Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25
I recently read the thoughts of two (white) Christian commentators who challenged me to think about racism and white privilege from the perspective of Christian faith differently than I have thought about it recently.
It was Anthony Robinson (whose blog “What’s Tony Thinking” I follow regularly) who called my attention to Peter Marty’s article in the Christian Century. I encourage you to go and read both of them, starting with Robinson whose article you can find here and then Marty whose article is here.
What immediately caught my attention is that we Christians do have tools of faith to put to work letting go of our defensiveness about racism and white privilege. I’m thinking…oh, yes?…and what are these “tools of faith?”
I must confess that I am among those who become defensive when white privilege becomes the topic of conversation. I guess I start out where Marty starts his article, “One of the unspoken privileges of being white in America is the privilege to assume that racism is not a pressing topic. To many white people, it makes little sense to expend energy talking about something largely remote from their daily experience.”
Then Marty goes on to tie racism to white privilege. I’ll let you read that part of the article in his own words.
But near the end we come to this whole idea that we have tools of Christian faith to engage to recover from and live beyond our defensiveness about white privilege and the racism it embodies.
Marty again, “look, you have some tools in the toolbox of your faith life that are exciting to put to work in our world of racial inequity. Start by letting go of the defensiveness. That’s a must. It’s a constrictive survival response that only separates you from God… According to Jesus, relinquishment is a ticket to abundant life. Reexamining personal behaviors and perspectives isn’t just a Lenten project. We no longer have the luxury of living racially unaware lives. Where you feel uncomfortable, disempower it. Let go of your brittleness. The Lord helps us know that we don’t have to secure ourselves against insecurity.”
Here’s where Marty ends, “So relax into the power of faith. Do some soul searching. Take what scares the hell out of you about yourself and pick it up, much like that cross Jesus mentions. Then, move your ego aside, much like that denying of self that Jesus commands. And live! Live with the mind of Christ, humbly open to changing all that needs to be changed about you and your world.”
These tools of faith Jesus introduced in Matthew 16:24-25—I always thought they were so spiritual and other-worldly. It seems that I was not really listening. Now I’m seeing them in a new way that makes them compelling tools that might help me move into a meaningful dialogue about racism and white privilege.
Let us pray...
Creator God, you have created us all as people you love and care for. Help us to be “real” with you and each other and see each other as the beautiful people you have created us to be. AMEN.