Pandemic Ponderings

of the General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley

January 31, 2022


Dear friends,


One of the features of our reformed theology is that humanity is “fallen” – that we are broken – individually and corporately – and do not reflect God’s best intentions for our own lives nor for the life of the world. We begin each worship service with that recognition as together we confess our sin and are granted God’s healing pardon.


And this is why I am somewhat mystified by the heated controversy about Critical Race Theory. Simply put, according to an article by the Brookings Institute, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race. Critical Race Theory examines our United States History through that lens.

Noted attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson, minces no words when he says, “This country enslaved Black people for two-and-a-half centuries. We tortured and terrorized black people for a century. We segregated and subjected Black people to racial hierarchy. We continue to imprison and incarcerate and punish people of color in ways that are not proportionate. But we can be more than a country of enslavers and lynchers and segregators and executioners,” he said. “But only if we acknowledge that. And that is the point of all of this: To confront our unpleasant history as a first step in healing.”


To confront our nation’s history as a first step in healing. Kind of like a prayer of confession. As Presbyterians we know the power of being honest before God, honest with ourselves, honest with each other. We know the redemptive power of confession and understand it as a healing process.


Black History Month begins tomorrow. The very fact that we observe Black History Month recognizes that for many of us who grew up in American public schools, we simply don’t know that history. We neither know the full weight of the atrocities perpetrated against African Americans nor do we know their remarkable accomplishments and achievements, their art and literature.


So I propose a small invitation for us as we begin this Black History Month and that is this: to read works written by African American authors. An obvious place to begin is with authors such as James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, or Frederick Douglas. Below is a link to some other possibilities:


I’m about half-way through the first book on that list. Let us use this month to allow God to expand our minds and hearts toward God’s vision of the beloved community.


As ever in prayer,


Sue Westfall

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