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Beyond Repentance

Greetings WIN community,

We will go before God to be judged, and God will ask us, “Where are your wounds? And we will say, “We have not wounds.”  And God will ask, “Was nothing worth fighting for?”-Allan Boesak, anti-Apartheid activist

Repent – 1: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to amendment of one’s life

 2 a: to feel regret and contrition b: to change one’s mind -Webster’s Dictionary

A reader responded to my article on “Why We Need to Repent” saying that she had learned from a faith leader from Rwanda that wrongdoers must ASK for forgiveness for their actions, thereby clearly identifying the wrong and it is then up to those being ASKED to forgive.  She added, “While a nuance, it is slightly different than the vague apologies we are hearing/seeing as violence against others is being revealed in our own nation by media.”

In my faith journey as a Christian and Protestant, I have been taught that repentance is not just being sorry, but closer to the first Webster Dictionary definition.  To me, repentance means learning, accepting and acknowledging that I am off course; that I am committed to changing what I have been doing wrong and making amends to those who have been hurt.

Racism is the wrongdoing for our society for which we urgently need to repent.  Racism has been defined in brief as “prejudice plus power.”  It is also a sin against people of color.  Making amends to whole communities and vast groups of people, fighting the status quo and power structure, and changing institutions and the way people think.  This will take years of work, but is urgently needed now.  We who identify ourselves as recovering racists need to be gatekeepers for acting with faith.

No easy answers exist for ending institutionalized racism 500 years in the making.  When we pull away one layer, we may only reveal another layer.  Unraveling can sometimes make things worse in the short term to get at the source for long-lasting change, creating risks to weigh.

An editorial in the Riverton Ranger this past week suggested that the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone should not waste their finances to appeal a decision unfavorable to the tribes regarding the border dispute for the Wind River Indian Reservation.  Four years ago the Wyoming legislators voted overwhelmingly without hesitation to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state budget to appeal the original EPA decision for the tribes to be able to monitor the air quality in Riverton.

Talk about layers of racism!  Dissect that one if you will.  The layers go back to Europeans claiming this land as theirs with authority coming from the Pope, Congress unilaterally allowing settlers to take land that had been reserved by treaty, Native American soldiers from the Wind River Reservation in World War II not allowed to embark or disembark on the train in Riverton and the use of taxpayer funds which includes revenues from the Wind River Reservation to finance a lawsuit against the interests of the Wind River Reservation.  This is only a few.

I wrote a personal letter to the editor in response to the Riverton Ranger editorial.  We will see if it gets printed.  As I wrote it, I confess that I worried about whom I might offend, including friends, should my letter get printed.  Shame on me!  But I did submit it.

Fear not. Be bold. Build bridges. Do justice.


Chesie Lee

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