As a church, we have been working on how to combat the sins of racism and white supremacy, both within ourselves and in our society. In response to the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose blood redeemed “every family, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9-10),” we have been striving to more courageously advocate for justice among all people. What we have learned can certainly guide us as we seek to combat these same sins whenever they cause harm to our Asian sisters and brothers.
For the Christian, there is no such thing as an acceptable racial joke. For the Christian, there is no such thing as “locker room talk.” For the Christian, there is no “them” who is not like “us.” For the Christian, it is never okay to demean anyone. If we want to see an end to bigotry and racism, if we want to help our nation move beyond the evils of white supremacy and racial violence, we must stop politely tolerating the sorts of speech and behavior that allows these sins to stay rooted in our souls.
Which means that we have more work to do, all of us. Soul work. Faith work. Examining again our consciences to see what thoughts we have tolerated, what words we have left unchallenged, what actions we have not opposed. For we are meant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and that mission has no asterisks or caveats. If there is anything within us that is holding us back from that sort of love, then we must pray for the courage to repent and the grace to change.
There is no better time for such work than now, as we near the holiest of weeks. For even in the crucible of his Passion, Jesus made no compromises with scorn or contempt. He had no use for cruelty or hate. Which means…neither should we.