2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Last Friday afternoon my husband and I were on our way back to Boise after spending a few days up north in the beautiful C’oeur d’Alene area. The rain and clouds finally cleared, so we took advantage of the sunshine to enjoy a boat ride on Lake Pend Oreille before leaving. We estimated our arrival back home would be about 9:30pm. About an hour south of Lewiston I decided to check emails on my phone. One of those messages was from the Idaho Statesman which included a breaking news alert. There had been a rockslide that morning causing the closing of Highway 95 between New Meadows and Riggins–right where we were headed. Because this was new territory for us, we called a friend, a native of Idaho, to see if he knew of any other roads we might take to get around the closure. No, he said, confirming our fears. There was no alternate route except to back track to Lewiston, cross the river into Washington, and continue for five more hours or so before reaching home. Knowing how exhausted we’d be driving straight through, we opted instead to spend the night in La Grande, Oregon.
Sometimes life is like that. We hit a roadblock that prevents us from reaching our desired destination. Before we can take one step forward we need to take two steps back. That’s what it feels like for me right now as a white person during this time of social uprising for racial justice. The goal is for everyone to be treated equally no matter the color of their skin. But in order to reach that goal we must go back to learn our history as a nation. We need to understand the forces at work that contributed to the building of our society through the structures of systemic racism. We need to listen to people of color and their stories from the past 400 years of living under the oppression of the dominant white culture.
As Christians, of course, we do this work through the lens of our faith. I have recently started reading a book called Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism. Author Drew G.I. Hart is a fellow disciple of Jesus, a theologian, blogger, and activist. He suggests that “….our very intuitions cannot be shaped in hierarchy and dominance, as were the postures of Caesar, Herod, and Pilate. Instead, we must come alongside the crucified of the world in solidarity, as Jesus himself did, so that we can have our minds renewed.” I look forward to reading more and being challenged to a deeper understanding of where we as the church are being called to change direction, as we keep our eyes on the prize of equality and justice. If you are interested in doing the same, I invite you to gather with a group being organized through Immanuel that will soon begin discussing this book.
After we turned around last Friday to go a new way, with no map in the car we let our phone GPS direct us home. I don’t know if it was the most direct route, but it was certainly gorgeous! In uncharted territory once again, we found ourselves weaving through the hills and forests of Rattlesnake Pass, an area we may have never seen without that forced detour.
As we commit ourselves to a changed direction as the church, I imagine God will lead us into beautiful new vistas, relationships, and understandings we would never have foreseen as we do the work to dismantle racism. Indeed, I trust in the God who makes all things new, and that this work will be another step in revealing the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
Turn us again to you, O God, so that our minds and hearts might be renewed and transformed as you shape us into the beloved community. Amen.
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Thanks once more, Gretchen, for your bold witness as a follower of Jesus. You have such an uncanny gift of connecting your experience in daily life (changing directions because of a rock slide) to your journey as follower of Jesus (changing direction of the church with regards to race). I am humbled and thankful. I appreciated your words on Drew Hart’s book. After just 3 chapters in, I believe it is a must read for white Christians like me who want to more fully grasp the concept of systemic racism. We have to really “get it” at its root before we can take meaningful steps to intentionally oppose it. Drew Hart is helping me to do that through a conscious Christian lens.