BY TYLER BENDER, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS
Did you come to church this past weekend? If you did, were you fired up like I was? If you didn't, you should watch this to catch up. But before you continue reading this blog post, at least watch this much:
Ok now that we're all on the same page, I wonder if you're asking "now what?" I'll share my story.
For the past 2 years, I've felt a nudging from God to discover a new passion or calling in my life. I've lead people to Ukraine for the last half-decade to partner with and serve Mission to Ukraine as they pursue justice for folks with special needs in a country where they're considered "the other," to put it nicely. I felt like that chapter was coming to a close in my life and God was leading me to grow passionate about something else. As an 8 on the Enneagram, justice is a big thing for me. And then it happened. Ferguson. And then I knew. This was going to be what stirred my soul.
So I began consuming. The first thing I knew was that I didn't know nearly enough (how privileged of a position to be in). I began reading, writing, learning, watching, listening to as much as I could about race relations in America. When Ferguson happened in 2014, I knew I was angry, but I didn't know why. I knew that something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was or where to begin. And then, as you probably know, tragedies kept showing up on the news. Shooting after shooting, death after death, division after division letting us white people know that racism is alive and well in America. As I dove into books and essays and articles, I started learning that this stuff wasn't new - just a new iteration of a problem that's spanned centuries. Everything Barry just said in that video, I was reading about and my eyes were opening wider and wider.
Smash cut to 2016. Alton Sterling and Philandro Castille were killed. Then Dallas police officers were killed. I couldn't ignore it. We couldn't ignore it. We had vigils at Grace one weekend and invited you to come speak with pastors about it. Dave Rodriguez started an open dialogue with Marc Williams about race relations. I had to start doing something! But what? What do I do now? Maybe you felt that way after this weekend when Barry spoke. Or maybe you asked "white privilege? what the heck is a white privilege?" I wondered that too once. If you don't know what it means, let me give you the example I was given about myself...I'm white and 33 years old, middle class, and male. That's important, I've learned, because everything I just shared with you about my journey is evidence of my privilege. I didn't even have to think about racism until I was in my 30's. I'm essentially at the top of the food chain and never thought about it. That's white privilege. After I thought about it, and learned enough, I realized that I benefited from systems and a society designed to benefit me because of my skin color and my socioeconomic status. Now what? That's my white fragility wondering and searching.
If you're still reading this, maybe you're wondering what we can do about racism and injustice. Can we really do anything at all that'd help? As a church, as Christians, what do we even do!? Barry urged us to listen and pray. Absolutely. But as you're doing this and as God is stirring something fierce within you, like He did me, maybe you want more. Here are some opportunities and resources I recommend to get you started on your own journey to bring healing to this broken place of hatred and racism and invite supernatural diversity into our church and world.
A lot of the following books I've read the past few years I've demanded be put in our bookstore. Start reading one of them. I started with Ta-Nehisi Coates' book, Between the World and Me. It's the smallest, fastest read of them all, but extremely powerful and provocative - and hard. That's ok. Keep reading. Here are the others.
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander (in our bookstore or Amazon)
Stamped from the Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi (in our bookstore or Amazon)
The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James H. Cone (in our bookstore or Amazon)
God of the Oppressed, James H. Cone (Amazon)
The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (Amazon)
13th - Netflix - This just came out recently. It's a documentary about the 13th Amendment and how slavery has evolved throughout our country's history. It may not look the same as it did 200 years ago, but it's being perpetuated through mass incarceration today.
Episode 34, Black and White: Racism in America - The Liturgists Podcast - This podcast episode has done more in my social sphere than anything else to open the eyes, minds and hearts to discrimination in our country. Give it a listen.
About two months ago a few folks on staff started meeting regularly to talk about our own convictions, experiences, concern and passion for doing something about this area of brokenness. About 4-5 people are a part of this group, and we're still in the very early stages of this. I don't have the answers. They don't have the answers. We're just being mindful of each other and the Spirit to see if we might find something that will lead us to contribute healing. We meet in a small room twice a month. This little room is a safe place for us to share our frustrations, our ignorances, our uneducated-ness. It's safe. And then we leave that little room and we go to work with each other. We don't know where this road is taking us, but we know we want to walk on it. Maybe that's where you are too. If it is, you should email me or comment below, and I'd love to talk with you more and hear your story. Where have you seen or experienced prejudice and discrimination in your life? I don't have answers, but I have ears and will listen to you. Your story is important. Your involvement in whatever is ahead is vital!
My prayer is that Grace finds its voice. Barry's so so right. If we're white, we need to stop talking. We need to listen to each other, to God, to the nudging of the Spirit. We also need to pray like crazy because this area of brokenness is daunting. It feels like we're trying to run through a brick wall. Only God will bring healing. Maybe He can use you and I together. My hope is that this little task force, in its infancy, will need a bigger room.
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You may enjoy Deidra's site. I met her last year when I attended a conference she hosted. While I haven't read her new book yet, she is passionate about the message of unity. http://www.deidrariggs.com
Posted by Marcy on November 2, 2016 @ 2:55 pm
Wow, fantastic post Tyler! Thanks for sharing your story. I'm right there with you. I'm all in, and want to walk on that road too. Barry's message and comments were just the slap across the face i needed to wake up and stop doing NOTHING.
Posted by Brian on November 2, 2016 @ 10:51 am