We have two gospel healing stories this week, and it’s a good thing, because our world needs a lot of healing. One story, wrapped inside the other, grabs my attention right now. It’s the story of the woman who has a hemorrhage which has gone on for 12 years – and it was getting worse. In those days, such a condition would make a woman perpetually unclean under Jewish law, not to mention the practical challenge of dealing with a flow of blood all the time. She was condemned twice – physically and religiously. She must have wondered why.
It’s impossible not to make the connection to our own day, when the bleeding caused by the caustic combination of racism and guns in America only gets worse and worse. As a citizen of this country, I feel sullied – unclean – by this lethal scourge. I feel ashamed that we cannot, or will not, take real action to stop it.
The woman somehow knew that she had to touch Jesus – connect with him – in order for her long illness to end. She stopped at nothing to reach him. She didn’t ask permission; she just went ahead and grabbed his cloak. And her faith in Jesus became her healing.
I can’t believe this country is arguing over a confederate flag flying at the South Carolina state capitol. Of course it must come down! It was the flag of a treasonous rebellion against our union of states. No government entity should endorse it! It was raised over the S.C. capitol not to mark the “heritage” of the state, but as a protest against civil rights for black people in 1962. Are we still arguing over this in 2015? That flag has to come down, but that’s not nearly enough.
We must reach out and connect with Jesus. We have to be converted, changed, healed, all of us. As individuals we may or may not be racists. We must all judge ourselves. But that’s not the point. We live in a country where our structures are still racist. Our police can be racist. Our electoral gerrymandering is clearly racist. Our voter restrictions are racist. Our media coverage is often racist. Our shamefully lax gun laws and so-called “Stand your ground” laws are racist. Paul Krugman points out that, of the 22 states which have refused to expand Medicaid for their poor people at federal expense, all but one were members of the slaveholding Confederacy. Is this a coincidence? This country is still generating white supremacists like Dylann Roof. Why?
It’s been not 12 years of bleeding, but 300 years in America. By 1620 the number of enslaved African persons in these colonies was 20,000 and growing. Race, violence, and economic exploitation were joined in a horrible practice condoned by American society and law.
Slavery may have been officially outlawed in the 1860’s, but the bleeding hasn’t stopped yet. Nine Christians in Charleston are only the latest in a long line. As followers of Jesus, we must ask ourselves why. JBM