Next Sunday I get to preach at my home church. For the past number of months I have been working through Luke 18. I only speak every 6-8 weeks, so takes a while to complete a series. I am finally ready to wrap up the chapter. Luke 18 ends with two stories; the first is a conversation with the disciples. It must have been a frustrating discussion because the disciples didn’t understand a thing Jesus was saying. The second story is about a blind man who receives his sight because he understands who Jesus is.
In short, the sighted don’t see and the blind see.
I have always thought of myself as an “aware” person. Observing the world around me and understanding what is going on. Lately I have come to discover that I am quite blind. This has not been easy to admit. Somewhere in the process of owing my blindness I have begun to see. This hasn’t been easy either.
Two weeks ago while presenting a seminar on White Privilege I referred to the birth certificate questions that have been raised about our current President. I suggested that one of the driving factors in questioning his citizenship was his skin color. One of our city directors was in the room and overheard a teenaged boy comment under his breath, “the President needs to go back to where he came from.”
Last week we had a DOOR group arrive in Chicago. Within hours of their arrival some in the group decided that the neighborhood was too dangerous. It was irresponsible on our part to even suggest that they “live” in the neighborhood for one week and serve. Our Chicago program is located in an African American neighborhood. When the group left they presented many reasons, while carefully avoiding the real reason. They were in a neighborhood full of folks who looked different and those differences scared them.
This week I attended a seminar that was led by an African American man. He told the story of his wife getting pregnant with their first child. Sometime during the second trimester they went to the doctor to find out if they were having a boy or a girl. The news came back that they were having a boy. Both mom and dad were excited for the first week. By the second week his wife became severely depressed. In a moment of brutal honesty she expressed her desire to not carry the baby to term. Not because she didn’t want the baby, but because she feared how society would treat an African American male.
I have been involved in urban ministry for 17 years. For all the right reasons I wanted to believe that the church has moved beyond race and racism. Having to see a different reality is not easy -I get why the disciples chose not to understand what Jesus was saying. Who wants to talk about pain and suffering?
In Psalm 23 we learn that the path to a new reality includes walking through the very valley of the shadow of death. Confronting racism is not easy or comfortable, but racism is dehumanizing and dehumanization has no place in the kingdom of God.