(The Eternal continued speaking to Job.)
Eternal One: Have you heard enough?
Will the one who finds fault with the Highest One now make his case?
Let God’s accuser answer Him!
Job 40:1-2 (The Voice)
I sit here at my desk, comfortable, white and quiet. I write from my very white, suburban, straight female perspective. And it is abundantly clear to me that I used to be living in some version of Fantasyland. As a pastor and a hospice chaplain, I have been listening to the anger and grief around me. I am coming out of a zombie-like existence, where what is reality and what I have perceived it to be are two very different things, indeed.
There have been moments since the US presidential election that I have been angry, despondent and scared, too. But was it really “unthinkable”? What bias skewed my understanding, my perceptions of my country and my culture? Where was my faith in a God of justice and peace? I joined in the conversation and reactionary posts on social media.
“Sit your white ass down and shut up.”
That was the response from my self-righteous protesting, “but… but… I am NOT like those white women who voted for Trump!”
For a few weeks, I was shamed into an uncomfortable silence.
And then, I came to realize that I am guilty by association and by my inaction. I did not see the depths of prejudice my friends and neighbors suffer. I did not complain to corporations where I have money invested. I did not write my elected officials or call them directly when I disagreed with their actions. I did not support candidates financially to the degree I could have.
Though I did not vote for him, I am part of the reason Donald J. Trump won the US presidential election.
I have much to learn from my brothers and sisters who have lived under systemic violence and hate.
I have worked in churches that are majority white, have a few persons of color in the membership, and thought it was “enough”. A kind of, “yay, good for us” mentality. I thought that I am not like pastors at those other churches! (Pharisaical thinking, much? Yikes.)
I can’t change my history… but I am trying to listen and learn to change how I respond in the future. Perhaps that is the most “pastoral” thing I can do.
(Job answered the Eternal.)
Job: Oh, I am so small. How can I reply to You?
I’ll cover my mouth with my hand, for I’ve already said too much.
One time I have spoken, and I have no answer to give—
two times, and I have nothing more to add.
Job 40:3-4 (The Voice)
“When people want to learn about God revealed in Jesus Christ, there stands the mythic white male figure. Some white male theologians and preachers frequently make Jesus sound more like Uncle Sam than the nonviolent, Jewish revolutionary described in the gospel narratives. With a pseudowhite male Jesus let loose in the church, the boundaries of acceptable theological reflection have neatly aligned with powerful, elite American male interests.”
Drew G. I. Hart in Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the way the Church views racism. (p. 163)
“We are the least scrutinizing, least critical, of the people whom we believe support us. The folk who really know how I am and appreciate me, they’re the ones I don’t worry about. …It is possible to be seduced into silence and stillness by affirmation that is really coming from the wrong lips.”
Benadette Glover-Williams, “What the Devil Didn’t Know” in Those Preaching Women, Vol. 4 (p. 23)
“Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. If there are significant differences in the surveys to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. That is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are over-flowing with black and brown drug offenders.”
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. (p. 7)
“No one alive today created this mess, but everyone alive today has the power to work on undoing it. Four hundred years since its inception, American racism is all twisted up in our cultural fabric. But there’s a loophole: people are not born racist. Racism is taught, and racism is learned. Understanding how and why our beliefs developed along racial lines holds the promise of healing, liberation, and the unleashing of America’s vast human potential.”
Debby Irving, Waking up White and finding myself in the story of race. (Introduction).
Rev. Deborah Vaughn is a hospice chaplain and pastor, affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists. She lives in Maryland outside of Washington, DC with her husband and young adult daughters. She is a contributor to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and maintains a personal blog at An Unfinished Symphony.
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