Recently I watched a Tedtalk by Margaret Heffernan on willful blindness. While listening to her talk I was reminded of Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail. In this letter Dr. King wrote about how his disappointment with the church, due to the paralysis and silence of his white brothers and sisters in the faith. “I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”(Birmingham Jail; King. pg.4). The church at the time was aware of grave social injustices, and yet chose to wait…they chose to play it safe; not to have the hard conversations, or to get involved in the eradication of injustice, hoping that it would just work itself out. In choosing not to participate in the suffering, and struggles of their brothers and sisters in the faith, the church willingly allows itself to succumb to apathy; becoming numb to the plight of others. Their willful blindness caused them to ignore that they were unified with the disempowered through Christ.
Many things have changed since the sit ins, marches, and Jim Crow laws of the of the late 50’s & 60’s; however in many ways our churches do the same thing today. We still in many ways subtly refuse to believe that racism, classism, and sexism are still issues that plague our city, and effect our congregations. Since the injustices of today aren’t always as obvious as they use to be; it’s become second nature for us to sit on our hands and pretend that America has rid itself of these issues. So yet again we, the church find ourselves tip toeing around these hard topics, hoping that they’ll one day resolves themselves, while parts of our body suffer in silence; shouldering the weight of justice alone…feeling neglected and unloved. Instead of being a place where the wounded come to receive healing, we allow the wounds of the wounded to fester in the open air of our indifference further silencing the voice of the disempowered. Where is our unity? In the end our willful blindness will be one of the biggest failures we have to own as the church. How will justify not standing with the least of these when his word has made it clear that that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do?