Category Archives: Post- racial Conversations

I need another word

 

See the source imageWe need new words.  I need new words, ones that roll off my tongue.  The colored ones get caught in my throat.  New being in Jesus Christ, these racialized ones don’t work for me.  They didn’t go down easily.  They didn’t stick to me.  I cannot make them a part of me, just take them when they treat me as foreign, my body no longer kin.

Race gets me beside myself, compared to someone else.  And I just want to be free.  I want this word off of me.  It has no right to rule over me.  I have something to say.  I have the final say in who I am and who I will be.  Still, race interrupts so frequently that I’ve grown tired and now it speaks for me.

Hold my tongue.

Hold my breath.

Die to self.

Die to who God created me to be.

Baptized with Christ, race should be dead to me.

Skin.

Ashes.

Dust.

I need to talk about it in the past tense.  Race was here.

America capitalizes on everything, even skin is its own kind of currency.  But, I am not buying it.  Change the market.  I want something else.  Because race is not another word for human.

No, I need a new word.

By God’s Name

Every Sunday, I lead our congregation in a time of intercession.  I create sacred space for persons to share their joys and concerns.  And I don’t take the task lightly.

I am certain that I am facilitating a dialogue, starting a conversation for which some cannot find the words, that I am helping persons open up and listen up.  Hands folded are the busiest.  Heads bowed work the hardest.  Knees bent are traveling at a speed not known to humanity.

I have been asked often how I came to this understanding of race.  How do I write with such conviction?  Why does the social construct have no power over me?  The answer is simple.  Prayer.  My release from the captivity of the social coloring of flesh was done in conversation. I shared my concerns about the meanings of flesh that had been attached to me and my neighbor with God.  I “took it to the Lord in prayer.”

Rather than wrestle with race, I gave it to God.  And God did not hand it back to me.  Instead, the words of Galatians 3.28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek” came to me.  They introduced themselves to me personally.  No longer some letter written to the church at Galatia, those words were addressed to me.

John Wesley said, “Prayer is where the action is” and I am a firm believer.  My best work, my hardest work, my deepest and truest convictions have come from prayer.

Here’s the prayer that I shared with our congregation yesterday.  It is proof that belief if not just walked out but talked out.  I am delivered from the social construct of race by God’s name.

***

God, we call on Your name because this is where the action is. “Author and Finisher of our faith,”[1] we need only say Your name and can consider the matter settled.  There is no doubt in the ability of Your name or the agility of Your presence.  Needing no approval rating, Your name satisfies our deepest needs.  We are met in places unseen and at times not suited to regular business hours.

You are not a nine to five God.

Because when we call on You, we are not asked to take a number or to take a seat. There is no time delay in prayer.  You never say, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

But, from our mouth to Your hand, each prayer is stamped urgent.  Holding galaxies in place and our hands, cupping the borders of oceans and collecting our tears, directing angels and speaking to our fears. “[You’ve] got the whole world in Your hands,” but, You still hold us individually, specifically and uniquely.

Not held too tight, we are not crushed by the calendar of Eternity. You do not have to fit us in but there is always room for us.  Never consumed by Your work, You have gathered with us to hear about our week, to mourn and rejoice with us.  You want to hear our story just as much as we want to hear Yours.

With elbows on pew, You have come to participate in our lives, to see what this worship service is about. And to answer those who call on Your name.

We are so grateful that we can mark You present, God.

You have heard our prayers; now give us the faith to mark You present in our homes and in hospital rooms, in war- torn countries and in divided nations, on playgrounds and at cafeteria lunch tables, in the halls of government and in our schools, in hopeless corners of the world and in hearts battered and bruised by addiction, depression, rejection and abandonment. Let us be marked present.  Encourage us to use Your name as an action word and not an excuse.

In Your name, we pray, act, help, love, protect, defend and serve all You have created. Amen.

__________________

[1] Hebrews 12.2

Not Worth Much

Image result for the priceYesterday, I shared a message with the congregation titled, “Costly Obedience.”  Unpacking the well- known hymn recorded in Philippians 2.5-11, I invited listeners to consider again the price that Christ paid for our sins.  It was a costly obedience because he was obedient to the point of death– not obedient for personal gain, not agreeable to pacify.  Christ was obedient to the end of himself, his will to live surrendered for our sake.

But, we see so much death these days.  With church bombings in Egypt and the gassing of children in Syria, we could get use to it.  Paranoia or succumbing to our circumstances seem to be the only viable options.  However, this is not simply “the world we live in now”; it is the world we have created.  Not to be confused with the kingdom of God, this is not heaven for any of us.  Persons are paying the price for our theological disagreements, our contests for power and need for recognition with their lives.  This kind of belief paid in dead children’s bodies is an unfathomable exchange.

This, of course, led me to begin thinking about the identities we hold on to, inherit and pass down to our children.  In America’s racialized society, we fight for colored bodies, for black power, white power and visibility.  Somehow, we learned that this identity connects us to some truth greater than ourselves, that being defined by the social coloring of skin is worth something.  And persons will spend their lives emptying themselves of their culture, language and mannerisms in order to be filled with “whiteness.”   For many, it is believed to be the complete and full expression of our humanity, the supreme (human) being.

Race is a kind of religion with a racialized deity, creating good and bad bodies.  We create Christ in our image to prove that our bodies are valuable.  But, what does it cost to be a racial being?  Who paid the price for us to call ourselves beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white?  Surely, it is was not Christ.  Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could become white people– but God’s people.

How much did it cost?  Did persons really die so that you and I could identify as a socially colored person or in order for you to have the rights that belong to all human beings, regardless of the constructs that we create to withhold them?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  But, what of our racialized selves do we bury?  What funeral service have we held for black power or white nationalism?  Show me where we have buried this social identity?

Disproven by all sciences, we continue to keep race alive.  And if we have learned nothing of death, it is this– our skin serves no purpose in a grave.  When I look at Christ’s cross, I am reminded that the identity offered in race is not worth much.

 

Not My Problem

Image result for not my problem image

I am at a meeting of clergy for three days of specialized training in interim ministry.  Day one focuses on theories.  On the second day, the facilitator offered a few tools and way too many personal stories.  But, when we began a discussion about power and he wanted to move to his next slide, the group of mostly European Americans wanted to say more.  He sat down in his chair uncomfortably.  He had not prepared for this.

Without prompting, they begin to critique their own privileges and then someone said, “And we need to listen to those who don’t share the same experience.”  Another clergywoman saw this as an opportunity and began, “I am a black woman.  I am a minority.  I am powerless.”  She is perhaps 20 years my senior and of a different time.  She bears the scars to prove it and most of our colleagues can remember when she got them.  I had only read about them and watched documentaries.

But, I realized that it was not only age or time that created distance between us.  I could not agree with her statement.  And while the social construct of race would suggest that we think the same and share the same beliefs, it left me no other choice but to challenge its omniscience.  My heart was pounding by now; the words were throbbing in my head.  “Let us out,” they seemed to say.  I am not one to hold back truth so I let them go.

“I do not identify with the social construct of race.  I don’t believe that human beings are colored people, that there are beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white people.  I would not describe myself as a minority as we are all counted as human beings.  And I am not powerless.  I enter the world with power; consequently, no one can give or take my power away.”

So, apparently, I am an anomaly.  My comments were met with silence– though we have a Word- God who affirms our being down to the hairs of our head (Matthew 10.30).  Afterwards, another clergywoman thanked me for sharing my perspective.  She wished she could see as I did.  For me, she, too, was expressing powerlessness.   “These are not my eyes.  I am not in control of what I see.  I can’t see anything else.”

She went on to talk about the fights that she had engaged in for the rights of others.  I expressed that I had also chosen not to start there.  I do not have to live on a battlefield.  I have rejected the fights of the past, decided not to enlist or allow anyone to force me to sign up.  No human being can tell me who I am or am not– and I don’t have to fight for my identity.

She started to credit her generation for my position but this too was rejected.  God had given me this vision: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.18, NRSV).  This was not my problem because I accepted God’s promise.  I pray that you would accept it as well.

Receive this holy vision.  This is my prayer.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

Questioning Race during Advent

IMG_0103.JPGChrist has come! This first Sunday of Advent reminds us that power was found in a cradle– not a crown.  Like persons in Jesus’s day, we are guilty of looking for him in the wrong places and among the wrong people.  As outlined in his stories, Jesus came to rearrange and change the order of things, beginning with himself.

The first will be last (Matthew 20.16). The greatest will be the servant (Matthew 23.11). Love your enemies (Matthew 5.44).  God becomes a human being.  A virgin will give birth to God.

In order to bring salvation to the world, God runs to a woman’s womb– not for office. God is with her.

Creator God becomes “Infant God” as described by Francois Mauriac in his book The Son of Man. So, how is it that the Divine is capable of such humility and we are not?  The only supreme power, God did not need skin, the social coloring of it or a cultural affiliation, because it is not needed for the image of a God.

The Word became flesh; the transformative power then rests with the Word and not the flesh.

God did more than meet us where we are; in Christ, God became one of us.  So, how is it that we are so different?  God is divine and yet, without obstacle in maintaining a relationship with us. Still, we cannot seem to get around race.

If God is with us all, then why do we use race against “them”?  Jesus came as the Savior of the world so what about us allows for self- segregation? Coming in the flesh to save us, why do we continue to deny the humanity of our sisters and brothers who can only be human?

God is with us, looking on and listening in as we make some people invisible and unheard of. Why do we do that despite the fact that Christ has come?