It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? A heartbreaking week. A heartwarming week. We’ve had so much else to think about that the virus was almost forgotten.
I want to thank the city of Worthington and the police and fire departments and District 518 for their amazing support of our graduating high school seniors. I especially want to thank the people of Worthington for coming out en masse to support our kids. It was an amazing turn out, all along the parade route, and our kids felt like kings and queens after two and a half long months of isolation. It was a moment that they, and we as their parents, will never forget.
I think what struck me the most was that everyone came out in support of our kids, regardless of skin color, regardless of personal knowledge of the students. The support was universal, taking in all of the beauty and diversity of our town. That is the Minnesota I know and love.
Yet in the middle of that support, just a three-hour drive north revealed that all is not perfect in the State of Minnesota. Let me be perfectly clear: I don’t have words adequate enough to say what should be said regarding the death of George Floyd. I know that anything I say — or, in fact, saying nothing at all — can be taken the wrong way.
All I know is that every part of what has happened is horribly wrong. Mr. Floyd’s death was appalling. The behavior and attitudes of the police officers involved was horrifying. The destruction and rioting is also horrific. The system, the hate, the country, needs to change.
Many years ago I spent Thanksgiving in Tunisia in Northern Africa. While I was there, I experienced — in a tiny and short-lived way — what it is like to be the “other." Over the course of the few days we spent there, the five of us American women were harassed, jeered at and followed, and one of us had her wallet stolen in an elaborate and organized act of deception. Because of that, despite the good things about Tunisia that I saw and experienced, I have an overlying sense of foreboding when I think about Tunisia.
I experienced that discomfort and harassment for five days. An infinitesimal amount of time, really. And then I went home, back to West Germany, back to safety. Back to my comfortable, white world. I cannot imagine living with that fear as a constant for my entire life. To have the good things in my life be under an ever-present shadow of concern. To be, day in and day out, the “other."
I don’t know why it came about that to be “other” is to be less. That attitude is as appalling as the death of Mr. Floyd. The notion that every man is created equal is not just a cute ideal of democracy. It is Biblical. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). God didn’t send his son into the world just to save white people. Jesus was Jewish, for goodness sake! God sent his son into the world to save the world because he loves the world. The whole, colorful, beautiful collage of people he created.
If we call ourselves Christians and if we want to do what Jesus would do, then there is no other option but to love the world as he does. Trouble is, of course, we’re human and, therefore, incapable of loving the way Jesus loves. But I do believe that if people genuinely strive to see “others” the way Jesus sees them — each one worthy of his death on a cross — then and only then will we have any hope of changing the depths of racism in our nation.
I mentioned John 3:16. That verse is followed by an equally wonderful verse. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Jesus didn’t come to condemn. He came to save us from ourselves.
One other thing happened this week that kind of broke my heart. I will no longer be writing "The Disheveled Theologian" for The Globe as a result of cuts made due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After six years of my column, I will miss it, and you, very much.
I would, however, like to invite you all to join me instead at www.gretchenodonnell.com. There you can find new "Disheveled Theologian" content as well as revisited columns that you have seen published in The Globe. I plan to post every Tuesday. I truly, honestly and massively, would love for you to come and “follow” me there as I pursue getting a book of my writings published. In the publishing world, the more people who “like” me — the more “followers” I have — the better potential publishers will view my prospects. So please come and find me! You can even comment on the posts and we can have some "Disheveled" discussions!
I cannot say how much I have valued and loved my years of writing "The Disheveled Theologian." I would like to thank The Globe for the opportunity to have been a part of their paper each week for so many years. Their support has been such a blessing. I would like to thank you, my readers, as well, for your part in my life, for your comments to me in the grocery store, for your emails and encouragement. You have been a blessing, and I am forever grateful.
Goodbye, farewell and amen.
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is email@example.com.