Last week I wrote an an open letter to you all about the events of the last few weeks and my response to them as your pastor. (“Whose House is it? A letter to God’s people of the Ann Arbor CRC”) I knew as I sent it that some would agree and some would not. These issues are hard and complicated and also necessary to speak openly about. I wrote this letter in love. And, in love, Ron Reimink crafted a response. What follows is his response to my letter in hopes that it may continue to move us all to have restorative conversations that are so central to who we are as the church of Jesus Christ. May God grant us grace as we have them. I am thankful to Ron for his words of wisdom and his spirit of love.
Whose house is it? the conversation continues
Guest post by
Ron Reimink, member of Ann Arbor CRC
What follows is the contents (with minor edits) of my email response to Pastor Ryan’s blog sent in the recent Connections email. After we talked about this, Pastor Ryan asked if I would share my thoughts with the congregation as a way to continue and encourage more conversation around his blog. I believe that would be a good thing, but I do not want to stimulate division or controversy. So, I share this with some concern and humility as one who does not often write for public consumption.
Ryan, first of all, thank you for your openness, honesty, and freedom to share your feelings and experience with the issues that surround the death of George Floyd and the broader racial tensions. I admire and appreciate people like yourself who feel deeply, are willing to share those feelings, and then act on what they believe is an appropriate response. You have done that before and it makes you, I believe, a stronger pastor with a clearer message.
I confess I rarely have the same active response inclination. I have typically found that my response to something as repulsive and grotesque as the killing of Mr. Floyd is to dig deeper into the issue to try and understand how this can happen. I will admit that I often try to find something to “balance” out the extreme negativity that has led to violence, destruction, and even more death. I have done a fair amount of thinking, reading, and listening through the week trying to develop as complete a picture of our situation as I can. I came across a few things that add perspective for me. You may or may not be aware of them already, but I share them with you in hopes that they can be helpful to you too. (Some files of background information were attached to my email that included two blogs on racism, a reference to a podcast that was particularly helpful to me, and a copy of an op-ed piece that discussed systemic police racism as a myth based on a large pool of data. If anyone would like to see those, I can forward them.)
Finally, Ryan, you included in your blog your reaction to and your extreme disappointment with the president. I understand and agree that Donald Trump chose to do an awkward, unwise thing in having the street cleared and doing his photo op event in front of the church. I see Mr. Trump as a clumsy, often caustic communicator who takes actions that I don’t understand, and that I wish my president wouldn’t do. In my view he is a flawed man. On the other hand, I do find that many governmental actions he has done or promoted are positive and beneficial; things that are often barely visible in the daily news. That all boils down to a political conversation about how to feel and what to do about the good and the bad of an individual leader. I don’t think we need to engage in the political conversation now. However, I think you carried the issue further than you should have in casting very harsh criticism, referring to the president as making himself an idol, and judging him and his motivations as evil, including those who may defend him. Please be careful. You appropriately ended your blog with the passage from Isaiah that spoke of coming judgement, but I understand that to refer to God’s judgment which he reserves for himself. So, my caution to you would be in that regard.
Ryan, as I said in my email above, I appreciate your heart felt concern and your example of acting on that concern. I also have long appreciated your pastoral work and preaching in our community. Please accept my comments in the spirit in which you offered yours. Real feelings offered with love.
After sending the above to Pastor Ryan, he and I shared a cup of coffee on our patio and enjoyed a good, open conversation about all these thoughts. There was a lot of agreement, and where differences did exist, minds were not suddenly changed, but I think we both had a greater understanding and appreciation of the other’s thoughts…at least I did. I understand that Ryan is offering his views and experience not simply as an individual, but as one who is compelled by his calling to speak through the lens of the gospel and the training of the church. I certainly respect and appreciate that even though others, even other pastors, may see it in a different light. I hope my thoughts might be helpful to some and pray that God blesses us all as we live through these challenging times.
– Ron Reimink