Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
If you go to a university that is known for the song “Rocky Top,” then it would seem likely that you might study geology. Geology met my science requirement. So I have some understanding of how the earthquake in Nepal happened. The Indian subcontinent plate pushed against and under the Eurasian plate. The constant crashing of the two plates formed and continues to form the Himalayan mountain range. There is already Internet speculation on how the earthquake might have changed the height of Mount Everest.
Dr. Lung S. Chan of the University of Hong Kong said, “Earthquakes dissipate energy, like lifting the lid off a pot of boiling water. But it builds back up after you put the lid back on.”
These geological stories can frame how we look at Baltimore. The forces of poverty, hopelessness, and race crash into institutions, economic disparity, and racism. Another Black young man dies in an arrest. Protests turn violent. The National Guard trucks arrive along with all the television vans. Statements are made, promises are given, prayers are lifted, and the lid goes back on the pot. Dr. Chan went on to say, “After an earthquake, the plates resume moving and the clock resets.”
Yes, the clock resets and all of the ingredients for a situation like Baltimore resume.
I had an English teacher in high school who gave a spelling test every Monday. I would routinely do poorly on it. We would swap papers with our neighbor, who would grade your test. Then you had to give your score out loud when the teacher called your name. The image is still burned into my head of her hearing my score and leaning over her lectern and shaking her head with a look that said, “Are you ever going to get this right?”
I think she would do that today about racism. I think she would assign us all extra homework until we greet the day when we live with each other as equally valued children of God. The day when we cast the pot aside and walk into a common future of hopefulness for every child. That day can’t come unless we work at it. It is holy work.