Tag Archives: Anaïs Nin

Before & After Ferguson

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Persons who are protesting the shooting of unarmed teenager, Mr. Michael Brown, Jr., are saying, “I can’t believe we’re here again, that we’re doing this again.”  Some are angry and even disappointed that they are seeing the same old seemingly race- based, race- driven stories and they are responding the same way, using the same words that they did the last time something like this happened.  They almost mumble, “I thought we had come farther along than this.  I thought that we were past this.”

Why does this scene keep replaying itself?  Why the same characters: police officer or one who wants to be one and unarmed African American male teenager?  Why aren’t things changing?  We witnessed.  We reported.  We protested.  We were jailed.  We asked for a charge and a conviction.  We did all of the things that we normally do and still no change.  Could it be that we might want to change our response to such tragedies before they even happen?

C. S. Lewis believed, “If conversion makes no improvements in a man’s outward actions, then I think his (and her) conversion was largely imaginary.”  As Christians, we are not being transformed in order to see people and situations the same way or respond as we always have.  If we are, in fact, new creatures, then we should have new thoughts on race and new perspectives on its power and presence in America, namely ridding ourselves of it and not allowing it to determine who we form relationships with (cf. Second Corinthians 5.17).

One obvious piece of evidence that points to our allegiance to race is the absence of the word: all.  We are all God’s children and all in Christ and yet, Christians are still employing the unclear and divisive language of “us” and “them.”  We may pack our boxes neatly and indiscriminately but the results are the same.  Still, there are no sides in God’s house but there are in race’s “house of bondage” as described by James Baldwin.

The fact is, people whose God is the Word should not be afraid of talking about any word, especially race.  We should always be talking about race as it is a very present injustice, one of the cruelest of crimes against all of humanity, that is to assert that our value is external, physical and depreciating and not intrinsic, given by God and unable to be lost or taken away.

We should be talking about race until we reach a mutual understanding, grounded not in our wounds but Christ’s stripes (cf. Isaiah 53.5).  But, too often, we talk to support our comfortable prejudices and be affirmed of our hopeless conclusions concerning potential relationships with persons of other cultures.  Our language has not been converted, our necks are stiffened by prejudice and our hearts hardened by stereotypes.  We dig our heals into our experience and what we believe to be the right way to see things, singing, “We shall not be moved.” Again and again and again.  Then, wonder how did we get here?

We should have been talking about race before the death of Mr. Brown in Ferguson and we should not end the conversation abruptly when the trial is over, less we return to the blame game and playing of “the race card.”  And while I am certain that we will talk about race in our safe, affirming and agreeable circles, it is my hope that we would say something new, that we might consider loving those we have been taught to see as “the enemy,” that we forgive persons for what they have done and/or what we thought they might do to us.

I find it saddening and strange that God calls us friends but that we, His children, are not able to say that of each other, that we have grown rather comfortable as a disconnected, disjointed Body (John 15.15).  Before and after times like these, we should seek reconciliation and not re-injury.  We should talk until it hurts us– not others.  We should be transparent, reveal our wounds but then allow them to be healed.  And we have to acknowledge and address the suffering of others.  Race victimizes us all; there are no heroes here.

We cannot afford to simply care for those in our circles or those belonging to our culture.  We must not withhold our tears, our mourning, our sadness because he and she did not “look like” me.  Instead, we must assert that violence against any body is violence against every body.  When any human being dies, something of ourselves also passes with them.

And we must know this before and after anything else like Ferguson happens as it may prevent it one day from happening… again.

Race is Too Shallow

“A sure way of retaining the grace of heaven is to disregard outward appearances, and diligently to cultivate such things as foster amendment of life and fervour of soul, rather than to cultivate those qualities that seem most popular.”

Thomas à Kempis, The Inner Life

“The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.”
― Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

9d65f9378c5b1555d2d9323b6917ff15It’s all about the flesh and how we see it.  Race is not in conversation with God but with other human beings.  Race is comparing our externals and once we change the texture of our hair, the shape of our eyes, the size of our nose, the shape of our lips, the social coloring of our skin, then what?  After we have done all that race says and become who race says is worthy, what’s next?  Are we are deemed socially acceptable?

The socially constructed white identity is not the highest expression of our humanity.  Instead, Christ is the highest expression and he is who we are to imitate.  Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (First Corinthians 11.1).  But, Paul didn’t teach the young church to wear Her hair like his or suggest that only blue eyes were beautiful.  No, we are called to copy Christ’s actions not his appearance.

Paul writes later in the letter, “I die daily” (15.31)  This is what we are called to do as Christians.  Dying to self and its desires is Christ- like.  Christ modeled this self- mortification in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22.42).  Likewise, we must deny and thereby die to our racial selves in order to bring glory to the image of God in which we were created.

To live life as a racial being, to allow our lives to be subjected to evaluation and judgment based on our external appearance is not the will of God for our lives.  To be described racially doesn’t even scratch the surface of who we are as human beings.  Race is simply too shallow.