‘We arrived where we are now not overnight, but over time’

Diane Moffett: We’ve seen insurrection and devastation before

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE ­— The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett sees parallels between last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the guidance the prophet Jeremiah gave to the exiles in Babylon, found in Jeremiah 29.

“Doubt is in the atmosphere,” Moffett said of Jeremiah’s time as she delivered the chapel Worship homily Wednesday. “Disillusionment is in the air. Depression is knocking on the door. The same may be true for many in this nation today.”

Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, called last week’s storming of the Capitol “a classic example of white privilege and white supremacy that’s baked into the foundation of this nation. Let’s just say had it been Black, brown and Indigenous people of color headed to the Capitol with flags and guns and bombs and plastic ties, the bloodshed, the arrests and the deaths would have been much higher.”

It’s not Antifa or the Black Lives Matter movement that presents the largest domestic threat to democracy. Rather, Moffett noted, citing the Department of Homeland Security, it’s white supremacists “and other domestic violence extremists who present the most persistent and lethal threat to this nation.”

Taking a step forward and several steps back is nothing new, Moffett noted.

“Check the historical record,” she said. During the Reconstruction years, 1865-77, “this country had a moment of progress,” Moffett said. More than 600 Black people were elected as state legislators, most of them formerly enslaved people. Eighteen Black people were elected to statewide office, and 16 to Congress. In 1872, Louisiana voters elected P.B.S. Pinchback as the first Black governor in the nation’s history; it would be 1990 until the nation’s next Black governor, Douglas Wilder, would be elected, in Virginia.

“Reconstruction was dismantled with precision and violence by white supremacists like those we witnessed last week,” Moffett said. Sadly, it’s the church, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), that’s helped “to feed this beast of white supremacy and racism through its silence and tactical methods” by which Sunday worship “remains as the most segregated hour of the week.”

“When you feed the ugly beast of racism, it will soon rise and attack,” Moffett said. “The insurrection on the day of Epiphany is sending some of us into a strangely familiar exile.”

Israel knew “about being in exile,” she said. Its leaders “failed to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

But Jeremiah “keeps it real,” she said. “Sometimes there is no microwave miracle for the mess we are in, no instant solution for the sad situations we face. We arrived where we are now not overnight, but over time.”

God gave those in exile two main instructions, she noted. First, they should “go build in the midst of exile, in the midst of difficult times. Marry, have babies and have your babies have babies,” they were told. “Build, plant gardens, go to work, seek the welfare of the city: put on your masks, wash your hands and seek social distancing.”

In addition, they must pray for the city in which they dwell. “You’ve got to act, but there’s a deeper surgery that has to happen in the hearts and minds of the people,” she said. “Pray for the space you occupy, for our neighborhoods and our communities and for other nations in the world.”

For if we pray “and seek God’s face with all our heart,” as the prophet said, “we will encounter God — and we just might learn something about ourselves.”

While she’s heard comments that the insurrection and the violence it produced “is not who we are,” while “it’s not all of who we are, in fact it is who we are,” Moffett said. “It’s a part of our story.”

Remember Jeremiah’s words, she urged: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

“Remember the one who makes our plans and orders our steps,” Moffett said. “He’s the baby born in the manger. He’s Emmanuel, God with us. He is preacher, teacher, healer, counselor and king; he is my everything.

“He is the one who calls and corrects us, comforts and directs us, cleanses and connects us with God through the Holy Spirit.

“He’s the rock on which we can build, the shepherd in whom we can trust. He’s the deliverer and liberator who saves the lost and brings back the backsliders.”

Moffett offered these words during her benediction: “Keep the faith. Keep building, laboring and working on behalf of the one who has called us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.

“Keep doing what you are doing,” she said, “trusting in God.”

View Wednesday’s worship service here.

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