June 10, 2019
On June 5, 2019, a member of our board of elders retweeted a news story in which two women in burkas reportedly held up a jewelry story in India. The elder, who teaches at a local college, commented in his tweet as follows:
"I can see how this form of dress would work in a traditional village where everyone knows everyone, but in a modern, urban, connectionless society? I don't trust people with their hoodies pulled up or with tinted car windows."
The following day, his tweet provoked outrage among online readers, who described it as racist, and he deleted it. Upon learning of this on June 7, the Trinity Church elders met with the elder who posted it. He had been made aware of the cultural context that makes it reasonable, even natural, to read his words as racist, and thus was fully receptive to instruction regarding their racialized overtones. He is deeply remorseful for his sinful carelesness and for the hurt he has caused his readers.
His statement of repentance follows:
"A few days ago, I tweeted what I thought was a reflection on the importance of being able to see one another's faces in a modern, disconnected society. I referenced burkas, hoodies, and heavily tinted car windows. I completely missed the hoodie connection with the racial profiling and prejudice that young African-American brothers suffer, in particular its symbolic weight coming out of the Trayvon Martin shooting. It was ignorant of me to miss this and I deeply apologize. Because this important page was missing from my cultural lexicon, people understandably heard what was far from my mind. But people whom I love - especially students and former students - were hurt and justly angry, and this devastates me. The scourge of racial prejudice has been a blight on American life, and I inadvertently contributed to the pain of it. For this I ask forgiveness."
To this, the Trinity Church elders jointly add the following affirmations:
- We affirm the equal worth and dignity of all human beings "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9), and that all human beings are made in the image of God.
- We affirm that in the body of Christ, the church, those redeemed from every tribe, language, people, and nation are "all one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28).
- We acknowledge that "the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness" (James 3:6), and we affirm the duty of all Christians to refrain not only from speech that expresses dishonor or distrust toward people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, but also from speech that could reasonably be perceived as expressing such dishonor or distrust.
- We confess the sinfulness of treating others as inferior or unworthy of honor or trust on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status; we reaffirm our commitment to teach, and to learn how to teach, the whole counsel of God against this sin; we commit ourselves to repent of it whenever it may be found among us, together with all "causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto" (Larger Catechism 99.6); and we reaffirm our commitment to actively promote justice, understanding, reconciliation, and peace among people of all races and ethnicities, and to oppose all racialized divisions, suspicions, prejudices, and hostilities among individuals and in institutional systems and structures.