Journeying toward Repentance

McCarty, James


Today’s Voices for Justice post is from Jimmy McCarty, a Campus Minister for Social Justice and an adjunct professor at Seattle University. He is also a founding editor of Symposium Ethics

The United States has had many “Jonahs” throughout its history. People who have traversed our cities telling us to repent of our sins so that we might receive God’s grace rather than the judgment we deserve for our racism. Rather than emulating Ninevah and listening to the prophets God has sent our way, however, we have often rejected the message brought by these prophets. Indeed, we’ve too often killed and imprisoned the “Jonahs” sent our way when they have spoken directly about the need for repentance of the peculiar evil of American racism.


Do we hear our modern-day prophets?

And still today there are “Jonahs” in our midst, walking through our streets, proclaiming loudly that #BlackLivesMatter, that migrants are humans with rights, and that Muslims from across the ocean are neighbors. “Repent,” these Jonahs tell us. “Turn from your prejudices born of fear,” they shout. “Dismantle the structures of racism that shape our lives,” they demand. Yet we do not sit in sackcloth and ashes. We do not turn from our injustice and violence. We do not repent.

And, therefore, we cannot hope for God’s grace. We cannot expect that God will turn back from the way of judgment.

Unless, of course, we repent in these gracious days God still grants us. But sackcloth and ashes won’t be enough repentance. Not today. Today we need listen to our prophets and follow their lead to build a beloved community.

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