In the shadow of the racist terrorist acts in Buffalo NY on Saturday, Sunday afternoon I participated in Ravenswood Presbyterian church’s 120th year anniversary celebration. The theme, “120 Years of Lifting People Up”, is from Psalm 146. It was an afternoon of singing, testimony, food, and fellowship. Ravenswood and Pastor Magdalena Garcia exemplify diversity. It is a congregation of Mexican, Guatemalan, Columbian, Cuban, and Anglo members. Worship is bi-lingual in Spanish and English.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the word “diversity” is used by white supremacist as a code word for white genocide. They write, “‘Diversity= White Genocide’ is intended to suggest that multiculturalism will mean the death of the white race.” White Replacement Theory is part of the wave of hatred moving through our society. According to the ADL, this theory is connected to many of the latest mass shootings, including the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue of Jewish people, the El Paso Walmart killing of Latinx people, the Charleston AME Church killing, and the Tops killing this weekend in Buffalo of African Americans. This racist theory is used by TV commentators and elected officials to stoke fear and violence throughout the country.
Our prayers are with the Taiwanese congregation at Geneva Presbyterian Church as well. Although there is only one casualty so far, the mass shooting was committed by an Asian male, who may have had a history of mental illness.
Ravenswood stands as a dome of hope during this time of racial hatred. This church is a reminder that people of different racial and ethnic groups often work together to create a beloved community. When I look at Ravenswood, I see hope. It is in the eyes of the seniors, both white and brown, who were lifted up by this church as they arrived in this country over the past 120 years. Hope is seen in the eyes of the children who experience growing up with other children of different races and ethnicities as normal.
As an African American, I am deeply pained whenever a terrorist incident occurs against African Americans. These incidents are designed to discourage, build hatred, and place fear in the hearts of African Americans and other people of color. Ravenswood reminds me that despite these heinous acts of evil, I still have agency. I can choose hope over hatred. Their example of diversity makes me look for other pockets of light amid this darkness.
And this is how I cope.
I weep for the horror of mass shootings, while realizing that even in the midst of those shattered communities, diverse people are coming together, responding with prayers and in tangible ways. I can only imagine the ways in which people are responding in Buffalo for the healing of their community. The God who weeps is also the One who sustains us. As I preached in my sermon at Ravenswood, “God is God now! We trust in God. Our hope is in this present-working, right-now-acting God.” May it always be so. Amen.
Rev. Craig M. Howard