My friend Easel Roberts sent significant comments about my last posting. (If you haven't read them yet, I hope you will do so now.) He wrote, in part, ". . . the response I have to Cone's book and speech as well as this blog is 'and therefore, I should do what?' In my opinion, without an 'and therefore we should . . .' we are only irritating old wounds which does nobody any good."
I think Easel's "complaint" is a legitimate one, and one that calls for serious thought. Let me share what I am thinking at this point, and what I write below is directed not just to him but to all of us.
So, what should we do? For starters let me suggest the following:
(1) We should ask ourselves if our knowledge of past events, especially those related to the oppression or mistreatment of other people, is accurate and adequate. Most of us, I'm afraid, are lacking on both counts; that is, we have been taught and have long accepted ideas that are often only half-truths, and we have usually had a less than adequate understanding of past events (such as the extent of the suffering caused by slavery or by the conquest of Native Americans). Seeking to gain a more nearly accurate and adequate understanding of the past is an important first step.
(2) We should examine ourselves to see if we harbor any attitudes or engage in any activities that exacerbate the problem(s). Nothing is gained by feeling guilty--unless we are, indeed, guilty. And again, most of us, I'm afraid, have held and perhaps still hold attitudes and have engaged in and perhaps still engage in activities for which we need to repent. If we have honestly repented, or if, which is probably unlikely, we have not committed any sins for which we need to repent, there is no need to feel guilty and we can just brush aside whatever blame we might hear.
(3) We should consider what we can do to help alleviate the pain of those who are still suffering because of the sins of the past--if not our sins, the sins of our forefathers, in many cases. We, obviously, cannot all do the same thing, and there is no way I can say what any of you should do. In this, as in other cases, we all have to work out our own salvation "with fear and trembling" (see Philippians 2:12).
Concerning this third point, let me suggest two important things to remember: (i) We may not be able to do much, but we can do something; and (ii) because we are doing something, that does not mean we are doing all we should do.