What is my Responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?

This is a question I ask myself often. What does active faith look like in this particular time and place? Justice has always mattered to me, but my understanding of it has changed substantially over time. Growing up, my biggest hero’s were Harriet Tubman and Robin Hood. My fairly simplistic (and flawed) moral code could be summed up thusly: those with power should leverage it for the benefit of those with little or no power.

Around age 13 or so I stopped believing God. To understand my world better, I began studying atrocities. The Holocaust, the Irish Potato Famine, the North Atlantic Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears, the Rape of Nanking… these events led me to two conclusions:

1. Atrocities supported my hypothesis that God is not real

2. These terrible capabilities sit in the hearts of nearly all people

It provoked me to ask myself: Do I possess the courage required to fight evil at any cost?

The desire in my heart for justice and to be on the side of the righteous did not die with my faith, but it got twisted. In attempting to set my own standards much of my moral compass became compromised. What didn’t change was my belief that racism and oppression are evil. But make no mistake: I’ve said things and behaved in ways that are unquestionably prejudiced or biased. My heightened awareness of mankind’s history of racism, oppression, abuse and prejudice didn’t alter the fact that my entire life is one of default power and privilege.

I grew up in a world of systemic racism which both benefited me greatly and kept its sins largely invisible from me. Right now, I think of my growing awareness on this issue along the same lines as I do sanctification: it is an ongoing process in life rather than a place one arrives. Undoubtedly, some of the very things I write at this moment will embarrass me when I look back on them in the future, but I must have the humility to make imperfect progress. Unfortunately, I can’t get “there” without being “here.” So I must humbly ask for grace I don’t deserve.

The topic of race and justice in the USA has only risen in importance to me during the process of transitioning from an atheist to a Christ-follower and reading what the Bible says about how His people should treat and love others. I also find myself embarrassed that those who continue to pay the highest price in a society designed for me find themselves in the position of explaining and revealing to me how it benefits me and costs them.

I struggle with the number of indifferent white Christians in the USA who point at “progress” and council “patience” to people who have spent generations being oppressed, marginalized, silenced, beaten, killed and shackled by (predominantly) WHITE Christians. I have heard with my own ears the argument by white Christians about how they didn’t have slaves, or support Jim Crow laws, etc. It’s not their sin, after all.

I think of Jesus, who we believe took OUR sin and laid it on himself. Then he looked to the people who called themselves His followers and asked them to do the same thing.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)

I don’t believe that any white person in America can really say they aren’t tainted by the sin of racism. We have benefited from privilege at the cost of the marginalized and that feels out of alignment with Luke 9:23 (and the rest of the Bible). I struggle to believe that we won’t have to answer for our complicity-I don’t believe God will accept the excuse that we were insulated or unaware. How can we be for the things God is for and calls us to (both in the New Testament and the Old) in the US right now without seeing and knowing?

I don’t know if there’s a “right” answer to the question, “What’s my responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?” But I do know I will keep asking the question, seeking God’s answer, and attempting to align myself in thought, word and action to His Will. I work to make a difference and to be an ally. I pay attention to my words and actions as I seek to grow more aware of my privilege and the presumptions inherent in belonging to the dominant culture. And I remember that even in this place, I have a privilege many in my community do not. I have the privilege of choice. At any point, I can opt out of being an ally. I can say I am weary and need a break. If the road gets hard, I always have the option of retreating into a culture of whiteness and choosing not to stand or speak in difficult places. It is not a privilege I want to exercise but it is a choice I get to have. And as a white Christian in the USA, I believe God cares deeply about what I choose and why.

Dream

I was with a group and we had traveled to a foreign land. It was ancient and beautiful, with stunning vistas. The warm coloring of the late afternoon fell across the giant stone buildings and the surrounding jungle.

A long table was set for a meal, and at the head of the table was a young man. I could see Wisdom on him, and he was so full of it he nearly shown. He then asked us if we believed that a single Westerner would be saved at the end of times… confusion seemed to rise around the table. “Why would they be? Let us look.”

I suddenly felt as if I were watching a movie within myself. I witnessed my country’s treatment of those who are homeless. The hatred towards the soujourner in our land. The neglect of widows and orphans created by an unjust justice system. Starving people left with crumbs by gluttonous, all-consuming machines (“You call them people”), prioritizing their rights over those marginalized within our society.

“Would you call this a fast? An acceptable day to the Lord?”

And I saw the Church, and she was weak and sick, covering herself with makeup and veneers of brands and cheap gimmicks. And she was rejected.

I then began to sense hungry people around us, in the shadows, quietly watching. As if in answer to my question, I hear him say, “You have your feast now, but they will feast in heaven.”

Sometimes, I Forget

From December 6th, 2016

 

Sometimes I forget, God.

I forget that You come close when we find ourselves sinking.

I forget You loved me when I was darkest.

I forget that You love us so much, you sent your Son and the Advocate to help us.

I forget You are the God who humbled Egypt for your people.

I forget You are a God who gives children to the barren.

I forget You spilt your blood for us.

I forget You gave us rulers because WE insisted.

I forget all the ways You have been faithful to a faithless people.

I would rather be anywhere with You than in paradise without you. You are my paradise.

Two Questions

“Who is this guy?”

”Do I trust him?”

These two questions sat at the heart of our service today. They were talking about God and Scripture. Discovering who “this guy” is through the Word and asking us where we have stepped out in faith. Where we have trusted Him. To illustrate this, the woman speaking shared a story from her own life when she found herself trusting in a group of strangers.

And as she spoke I felt conviction about this lie that I’ve treated as truth for so long, I didn’t notice how it had entangled me. This lie that said I can’t be trusted.

It is rather unfortunate that I’ve been through some pretty dark seasons. Seasons that most often involved me looking at a boy or man and believing I knew him and I could trust him. And then being proven very wrong. Although I have forgiven them and found healing around those things, today I realized I hadn’t forgiven myself. After discovering over and over how wrong I was about so many people, I started to believe I could not be trusted with my own well-being. That if someone wanted a relationship with me (dating, friendship, etc) it was because they were deeply broken. And if I was attracted to someone, it was a sure sign to run. Literally. All sirens went off internally and I would flee.

Ultimately though, this story isn’t a story about me, but about God and God’s desire to redeem, restore and reconcile. A God of Truth certainly cannot abide this lie I have been somewhat unknowingly agreeing with.

When I began to seek God, one of the first things I discovered (and one of my favorite attributes) about God is how available God is to me. God gives me complete and total freedom to explore who God is, to know God’s past and future. To seek God not because God isn’t already here, but because the breadth and depth of God is so vast that I am able to become totally “lost” with God.

God and I have been through some good times and bad, but the characteristics of god I read in the Bible are present in our relationship today. I am confident I can trust God.

But I couldn’t trust me. I couldn’t trust the people around me. I couldn’t take that risk because I thought my judgment was impaired. It wasn’t. The problem was that I had tried to discern through my own humanness, my brokenness, my wounds rather than through the Spirit that God gives me and the wisdom God blesses me with both through our relationship and the Word.

So I repent. I repent of believing that God could not equip or protect me, of not trusting that God would continue to shepherd me. And I bless this space, that I would move forward confident in that I am covered in the armor of the Lord, who is my stronghold and my rock in difficult times. I pray that the rest of my story would be a testimony to the kind of Love God extends to each of us. I pray that I would be able to step with the confidence of one who is led by the King of Kings. Amen.

Lullaby

Oh, my sweet one

I shall sing a song over you

A song of thanks

For you are a promise delivered.

 

I call out to my God and say,

I hear You and trust in Your promise

for You are a living God

who works miracles far beyond me.

 

I sing a song of Love,

I sing Your praise all my days,

I sing blessings over you from above,

My little act of my God’s grace.

My Love

My love is deep and beautifully reckless when it moves. It is a force against which nothing can stand.

It is a love that does not ask about conditions, but assumes the eternal.

A love that deepens not in spite of your flaws but because of them; that delights in your humanness and celebrates your growth. A love that sits with you in the struggle.

Those who know love the least draw the closest to Mine. They proclaim the impossibility of such a love as this, all while dwelling in its midst.

This is not a passive love; it is a love that transforms. It moves broken hearts to wholeness; it plants seeds of compassion in a barren field of apathy.

The sweetest of fruits are yielded from my Love.

Reflection on Helen Keller (from October 19th)

I believe that life is given us so we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower-the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence. -Helen Keller –

Abba, there are times when I grow weary

Of seeking to understand and feeling misunderstood

Of loving without being loved

Of knowing without being known.

But I push ever forward God

Because I know of no other response

That would honor your love, your mercy,

When I am fully known only by you.

Help me, Abba, help me.

I don’t know for what I plea

But you do, and so I ask

Help me, Abba, show me.

I am but a child, wholly ignorant,

I give you my heart, my life

To do with as you wish

For nothing and no one is so good as you.