Monday, April 14, 2014

Beyond Reconciliation

This is the third post in our series on going 'beyond' when it comes to race and racism. 

Reconciliation is important. It helps us overcome our division. It brings us into closer relationship with one another and ushers mutual forgiveness. It helps us unite as the body of Christ. Indeed, scripture says "all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."

But is it all that God would have for us?

Reconciliation without restoration is meaningless. How can we say 'I am reconciled to you' while we perpetuate the injustice that divided us? How can we call ourselves reconciled when we continue to benefit from disparity?

Like the crowd on Palm Sunday, we get excited about the arrival of our deliverance. We think there will be an easy resolution to all our problems. We like the idea that Love will save the day. But only if it is on our terms; only if we keep it light and cheery. But Jesus knew that before we get to Easter Sunday, we must first face the stark realities of Good Friday.

When it comes to restoring relationship with someone we have wronged, it's not enough to simply say "I was wrong, I am sorry" and just leave it at that. True repentance is when we no longer want to continue in our previous behavior, and when we work to alter the consequences of our actions. It means reversing course, and shedding our old ways for a new life.

Like Zacchaeus, we must go beyond what the law requires, sacrificially living into the change we want to see in the relationship. If the law requires tolerance, we must give affirmation. Where it prohibits discrimination, we must deliver promotion and equity. Where it fails to protect, we must offer our own resources as remedy.

Can we challenge ourselves beyond our earthly desire for self-preservation? What would sacrificial, radical restitution look like in seeking out racial redemption? What would it mean with regard to land stolen, repayment promised, votes blocked, wages withheld? All ill-gotten investments that continue to pay out rich dividends for those on the winning side. Where the law required 20% interest after wrongdoing, Zacchaeus gave 400%. Not as a means of buying his forgiveness, but as a response to the restoration that he experienced in Christ.

How can we say we are reconciled while mired in the inequity that has resulted from our brokenness? How can we ask that it 'all be put in the past', when we will not to help remedy the consequences we live with today? Have we not been the beneficiaries of even greater restitution, in Christ's salvation through the cross?

We like reconciliation. We want to love each other and to be happy together. We want to 'all just get along.' White folk in particular like to be quick in calling for reconciliation.

There is a place for reconciliation. It helps us forgive one another and to remember Christ's forgiveness of us. It is the symbol of hope for our redeemed racial identities with each other. Sometimes it's all we can cling to when the restoration of our broken relationships seems hopeless.

But there can never be true reconciliation while there is still inequality and injustice. Words and emotions without actions to undergird them remain hollow. Reconciliatory proclamations ring false when we fail to even acknowledge the scope of our wrongdoing and devide.

Therefore, to even begin the process, we must honestly face the realities of how we have benefited from a racialized society. This means taking responsibility for our continuing role in racial injustice today. It means listening when wronged parties are angry, and not becoming indignant at their grievances. Reconciliation without justice is not possible (Christ still died on the cross for us, after all). It is our responsibility to take deliberate steps towards reversing the tremendous imbalance that has accumulated.

Seven Signs of Genuine Repentance (from Steve Cornell):

The final installment of our series appears next week, with 'Beyond Justice'...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Fruit (04/11/14)

Justice for Josiah
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

    These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

    Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Beyond Diversity

    We continue our series on going 'beyond' our current understanding of race to press into God's richer koinonia

    Diversity is important. It make sure that there is a healthy mix of people at the table. It ensures that everyone is invited to join in. It exposes us to many cultures and helps prevent us from being ignorant simply from lack of exposure. Diversity removes us from our isolation and introduces us to more beauty in the world.

    But is it all that God would have for us?

    Diversity cannot be the end goal, just like counting heads in pews isn't an end in itself. They're merely metrics. Diversity is simply a measure on the way to richer engagement and equality. Diversity is about quantity. As followers of Christ, we must also be interested in quality.

    We cannot pretend that getting many different faces in the room alters structural injustice. Going beyond diversity means setting aside our own agendas. It means asking how we may serve the priorities of those around us. We must share power, and set aside our privilege. Diversity itself does not assure these things.

    Too often white-dominated organizations (including/especially churches) seek people of color simply to validate their own structures and plans. They want diversity in their brochures and their stats. But they want 'just enough'--not too much. They don't want to be fundamentally changed from the dominant-culture organizations they are. If we believe our own way of running things should be the standard, then we are allowing our own hubris to get in the way of the Church that Jesus envisioned.

    We like diversity. We say we value it. We attend training events for it and put it in our mission statements. We like to pat ourselves on the back if we obtain a certain percentage. But have we served the purpose of creating a more just and equitable society?

    There is a place for diversity. It helps us be mindful of our group composition and avoid homogeneity. Sometimes we struggle even to attain nominal levels of diversity in our environments, so it remains one of our many goals toward racial justice.

    But diversity itself does nothing if unjust polices remain unchallenged. It is useless if voices remain silenced or certain opinions are not valued. It is pointless if we remain oblivious to crucial social issues outside of our cultural bubble. Diversity itself cannot change the deeply rooted inequalities at play in our society. For that, we need press further.

    Listen to Rinku Sen discuss
    diversity vs equity at 17:30
    Who is in charge of making daily decisions? Who makes the big calls? Whose goals are prioritized and whose plans are implemented? Who receives training opportunities and mentoring? Has the culture of the group changed? Or does it still function as hegemonistically white?

    For churches, going beyond diversity means raising up pastors and lay leaders of color, within your own church and in the surrounding community. It means not expecting that congregants of color should assimilate into white-centric worship styles. It means looking closely at how church funds are allocated and how that reflects the cultural priorities of the church. It means regularly interacting and socializing in meaningful ways outside of the worship service. It means creating a unified community while also affirming and celebrating the many subcultures that are represented. For the family of Christ, going beyond diversity means valuing, affirming, and promoting those we are in community with.

    Continue to 'Beyond Reconciliation'...

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Friday Fruit (04/04/14)

    "Shanesha Taylor faces child abuse charges
    after leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons
    in a parked car while on a job interview.
    Photo: Scottsdale Police
    On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

    Weekly Round Up:

      These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

      Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

      Sunday, March 30, 2014

      Beyond Tolerance

      Here, we begin a new series, 'Beyond,' that explores how God calls us into a richer understanding of racial justice and reconciliation. 

      Tolerance is important. It lets us live in harmony with each other despite our differences and helps our society function in peace with itself. We need to be able to get along, to avoid fostering animosity or division. We emphasize the importance of tolerance in our schools and our workplaces. We like tolerance.

      But is it all that God would have for us?

      We tolerate loud music on the subway. Or tolerate commercials during a TV show. But we should we simply tolerate one another?

      No one wants to be tolerated. We never want someone to just swallow hard, grit their teeth and bear our presence. We want to be affirmed, to be celebrated. We want to be loved as Christ loves us.

      There is a big difference between "I tolerate you" and "I love you." The latter requires a commitment to one another that goes beyond coexistence. It requires really getting to know one another. It requires bearing each others' burdens, and grieving for the things that make our neighbors grieve. It means celebrating in each others' victories and valuing what is important in each others' lives. It means sacrificing of ourselves for others' gain, and allowing others to do the same for us.

      Practically speaking, going beyond tolerance means no longer leading separate lives. It requires us to support the leadership of those we are trying to affirm. It means learning and celebrating histories and cultures that are not our own. It means being mindful of who is being represented in our meetings and who is allowed to be the decision makers. It means promoting the visibility of marginalized groups in our media and our marketing. It means becoming so familiar with each others' cultures that we no longer cause pain simply out of our own ignorance. It means we come to realize the central importance of each of our contributions in the complete Church of God.

      There is a place for tolerance. Sometimes it is all we can manage until we find the grace to lean in more.
      Most people are able to agree that tolerance is important, and are even pretty good at it. We've learned not to overtly discriminate or commit hate crimes. Tolerance is what our laws can mandate--and such laws serve as important regulators of behavior. They protect our rights and our safety. But the law cannot compel our hearts to abide with one another. For this, we need to dig deeper.

      We need to understand the difference between what we are socially obliged to do and that which God calls into. Jesus did not say "tolerate one another, as I have tolerated you." Through His death and resurrection, he bound us as one body--a bond that cannot function by simply putting up with each other during our time together her on earth.

      Perhaps it would be understandable for a holy God to simply tolerate sinners like us. But God dwelt among us, he washed our feet, he bore our pain. He laughed with us, and wept with us. He identified with us. Being part of the body of Christ means going beyond tolerance.

      Continue to 'Beyond Diversity'...
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