I guess the people that decide such things would categorize me as a white evangelical. Depending on what you read or who you ask, in our current social context, that might sound like I’m a Trump-voting, Religious-Right, conservative Republican. I’m none of those. But I am white, and I am a Christian- by the amazing grace of God in Christ! I guess I am evangelical in the sense that I believe the good news that Christ died for our sins and I love to tell others that good news in hopes that they might come to their senses like I did and follow Jesus. But in the social context that seems to connect the idea of being a white evangelical with being a bigoted, Christiandom, Culture Warrior I want to be a light on a hill, driving out darkness and helping others see. If I want to be a light, I first need Jesus to heal my blindness.
My pastor recently said something like, “Blind spots in a Christian’s life are not areas they struggle with. Those are just usually areas where they don’t want to repent of sin. Blind spots are just that. You’re blind to them. You don’t know they’re there.”
If I’m going to be aware of my blind spots I’m gonna need someone to point them out to me. When it comes to being a white Christian in the U.S., I need my black, Latino, Asian, Indian and Native American friends to show me where I’m blind to my lack of love and burden-bearing with them.
MLK Day is one of those holidays where I feel haunted. I feel a perpetually, present gnawing in my gut to get at what’s dividing me from the people of color (POC) in my life. Honestly didn’t think anything was. But the more I hear the news and see the Twitter posts of Christian POC who are living with the history of the U.S.’s oppressiveness towards them, the more I realize I am not bearing this burden with them. I have no idea how they feel. But I want to.
Dr. John M. Perkins said, “There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other, until you see their view- you have to enter into the pain of the people. You’ve got to feel their need.”
I wrote a post awhile back after hearing a radio broadcast on NPR about the African American wax museum in Baltimore, Maryland. In that post I talk about my desire to listen to my black neighbors, co-workers and friends and to not be quick to say something to defend myself or make things sound better. I just want to listen. I want shut my mouth and enter into the pain of the people upon whose backs this country was built.
I never used to think about racism. I think about it a lot now. I hear our President. I see my elderly, white patient’s stand-off-ish reactions at work to the Nigerian doctors and Eritrean nurses who care for them. I go to church, and I see mostly white people. I go to the gym down the street and the grocery store and I see very few white people. I drive through El Mirage, which is predominantly Hispanic and I see no grocery stores. No kids playing outside. No church. I long to have personal relationships with POC where I can bear burdens with them. I long for my church to be multiracial so we can be a more accurate sampling of the Kingdom of God which is made up of people from every tribe, tongue and nation.
So what am I doing about it? I am blessed to work with doctors and nurses from all over the world. There I have formed some professional relationships and early friendships. But I want to go deeper. I want to bear burdens. I had coffee with a brilliant Nigerian nurse I work with a while back. We talked about racism, being Christians, marriage, temptations we deal with… it was good. But I know I need to go further. I’m praying about it. Asking God to show me how I can be a minister of reconciliation to my Hispanic, African, Asian, and Native American neighbors.
On the way home from the gym I listened to this YouTube playing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon: Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool. In his sermon he compared America to the fool Jesus spoke of in Luke 12:13-21. He was right. And the spirit of America, where we build barns to store more of our wealth, has affected me too. I have grown up in America as a white evangelical where the themes of being a conservative republican were preached as equally as the need to read my Bible and go to church. I have never known oppression because of the color of my skin. But I’m beginning to see the people around me who have grown strong under the oppression of America’s foolishness and I am emboldened by their strength to confess my blindness and follow their lead in speaking the truth in love- boldly, humbly, despising the shame of the fool.
Great Post, if you have an open mind and a listening ear I think you are on the right track to forming those bonds and relationships with people of different backgrounds that you are looking to build. I think the biggest thing to remember that we all seem to forget is that people of color are first and foremost people and if you seek to connect with them on that level first, all of the other parts will fall into place over time. Looking forward to reading more of your writing.
Thanks Nathan. You’re right… we’re all people. It’s that position I find myself in where I realize I don’t know my black friends very well… and I want to! Thanks again for your kind words.