I’m a white male. So when I hear logic or reasoning or theology from other white men, I have an automatic affinity for it.
They understand me. They are familiar. They are safe.
There is a lot of value in being understood. We certainly should be familiar with ourselves and, by extension, people like us. And who doesn’t want to feel safe?
But I am starting to think differently about my social groups, especially as they relate to biblical teaching. If true religion is caring for the widows and orphans, as James points out, then we don’t get to make a distinction as to which ones we care for. If God requires of us justice, mercy and humility, as the prophet Micah tells us, then we cannot show favoritism for one group over another.
In a talk given at a conference hosted by the Center for Action and Contemplation, Christena Cleveland bravely addressed a group of mostly middle-class, white people, saying that “Marginalized people know something about the world that we cannot know, unless we listen.”
This one stuck with me. In a previous post, I talked about how group identifiers can help us understand roles and functions that different people play in our society. But the example used in that post was a police officer. If we have been listening well, we know that some of our fellow citizens feel safe going to an officer for assistance, while some, sadly, do not.
This example is just one of many ways that our neighbors might experience the same world very differently than we do. It might be very easy to transfer our experience on to someone else in the form of advice or teaching, but it could also be destructive.
I grew up in a single-wide trailer in a small trailer park next to the interstate. I worked hard (though in retrospect, I definitely could have worked harder). I was smart. I got into college and off I went. So would it be fair of me to say that all you have to do is work hard and you can get out of your current situation? If anyone has ever pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, is it not I?
Well… it would be easy to conclude there. But even a poor white guy is afforded more in our society than certain minorities, especially if that other person is also economically disadvantaged.
We can look at the gender wage gap. We can look at racist resume screening. We can look at Black Lives Matter. We cannot deny the radically different experiences that some of our neighbors live through.
Jesus’ teachings are nothing if not egalitarian. Women sit at his feet and learn (which was the traditional position of a disciple, a role reserved exclusively for men). His parables are radically inclusive: the good Samaritan, the workers in the vineyard, etc. Paul teaches us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.
If we are called to do even greater things than Jesus, (John 14, if you don’t believe me) then would we not continue our work in the trajectory that Jesus starts and Paul continues?
My first reaction is to kneel with Kaep. I love what that dude is doing. But that is not my place in this conversation. If we are going to include all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we need to listen to them first.