Essay

Two Weeks

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It’s been two weeks now since the massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. church.

Two weeks of learning just how apt the name Emanuel is for that church.

Two weeks of learning the stories of the nine extraordinary people who, in welcoming the stranger, lived out their faith until the very end. Two weeks of learning what grace means in the testimonies of their survivors, like Alana Simmons—whose grandfather, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., was murdered—who said, “We are here to combat hate-filled actions with love-filled actions. And that is what we want to get out to the world.”

Two weeks full of many words—some that have moved me deeply, some that have challenged me spiritually, some that been extremely insightful, some that have made me absolutely despair.

I thought about offering some of my own words this morning. I’m an English professor, after all, and I process best through language. But if the events of Charleston (and the continued arson of African-American churches and Ferguson and Baltimore and and and) have taught me anything, it is that now is a time for me (and people similarly privileged like me) to indeed learn. By humbly listening. It’s not a particularly original point, I realize, but it is clearly one that bears repeating.

I’m encouraged that even Job’s friends—so awful throughout much of that narrative—had the right impulse initially (it’s their self-righteous talking that got them in trouble). Job 2 reports:

12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was.

The brevity of the blog today is meant, then, to serve a similar purpose: to mark out a space for grief, a call to action. A virtual moment of silence and respect and celebration for the lives and powerful witness of Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

Let those who have ears hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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