Most of you know, my wife and I adopted two African children about a decade ago. We’re that strange family with three white kids and two kids of color. When we walk down the street, we get everything from strange questions like, “How did that happen?” to “Oh my gosh, you guys are so awesome.” Either way, it’s just kind of funny to watch the ‘post racial’ society deal with our strange crew called family.
Of course the news surrounding racism has heightened due to the rhetoric of this last election. You can’t turn on the news on any channel without some story of racial bias be it politically driven, institutionally driven, or socially driven by the Black Lives Matter group. It seems like Racism is the Ace of spades card many will use to demonize. After all, THE BIGGEST insult in today’s culture is to be called “racist.”
Most of you who follow my social media feed know, we had some post-election graffiti on our property. We don’t know who did it or why they did it, but my reaction that day went from Oh it’s just a bunch of teenagers to What if there is a white supremacy group in town I don’t know about? How do I protect my kids?
After I found the graffiti, I wrote a TON!! Most of the articles are sitting ready to publish, but after taking a couple of weeks away from the event, I’ve chosen to not share my thoughts on the graffiti on my house, at least publicly. It realize I was writing in fear and anger, and those articles probably need to sit on the shelf for a while.
But the more important question I’m asking today is, How did we get here? What gives anyone the right to call someone the “N” word? Or what is all the fear about when my African American friends get stopped by police authorities? Why do my Muslim friends feel like they’re living in an oppressive country? Why do so many people feel the stress and margenlization from others?
I could write volumes depending on the area, the people group, or the specifics behind consequential feelings of oppression and feeling like “the other.” But I think it’s important to start by asking myself (the only person I can really influence) a simple question, Am I a racist?
- Do I value all people?
I had a great conversation with a dear friend in Washington D.C. this week. We talked about the faith foundation of Jesus who came to preach the gospel (good news) to the poor and the oppressed. (Luke 4:18) After all, if I claim to follow the principles and teachings of Jesus, shouldn’t I be concerned with the things he is concerned with?
It’s interesting how much of my formal clergy training was about “knowledge.” It was about knowing theological systems, understanding the historical context of of the church and the rise of Monotheistic Religions. But little of my training was centered around the care for people. All people.
Jesus, on the other hand, spent most of his time listening to the pain of “the other” and bringing hope to those who are marginalized. From the good samaritan to the woman at the well, Jesus wasn’t about setting up institutions as much as he was reaching out to show the world that all people are image bearers of God.
So when I do a cursory survey of my life, if I value people, I believe the friendships I have should represent a wide swath of people. And I do. I have the most eclectic group of friends. As the old song says, “Red, Yellow, Black, and white, they are precious in his site.” Every now and then I have to ask, Are they all precious in my site?
2. Am I willing to fight for the marginalized as much as I’m willing to fight for “right-ness?”
In my early work with students I was concerned with the “right” answer. After all, if we could only group together and show the world we are logically right by believing in God, then they’ll all join us, right?
So I spent countless hours and resources to learn as much as I could about “knowing” God. I knew him so well, I was able to argue with the best atheist, the most devout Muslim, the most oppressed group to prove them wrong. I would say things like Do you really believe I don’t love you? See, I’m right. It’s your problem of not-knowing, because I know….(What a jerk?)
If I ever met the Andy of 2004, I don’t think I would even be friends with that guy. Full of arrogance and “knowing” I left behind the grace and love it takes to sit and listen to real issues and stand up for people instead of standing up for “right-ness.”
Today I ask myself, and I invite you to join me, are we more willing to be “right” than we are to reach out to another and care for the needs of our neighbors? Because if we are, I believe we are departing from the message of Jesus.
3. Can I stare into my own dark heart and deal with issues in my life
I’ve watched a lot of people say “I’m not a racist,” and disregard the real issues going on around the country. I think I fall into that category much of the time. Not because I don’t have issues, but because it’s easier to just say a line of justification without doing the hard work of being a person of inclusion.
Do I see the same opportunities for my Black friends as I do my White friends?
Am I wiling to listen to the issues of my Muslim friends as much as I’m wiling to declare my own faith non-negotiable?
Can I remove myself from the lust of being on the “right” side to stand with people that may be crying out for help?
As vulnerable as I can be, I want to admit my failures of racism in my own life, and learn what it means to fix those issues. I want to sit and listen to the pain of those who are oppressed, and stand with them in their pain. I want to weep with those who weep, and hunger for the righteousness given by Jesus and the good news he came to bear witness for.
Instead of running from all the racial issues in America today, can we stop and reflect? Can we see the blind spots in our our narrative to be enlightened to know the history, the culture, and the environment for another?
That’s what I’m thinking today….
As always, your comments are always welcome, and friendly debate is the spirit of this site.