Turning The Page on Angry White Voices

Last weekend, our family and a few friends from the KC Underground attended a rally for radical change, led by an African American church in our community. At the very last minute, I was asked to pray to begin the rally.  I was instantly and forcefully terrified. All the self-doubt thoughts came flooding in at once.  Who am I? I’m a white middle class woman.  A female pastor, which that fact alone in our white evangelical community already means I am an angry feminist.  I am a symbol of white racist oppression, people that look and act and have the exact same ancestry and religion as I have been the oppressors of African American’s since our country’s inception.  I could not imagine praying an intelligible, cross-cultural, stand in solidarity prayer with my black brothers and sisters in Christ.  All of those thoughts flooded in my brain in about .05 seconds.

 

I said absolutely not, I couldn’t  do that, and stepped away for a few minutes, strategizing on how I could pass this task on to my Beloved Husband, who is a phenomenally amazing public speaker, pray-er and has the advantage of being a male pastor, which usually is met with attentiveness and respect.

 

But then I decided to do it. Everyone was super nice and that helped.  I prayed. Asked God to show us a better way.  Asked God to unite us in His love.  Asked forgiveness of white men and women for being the oppressors from the beginning of our nation, in slavery, in the Jim Crow era, and now.

 

I am not sure if I offended anyone with my words.  I tried. I spoke from my soul. I felt God’s presence among us, and I suppose that’s what matters most.

Did I make culturally insensitive mistakes with some of my words? I’m not sure. Probably.   My African American friends are mostly too nice to say anything.  The experience made me ask God to help me from staying where I am in my understanding of my own cultural perspective.

 

I want to be prepared for and certain of my words in these moments.  I want to stand with and not build even more barriers between races.    I can try harder.  I can learn more.  We all can.

 

As we turn the page on history on our ignorance and write the narrative for the coming days and years, we have a decision to make.  We can be angry white voices, or voices of love, compassion and humility that cross racial lines and build others up instead of tearing them down by never changing our minds.

 

In all my 47 years of living, I am not sure I’ve been more shocked and surprised at the behavior of some of the white friends I know in the last few months.  Social media amplifies angry voices, and I have tried to stay away from those angry white voices as much as possible.

 

What has surprised me the most is the clenched “I have to hold on to this with all my might” fists of angry rage defending statements like “All Lives Matter.”

 

White friends, I challenge you to open those clenched fists as slowly as you need to, then receive what God and so many others wish for you instead.  I’m ducking right now, because you probably want to punch me with those angry fists, but I can handle it, I’m safe behind my computer screen.

 

Try to hear me out.  I know you already agree with most of what I have to say, I am just asking you to consider the 20% that you absolutely disagree with in a new way.

 

We all know that Jesus came so all of us would be free, not just Anglo-Saxon people.  Most of us love Jesus and His ways-how he embraced all ethnicities and genders wholeheartedly, without reserve.  We believe in a God, or our Higher Power that loves, sees and knows our worth.  I know my evangelical friends are raising their fists again because I said “Higher Power”, but really…I have been in enough 12 step meetings to know that the Higher Power my friends see is GOD, the real and holy one, so don’t get stuck there.

 

God is so, so good and His ways are perfect.  I am amazed at how passionately my 12 Step friends seek for God in the midst of rebuilding their lives.  Their devotion to surrendering their lives and will to God as they understand Him is something I occasionally see in the Evangelical Church, but honestly not too often.  Broken people that admit they are broken are my favorite people…probably because I am one too and know what it feels like to begin again.  Let’s learn from them.  Let’s seek God on these issues in a new way.

 

We believe in God, Jesus, a Higher power-the general goodness in people and a desire for justice and freedom.  I believe all people, regardless of ethnicity believe in these things.  However, as white people, our white words and behavior say otherwise.

 

We live in the “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave– The United States of America.   Our constitution states “All Men are Created Equal”.  The white men who wrote and signed the document certainly meant “All Men”, except for the red, black, brown and yellow ones.   Their lives were a testimony to that, clothed in duplicity and scandal.

 

I wrote about George Washington owning slaves a few weeks ago.  I was blind to the fact, and since have learned that James Polk, our 11th president not only owned slaves, but bought and sold them in the White House.  Oh, and the first White House? It was built by slaves.  Ironic, isn’t it? From its inception, we have been White Supremacists.  You, me, all of us.  It’s what we were born into and know without acknowledging.

 

Let’s think about that for a while before we shout in all caps “ALL LIVES MATTER” as a testimony to your own white worth.  Is it wise to proclaim that YOU matter in response to a call for social justice, racial equality and the end to the brutal treatment of African American brothers and sisters?

 When you do this, you look petty and sometimes even mean.

Your white life has always mattered.  Black Lives have not. History tells the story.  Our present day lives tell the story.  It’s time to rethink the statement and the rhetoric and racial cluelessness behind it and think of something else to say that is more helpful and beneficial.

 

Black Lives Matter is not saying white people have never faced oppression or opposition.

Black Lives Matter is not saying Black People are better than white.

Black Lives Matter is far, far from being a racist statement.

It is a cry, a shout, a voice crying in the wilderness. The statement “Black Lives Matter” is a holy and sacred thing.  It has God in the middle of it.  Listen to the voice of an oppressed people acknowledging their own worth…lets stand with them against them with harsh and angry words that oppose the heart of this movement

 

For your own good, and the good of those who ae crying out in lament and grief, get out of the way.  Serve. Give up your place in line. Lay down your whiteness for a chance to elevate someone else and make them shine like they should.

 

If you say you are a Christ follower, take note of what Jesus said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your servant. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” (the message)

 

In the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia had been frozen in the hold of the Narnian oppressor, the White Witch, for as long as anyone could remember.  Suddenly, things started to shift seemingly out of nowhere.  A drip from an icicle here, a slushy patch of snow there…the change was coming. The cold edge of winter giving way to the subtlest prodding of spring.  Why? Because Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, was on the move.  With him came joy and hope and freedom and the putting down of the evil oppression of the White Witch and her frozen ways.

 

“They say Aslan is on the move- perhaps has already landed”, Mr Beaver told them. Then he recited a Narnian legend,

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight.

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,

When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death.

And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

 

As the snow and ice began to melt, the white witches sleigh got stuck. She said, “This is Aslan’s doing.”  She saw him everywhere even without physically seeing him.

 

Jesus is on the move.  The signs are all around us.  Look and listen.  Hear Aslan’s roar.

 

Can we all admit we are powerless like the 12 Step community? Can we all admit we are broken? Imagine the change that could come if ALL of us were to scrap what we think we know about our powerful whiteness and how harmful it is to the rest of our nation and begin again.

 

Black Lives Matter.  Listen to them.

 

Let’s turn the page on history and exchange our Angry White Voices for humility.

We are Still White Oppressors.

Were your grandparents and great grandparents and other ancestors’ slaves?

If you can answer yes to this question, your voice is so needed at this time. If your answer is no, it’s time to be quiet, listen and learn, myself included. I have not sought to understand my African American friends and their enduring strength as much as I am capable. I can be arrogant, isolated and dreamily oblivious to the pain my African American neighbors experience on a daily basis.

I have read about slavery and studied the topic for most of the four decades I’ve been alive. I’ve read well known books such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as well as obscure first-hand recorded accounts by men and women who were freed or escaped slavery. Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglas were three of my very first hero’s. I read every encyclopedia entry I could find about each of them, got library books, and wrote my elementary school reports about them whenever I could. I am very familiar with what happened to the African American race in the history of our great nation. For 246 years, give or take a few, our black brothers and sisters, around 6 to 7 million of them were owned by us, white people.

I know the facts. You know the facts.

But…

This week, something shifted in my soul. My African American friend, who I’ve known for 15 years simply said, “My great grandparents were slaves.” She is only a few generations from that atrocity that leveled the moral climate of our nation. White middle-class women like myself would have owned someone like her. Someone who is a peer and as close friend. My equal.

The moral compass of that day was dictated by the notion that black people were the inferior race. Thomas Jefferson claimed science proved the fact of racial inferiority, in order for him to justify himself and his abhorrent behavior.

What are the lies we tell ourselves now?

I think that until us, the white middle class evangelicals of the USA think long and hard about the history of slavery in our nation , destruction and eradication of the Native Americans, Japanese Internment camps, and now minority children being locked in cages, we cannot logically form an opinion about our current discrimination and racism.

African Americans have been enslaved by people that look just like you, act like you and have the opinions you do

My great grandparents were not slaves, treated no better than animals, fed and watered on a daily basis, just like the farm animals they had to feed and care for.

White men could rape, beat, torture, enslave black women with no consequences. Across class lines, from the poorest of tobacco farmers to men of notoriety such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, white men used black women to procreate and further advance the prosperity of their plantations. Our hearts break when we see commercials for puppy mills. African American women were treated no better, and more thank likely worse.

When they were very rarely able to work side jobs and earn enough money to buy their own freedom, Freed black men could not claim their families as their own.

These facts, the stories written into our land are soul scars on the face of America. Are these things your fault? NO! absolutely not. Are you as a white person responsible for slavery? Absolutely not.

But recognize the Soul Scar deep on the face of North America. Notice and be a healing balm. Notice and bring all that you have to make the changes toward equality and reconciliation. The Soul Scars are the memories our land holds tight in its fist.

The heart of the gospel is not that we become perfect people. The heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is redemption. Reconciliation. Hope. And what hope we have. What joy we have. What victory we have in the name of Jesus.

Can our focus turn away from making ourselves perfect in the eyes of the world? Can our focus first draw inward as we step back a minute, dwell in the presence of God, remembering your creator… Enjoying the facilitator of your every breath. Our breath renewed, can we march onward toward bending low to raise up the trampled upon, March forward as we pray our Holy Spirit light into the darkest places.

Turn away Evangelical America. Turn away from the crowd and hear the voice of reason. You were made for such a time as this. You were made to do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Turn away from the darkness that hides you in the shadowy world of sin and decay. March toward the light that beckons you home from there.

Repent of your sin.

Acknowledge your classism, racism and whatever other isms that bind you and walk free and light with joy and purpose. This is our only hope. One by one by one, we can make the world a little bit better by being our best selves,
What is broken can be restored. What is torn down can be built up.

Look inward, your soul is crying out for healing
Look forward to the Joy that calls you from your dark place
Look onward as your soul is rebuilt to speak light into the dark places.

Let justice roll down like a mighty river. Let righteousness flow like an ever-growing stream. Let mercy rise high on the waves of the ocean. Let praises rise high on the song of the redeemed.

Hear the Roar

I have sat at the feet of white evangelical men my whole life.  Most have pointed me to Jesus. Many have not.  I have given my entire life for the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  My silencers and accusers have never been angry outlaws or the gay or transgender, the drug addicted or alcoholic, the homeless, the prisoners, black neighborhood gang members.

My harshest critics have been you, my white evangelical male pastor friends.

I have been shamed and silenced for raising my voice to speak about injustice toward women and the oppressed countless times.  Always, by my white evangelical pastor man friends.  Their words cut like a knife through my soul. Sliced away my dignity until I felt I didn’t have any left.

I am a white middle class woman of white privilege.  My pain is nothing, hardly worth noting when I consider the black men, black women, brown men and women, the boys and girls of the united states of America that are anything other than straight and white.-But I know hurt. I know rejection. I know what it is to be dismissed and treated like a pet, adored for being cute and funny…until they heard me roar.

The nation now, is roaring with pain. Roaring with rage. On fire with the sting of oppression’s angry, bottled voice exploded.

So, my white evangelical man friends, listen to me roar, listen to the voice of your nation roar with rage. Listen to those who look, act and talk nothing like you. You’ve had your voice. You’ve had your applause, affection and admiration.  You’ve had pay raises and funded trips and funded books. Your backyards are a refuge you can run to when you are tired. You aren’t hungry. You can talk and know your voice will be not only heard, but recorded and shared! These are good things when you use them well. And you have.

But your nation is roaring.

Stop.  Just stop it all and be still.  Be quiet. Quiet your Facebook banter and chatter.  Stop your posturing and pivoting to meet the crowds of white admirers where they are at.  Stop looting dialogue from your black friends to make it sound like you get them.  That you ARE them.  You’re not.  I’m not.

White evangelical men, it’s time to step back.  Step down, step aside, make room and make way for other people that don’t look and act like you.

Your pulpit doesn’t need you to for it to stand. The church walls do not need you to hold them up. Your people have left that building and have been gone a few months.  God’s grace is holding his body together. His might is going ahead of Him. He has made a way for new voices to rise.  See it, take a chance, and allow for radical change.

Black women need to speak. You don’t.

Prisoners, the homeless, the ineligible unfit and afraid need to step up as you step away.

Jesus was always found in the lowest places. He had a reputation for trouble.   He made way for women. He turned the tables, told his friends to stop arguing. Told the waves to be still.

Just.  Stop.  Stop talking and listen.

If you must lead, lead to the lowest places.  Bow your heart and hand your microphone to the thirsty.  Cup your hands so they can drink. Be not afraid. God is in the center, you never were.

You’ve grown in honor. You’ve stood high on the applause of men, front and center

You’ve  orated, sung, wept, prayed, gave and gave…It’s enough. You have done well.  Now, give it away.

Let women lead. Let black and brown people lead. Find Jesus in a whole new way when you humble yourself and pray, far from your board meeting walls.

Look around, Jesus has left the building.  Go with Him. Go to the streets, the neighborhoods where he’s knocking on the doors of the hearts of His own. You’ve owned the stage a long, long time.  Bow out.  Hand over the keys. Sit down. Pull up a seat.  Listen with love to black, brown, women, the uneducated, the poor, the least of these.

The poor, the marginalized, the least of your brothers and sisters is where you will find the weeping Christ.  Follow them.  Follow Jesus.

White People. It’s time to Reflect and Repent.

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I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago.  My neighborhood and schools were made up of black, white, and brown people.  Some black people were violent, some white people were violent, and some brown people were violent. I witnessed with my own eyes a white male teacher physically assaults a young black woman in the hallway. “Go to the principal,” the teacher said, “Who will he believe, Me, or you.”  I saw that girl crumble into herself with fear and shame.  She never told.

Some black people were good and wonderful people, some white people were good and wonderful people, and some brown people were good and wonderful people.  I witnessed countless acts of love and unity between races in our community.

I grew up not judging someone based upon the color of their skin, what car they drove, or where their house was.  I got to know people as individuals.  I had white, black and brown friends.  It was normal for me and the people around me.  There were racists, no doubt.  White people infuriated by the black and brown people moving into their white neighborhoods.  Their prejudice left when they all moved away, which was good in a way.  It was sad to see how many of the people I had known my whole life, seemingly with good character and morals, run for their lives to all white communities to hide. It sickened me.  It made me realize how deep the racial divide was in the hearts and minds of white men and women.

Our church split because a majority of white people did not want to invite their new black and brown neighbors to worship with them.  They wanted to uproot the entire body of believers and move to an all-white neighborhood mile away from the changing one.

I was again, dumbstruck at the atrocious behavior of “Jesus Followers” I had looked up to and admired my entire life.  Men stood up and shook angry fists during church services and business meetings.  Harsh angry words, unrepeatable and unforgiveable. I remember being 17, completely speechless at the behavior of these adults.  What was amazing in the midst of all of this was our pastor. He was an unshakable, unmovable pillar of strength. He stood strong and true to the real Jesus.  The Jesus that loves all the children of the world, Red, Yellow, Black and White.  The bad guys left.  The church flung open its doors to the community, and quickly became a truly multi-ethnic place of worship, one of the only ones I’ve ever seen.

The racial divide in our country is unacceptable. Thank God for cell phone videos and pictures to record the horrific acts of violence that have marked our country since it’s birth. Our nation was built on the backs of black slavery. Never, ever forget that.  George Washinton himself owned hundreds of slaves. He didn’t regard them as equal. The sin of racism is as deep as the roots of our great nation.

I beg you to repent if you are inclined to view one race higher or lower than another.  Repent and find the true Jesus, the one who loves all men and women, all the races with equality.

The real Jesus doesn’t use racial slurs or roll His eyes at black men and women demonstrating and marching for peace. The real Jesus stands among them, because He too, was forcefully and unjustly maligned and killed. The real Jesus marches on, spreading joy and light and peace.  Join the real Jesus.  Be free from the ties that bind our hands and hearts to the ties that bind us and have bound us since our nation’s inception.

Be free to love. Be free.  Let freedom ring.

The Very Best Friday

Beloved

This side of Heaven, we will encounter many hardships. We will experience the ravages of sin, the aftershocks of Eden. We will hurt with gaping wounds, inflicted by those we love, betrayed by the ones that know us best.

We will worry the world onto our wobbling shoulders, convinced that we can save it by taking it upon ourselves, us, being made in the image and likeness of God.

We sow seeds of insolence and reap harvests of regret.

We obsess, malign and worry God-sized fears, obnoxious in our own false grandeur.

All the while, God, on the cross is looking at us in our own foolishness and taking the weight of the world back upon Himself, where it belongs, so our way is easy, and our burden made light. Even with all of our inconsistencies and intolerance, He looks to us and calls us Beloved.

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows we long for what is wrong in the world to be made right. He has made a way for us. His way. He is a ‘Man of Sorrows’, acquainted with grief. Don’t push the sadness of the death of Jesus on the cross away. Don’t push your own sadness or sorrow away. Grief is never wasted.

Grief knows grief, and standing at the foot of the cross, robed in sadness, we are equal, united in our desperation for wholeness and healing, for an upside-down world to be made right. We seek the Messiah’s face and hear Him say the words since Eden we have been waiting to hear, “It is Finished.”

And it is. Jesus holds the victory in the secret of the cross. Let’s meet him there today together.