- Trinity Voices
Faith, Racism, and Resources
July 7, 2020
I’m still thinking about a man’s tee-shirt I spotted in the freezer aisle a few weeks ago. It carried a two-word assertion, the first “2020” and the second a verb not repeatable here and mostly reserved in these parts for the New York Yankees. I grimly agreed and reached for a pint of Brigham’s vanilla.
Is the unutterable, though, the last word for 2020? Will we be using the verb in the past tense in ten years? Or will 2020 (by 2030) represent something different, the Good Friday tomb perhaps from which resurrected life arose? That’s been my prayer. As people of faith we assert that God is at work in the world. And as human beings we can’t help but wonder and plead along with the voice of Psalm 13: “How long, oh Lord?”
What have you seen so far in 2020? What are you seeing for the first time? “2020” before these past six months was for me primarily a descriptor of vision: 20/20 (fighter pilot minimum, able to read the numbers in an old-fashioned telephone book). I think it’s worth holding on to that meaning. Racism is in part about what I as a white person have been conditioned not to see or have refused to see. “I don’t feel seen here,” is a response I’ve often heard many times from people of color in our church. In The Church Enslaved, read and actively discussed recently by a number of us, authors Tony Campolo and Michael Battle suggest that, as a white person I have been conditioned to see others in ways that diminish them: that I tend, when gazing across racial difference, to see a “he” or a “she” versus a “you.” At its most extreme, the distancing and objectification result in a white police officer kneeling on an unarmed and handcuffed black man’s neck. But in its more common and everyday manifestations, closer to home, the results are the more subtle put-downs and micro-aggressions that people of color live with every day: astonished praise, patronizing observations and inappropriate questions.
One of Battle and Campolo’s words to the Church is “mystical.” They want Christians of all racial identities to reclaim a Spirit-driven vision of others. “Christ is waiting to be loved in the other,” they remind us. “…when people who are possessed by the Spirit look into the eyes of someone of another race they sense Jesus in that person. It becomes impossible to reject that person. How can a Christian reject another if that other person is the sacramental presence of Christ?”
Might 2020 be for us a year of working towards a Spirit-driven 20/20? Of seeing the “sacramental presence” more fully in each other? While our capacity to “see” each other right now is both enabled and limited by Zoom technology, the next six months will bring us some important opportunities to see and to grow.
Reading is one way of seeing, and our Anti-Racism Team has been developing a curated list of recommended reading and viewing that we can do on our own or in small groups: theology, cultural analysis, and history as well as online resources and talks. You can find that HERE. There’s an old adage that “when things get tense, white people form book groups.” Point taken, and another truth is that many of us have gaps or falsehoods embedded in our historical or theological educations that have blinded us. The right book can often cause the scales to fall from our eyes.
A second opportunity will come this fall, when we will offer, via Zoom, a series of training sessions from Chicago-based Crossroads Inc. Addressing cultural competency and systemic racism, these will be shortened versions of a longer training opportunity we had planned to offer in person this past May. We can welcome up to 40 parishioners in these sessions, and invite you to indicate your interest in learning more HERE. We’ll share more information as we firm these dates and times.
“What we can’t see” just now is a lot: dates for the re-opening of our building, the return of Holy Eucharist as the center of our common life. Will you pray, though, with me to see what we can?
Grant us vision, Lord, to see each other and your world through the eyes of your Christ. And may the Christ who lives in each of us expand and make us new, through the power of your Spirit. Amen.
See you in church –
Senior Associate for Program