My thoughts wander as the congregation weaves in between the gaps among the aisles of the chapel. These days, I long for a sermon that spoke to the multifaceted nature of God and the nature that lies within me. The messages of mercy and forgiveness leave me for a want that the words have yet to satisfy. I say, when I am to forget my brother cursed the ground then called upon me to produce a bountiful harvest, what is mercy and forgiveness to a people who ask for justice?

The days prior to our service were filled with the intermingling of scripture and the sight of the most strangest of fruits in flowering dogwood trees. These are the oldest of wounds. Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. A sort of damnation is revealed when what America is converges with what America thought it was. If that place is anywhere on earth, Ferguson is burning, indeed.

Louder I say, when the hands of a nation are soiled but it is my presence that brings revulsion, what is mercy and forgiveness to a people asking for justice?

“Mercy and forgiveness, calm the waters of the want and need for justice!”

Who proclaims these things but those who don’t see themselves hanging in those trees? Ever louder, I say: Show me mercy unlike my country. Learned me forgiveness so I may not do onto my brother and sister as they have done onto me. Then try to quell the ushering of justice, for when we recognize our own sins, a healing begins.


Janan Graham-Russell is a writer based in Evanston, Illinois. In 2016, she graduated from the Howard University School of Divinity with a Master of Arts in Religious Studies. Her writing focuses on culture, history, religion and theology through Black feminist and womanist lenses. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic as well as Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (2015) and A Book of Mormons (2015). When she's not writing or doing research, she enjoys dancing to Beyonce, watching films, and spending time with her husband and infant son.

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