Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

The New York Times has a moving story about one pastor’s efforts to gather the stories of those who lived through lynching in the 20th century.

The Rev. Angela Sims visits people one at a time, and with care encourages and coaxes them to share their stories for the sake of history — and healing. She tells the Times:

I’m listening for what salvation and redemption might look like. I’m listening for how grace might play out and for notions of forgiveness.

I think about some of the individuals I’ve met and the way they’ve talked about having to get rid of racial hatred — to be in relationship with God, to not hate themselves. I’m looking for a way to articulate this ethic of resilience.

The story leaves one with the sense that Sims is still working out what she means by an ethic of resilience. At this point, the Times story better conveys what such an ethic looks like in the stories of survivors. At its core, Sims’ work wades into the mystery of evil’s presence in the world, juxtaposed against God’s goodness. As the Times story notes:

For Ms. Sims, such interviews went beyond racial issues to ontological ones. “The question of where God was in the midst of this evil,” she said, “is held in tension with the way God acted. They name the evil, but they recognize something beyond it.”

In trying to form a “theology of resilience,” Ms. Sims has combined the firsthand testimonies with Biblical teachings, particularly the Book of Micah with its cry for moral justice and the Gospel of Matthew with its mandate for disciples to travel the land. She has also been inspired by the essays of Alice Walker and a lecture by James H. Cone, the leading exponent of black liberation theology, about the lynching tree being the crucifix of African-American Christianity.

In helping others to bear witness, Sims is charging all our memories so that we might do more than leave the past behind. Instead, we must let the past shape how we all listen to others in the present and consider with humility how God might want us to live better in the future — for the sake of justice, for the sake of peace, and for the sake of reconciliation.

As for Sims, though it is taxing to hear such stories, she is undaunted:

There is no rest for a weary soul when you’re doing the work you were called to do.

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