This pandemic has certainly brought out the best in people in so many ways. At the same time, it has also brought out the worst.
Recent protests against stay-at-home orders in various states have included signs and comments that have been disparaging to Asian Americans. Unfortunately, this is symptomatic of a growing racism that is rearing its ugly head during this pandemic as uneducated people blame those of Asian descent for the coronavirus.
On the plus side, this trend is being recognized early and our own United Church of Christ is in the forefront of combating it. One tool that is being used is a letter that has been signed by a host of UCC clergy, including myself, that addresses this insidious development.
The letter was co-written by Rev. John Dorhauer, our General Minister and President of the UCC, and Rev. Traci Blackmon, our Associate General Minister for Justice and Local Church Ministries of the UCC, and Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, our General Minister of Wider Church Ministries of the UCC.
The letter begins with what I find to be a well-crafted definition of racism by Rev. Blackmon:
“Racism is real. Racism originates from the unholy belief that there are human groups with particular social and physical characteristics that make them superior or inferior to another human group.”
And the letter itself reads like this:
“Since the outbreak and spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout our country and world, there has been an unconscionable surge of xenophobic attacks against our Asian American and Pacific Islander kindred across this country. Many of these attacks are the predictable outcome of the intentional spread of misinformation and the amplification of denigrating remarks even from the highest office of leadership in this country.
We are in the midst of a devastating public health crisis only worsened by divisive remarks and violent attacks on Chinese and Asian Americans—including members of our own church—who are as innocently traumatized by the effects of COVID-19 as anyone else.
As people of faith, we have a moral and theological responsibility to use our unique religious platform to condemn the inherent evil of such actions that fuel hatred and jeopardize the safety and well-being of anyone. We have a responsibility to quell fear and not ignite it. We have a responsibility to share only information that is true and to refute information that is false. These are biblical principles to which we are compelled to adhere.
Let us, as the church, be unequivocally clear that the dissemination of false information regarding the origin and spread of COVID-19 in order to incite racial and xenophobic attacks against either American citizens or people from anywhere in the global community is morally reprehensible, spiritually bereft, and antithetical to the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ.
As officers of the United Church of Christ, we strongly urge both our members and the wider church and society to actively resist false assertions with truth, divisive comments with positive affirmations and acts of solidarity, and hatred with lavish expressions of love. Let us reach out to our Chinese and Asian American kindred in tangible ways to remind them they are not alone. We have heard stories of violence, pain, and targeting from inside and outside of the United Church of Christ. Such actions cause deep harm to those persons and to the entire body of Christ. Therefore, we strongly urge you to only share confirmed and verifiable information pertaining to COVID-19, how it spreads, and how Americans should protect themselves.
And beyond that we implore you to share love. If you agree with us, please consider adding your name to this letter with ours.
We will survive COVID-19 and yet we will forever be changed by its presence among us. The moral question we face at this time is: Who shall we become in the midst of it all? Even as the world is changing all of us, our mission remains the same: United in Spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.”
You can find this letter and sign on yourself by visiting the United Church of Christ national website. I am proud that we belong to a church that is aware of this aspect of the pandemic and is taking action on it.
And I hope that, as this pandemic continues, you will strive to spread love within your sphere of influence as opportunities present themselves.
Now is a time to build unity, not foster division.