We are 3 weeks into a 12-week film and discussion series on Faith and Race at Trinity. Each Wednesday we are gathering for a short, but rich hour from 7:00-8:00, taking time for a brief check-in, then watching a short interview by a leading theologian, teacher or preacher as they share thoughts on various aspects of where and how faith and race intersect, collide, or possibly disrupt each other from different perspectives.
This past week our film was offered by the president and founder of Sojourners a nonprofit faith-based organization and network, Jim Wallis. He shared his perspective outlined in greater detail in his recent book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America. In short, his message was as clear as it may be jarring to some. A brief summary of what I heard might go something like this:
-Idols separate us from God.
-Whiteness, even as a mythical social construct, has become an idol.
-Society worships the idol of whiteness.
-And the idol of white supremacy has, ultimately, separated us from God.
Wow. Powerful. Hard to hear, even harder if not impossible to refute. So now what? Where do we go from here? How do we make a change/be the change we see must happen? How do we, as Wallis suggests, for many us, be more Christian than white?
Listen to Wallis’ own words to hear how he describes the undeniable challenge our current context promotes:
“We are living out lies, the lie of race, race isn’t even real it is a social construct, we created it to justify slavery. It isn’t real, it is a myth. So, we are living out this lie and we are stuck in it. We aren’t free. It’s a lie. It’s not just people who are oppressed racially that are not free, it is the part of that system who are white and don’t even see what is going on…we are not free either.”
Three weeks in I have found the speakers engaging, thought-provoking and helpful in our current season of commitment to engage deeply, even when it becomes uncomfortable as a community intent on breaking down racial bias and barriers, exposing white privilege and supremacy and doing all we can to move closer towards building up Martin Luth King’s vision of the Beloved Community.
But what is even more engaging and meaningful to me beyond the short films we are watching together is the conversation we share together as members of this community. We are provided a few questions to get us going and from there our hearts seem willing and able to open to each other sharing thoughts and perspectives or simply taking it all in bearing witness to each other along the way. It has reminded me of the deep value of gathering in small groups as we make our Christian journey together day by day.
Next week, we will be listening to Bryan Stevenson, the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Some of you may have read his book Just Mercy (or seen the film- highly recommended) telling Stevenson’s inspiring story. He is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.
So, I share all this today for two reasons. First, to thank the dozen+ folks who have been coming together these first few weeks. It is a bright spot in my week to see your faces and know your good hearts are ready and eager to roll up our collective spiritual sleeves and dig into some very challenging material/ideas. And second, to extend an invitation for others to join us in the coming weeks as well. To do so click here, sign up and then we will send you the link and passcode to the Zoom room.
Not a day goes by when I take this community for granted. Thank you for your commitment to following the path Jesus has laid out before us- one that requires our courage, our kindness, our perseverance and our willingness to seek and serve Christ in all persons loving our neighbors as ourselves. We must and we will continue to confront racism in all its duplicitous, insidious, capricious, unconscious and blatant iterations so that one day we will all be free indeed.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
And may you never forget that you are loved.