Race who?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.”

| Ludwig Wittgenstein

Most persons feel compelled to answer to race and to question those who don’t.  “Who does race say that you are?”  Skin deep, the epitome of superficial meaning, we speak as if its value is apparent, a parent and second creator.  It is a rebirth, a remaking, a new creation made in the image of whiteness.

A social righteousness, we pray, “Make my skin light, lighter, lightest of all.  Amen.”  We baptize our skin in bleach, hoping that chemicals will straighten out the tangled mess our hair has made, that our noses won’t get in the way, that our big mouths won’t get us into trouble.  We wrestle with flesh and blood in hopes of being pinned with this prized social perfection.

Blue ribbon skin.  Trophy flesh.  First place in the race contest.  It is faith in skin filled in, in skin that fills in for our faith.

We believe that race makes us or breaks us, that it all comes down to our physical appearance.  We talk of race as if it is the only way in which we fully identify, that we cease to exist without these colored words, that our flesh fails us unless it is colored in.   In race, “we live, move and have our being.”

We behave like we all fit into these boxes, that everyone has to go into one of them: beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white.   Get in.  Squeeze in.  We’ve all got to fit in.  And we say this while espousing the belief that we are buried with Christ.

Still, race gets up and in our faces.  We cannot look away.  Picking at our flesh, we feel that this is real.  We open our mouths to answer to it.

But, why?  Instead, question it.  Race does not tell you who you are and if it does, you should wonder why.  I mean have you ever met Race?  The relationship is superficial; it only knows your skin.  You don’t have to let it in.

Instead, leave it on the outside of you.  Peek through and ask, “Race, who?”

Letting down our defenses

This morning, I led a conversation on the fights that form us as Christians– red versus blue carpet, choir versus praise team, contemporary music versus hymns, offering plate versus Apple pay, suits versus skinny jeans and a t- shirt, 8 a.m. versus 11 a.m. service.  You know, deeply transformative wars for righteousness.  And these fights seemingly go on forever, handed down to each generation because we will surrender NEVER!

But, I think these fights begin within, that they are not fighting words we hear but something more difficult to discern.  Consequently, I invited the group to pray and then to silently read a section of Walter Wangerin’s “In Mirrors,” where he focuses on what shows up of ourselves in the faces of others and especially in the face of Christ.  Afterwards, I invited them to journal about what they were fighting for, fighting about, who they were really fighting with and then to surrender.  I closed this part of our time together with words that I hope will help us discern the fight within and help us let down our defenses:

All that I am striving for, climbing up the ladder and back up the ladder again after getting kicked, shoved, tripped and tricked to go back down the ladder, all that I think I want to have and know I need, all that I should have done and could have done, all that I wanted to be and never was,

I release.

All that I am fighting for, all that I have and want to keep, all that I am afraid to lose, all that I fear is slipping through my fingers,

I surrender.

All that I think I am, all that I want to be, all that I am expected to become and do and say, all of me that gets in the way of God’s will,

I give up.

All that I have a grip on and need to get a grip on, that I hold tightly while it strangely squeezes the life out of me, all that I am afraid to give up, won’t give up on, won’t give an inch on, won’t budge, won’t move,

I let go.

Today, I let down my defenses.  I choose faith and to surrender, to give up, to let go of the fight.  And before I am tempted to reach for it again, take the fight out of me.  This is my prayer.  Amen.

It’s our anniversary!

See the source imageI didn’t forget.  Though I don’t have flowers or dinner reservations, I wanted to wish us a happy eighth anniversary.  I have been writing, thinking, talking about the socio- political construct of race, the malformation of Christian community and the call to be reconciled in a world that thrives on division for 2,920 days.  It has not been easy to keep faith in the ministry of reconciliation but Christ’s bloody hands reaching out to us hold it all together.

Now I write as a matter of resistance to the old way, to the prejudicial, stereotypical way of being.  I write to die daily to race (First Corinthians 15.31).  I write to remind us that it is a daily confession, this denial of the flesh and its people- given, people- driven powers.  The raceless gospel is reminder that the power of Christianity does not lie in what our flesh can do but in what Christ did with his.

I began this blog on Ash Wednesday eight years ago.  It is a fitting reminder for the socio- political construct of race, the power we give it and the weight we throw around it.  Because in the end, we must, “Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return.”  The flesh is not worth much and it not what Jesus died for any way.  These flesh fights are all our doing and of our own making.  So today, thank you for choosing another way, to walk away from the temporal and fleeting powers of epidermis in order to pursue more closely the holy trail that Jesus is on.

I am so proud of the work that we have done together and look forward to many more years with you.  I am deeply grateful for your support, to have you as travel companions and conversation partners.  I pray for many more years and even more words to share with you.  Happy anniversary!

We can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation

reconciliation

It is so tempting to close ourselves off after deep wounding, after failed attempts to come together as people of faith.  We might ask ourselves, “Why isn’t this working out?”  Still, we must believe that God is at work, that while we want to throw our hands up in despair, God’s hands are still in.  All in.

God has not pulled away.  God still believes that we can be reconciled, that we can pull off this fellowship.  Two feet in.  When we walk by faith, we don’t take any steps back.

Because our faith is not in us but in Christ and his bloody hands are still extended.  We don’t have the option of withdrawing as his cross is an open invitation and an ongoing reception.  It’s not over until Jesus gets a hold of the one that left all ninety- nine of us (Matthew 18.12).  Jesus is the gate so we must remain open… like the Lord’s Table (John 10.7, 9).

This is why the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion is so important.  Every month or each week, we are called to come back to the table– but not back to the drawing board.  All is not lost.  Still, “It is written…”

No matter what the newspapers print and despite all of our reporting on separations, splits, divisions and disagreements, there is still a report from the Lord.  Lean forward and listen out for it.  It won’t get as much attention.  God’s voice is still and small.  Still, we are called to “be still and know that God is God” (Psalm 46.10).

So we must keep our ears open, our eyes open, our hands open, our hearts open and our mouths open.  We must be ready to give and receive the blessing of belonging, to be reminded that we belong to and with each other, that we were all made for each other.  In the end, it will all, we will all come together.   Being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, we are right where we need to be (Second Corinthians 5.18).

God’s still pulling it all together, still pulling us all together one heart string at a time.  Give it time because it is all in God’s time anyway.  God’s will be done.  All called and hearing the same command to love and hope and trust, we can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation.

 

When fighting, leave race out of it

See the source image

“America is in trouble, and a lot of that trouble– perhaps most of it– has to do with race.”

| Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

This is between you and me, us and them, us four and any more who want to join us.  Pick a side and put up your dukes!  Take your best shot!  Let’s see what you’ve got.

Let’s get it out and in the open.  Let’s say what we mean and how we really feel about each other.  Let’s fight hard and long.  Let’s raise our voices and invite others to sing along.  Let the shouting match commence.

Let’s go back and forth about who’s good and who’s bad, who’s in and who’s out, who should be first in line and who wins every time.  There are no boundaries and no comment will be considered out of line.  Speak freely and over each other.  Don’t beat around the bush.  No fig leaves, there is nothing to hide here.

Come out swinging.  Let’s fight all night until the morning.  Let’s come up with everything that is wrong with each other.  Let’s fight with no breaks, no naps and no excuses.  Let’s fight like we mean it and hold nothing back.  Let’s fight without an end in sight about the beginning.  Let’s fight about how we met and how you never got my name.

We never got off on the right foot.  John Rolfe saw “twenty Negroes.”  But, I saw next of kin.  They called them animals; I call them people.  Slave is not a pet name.

And they were kidnapped before race was invented.  This was made up as they went along.  Race didn’t make you do it though as time went on, we claimed that race introduced us.  But, race didn’t pick a fight because it wasn’t even there.  So leave race out of it.

Bootstrap or slaver’s lash, how did America become so great?   We never got our story straight.  Rope around their necks, this was not a match made in heaven.  And so they fought like hell.  They were not happy to be enslaved or to be far away from their homeland.  That is a lie and repeating it constitutes fighting words.

So let’s fight every dotted i and every crossed t, about everything and over anything.  Let’s fight tooth and nail over every physical feature, every scrap of land and sea, who’s right for the world and whose wrong innately.  Because it was only made for one “race” of people, right?

Let’s fight ’til the end and to the death of our consciences.  Just do me one favor.  Leave race out of it.  Because I have heard it said on many occasions, that if we no longer had race, we would find something else to fight about.  So, what is the fighting, the endless duel of cultures really about?

Answer this and I think it will take the fight out of us.  Because it is not about flesh or its hues.  But of course, you might want to fight me about the answer to this too.