What a few weeks it has been.
On June 17th, nine beautiful people were killed while studying the Bible in their church in Charleston, South Carolina.
We watched as Bree Newsome, just ten days later, scaled a flag pole at the South Carolina State capitol to take down the confederate battle flag.
On June 26th the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality.
I don't know about you, but my facebook newsfeed has been a very interesting place lately. After each of these events my newsfeed erupted with articles, memes, profile photos with rainbow filters, cartoons, and impassioned status updates from both sides.
I made a decision, following the horror of Charleston to not stand on the sidelines. When conversations about race were happening, I wanted to be there...listening mostly, but responding to posts from friends with whom I disagreed. I was encouraged to see the respect many people had during those conversations with one another. I was challenged. I learned. I listened. I spoke.
It has been a few days since I've seen any mention of the confederate flag on FB, and many (including my own) profile photos have lost the rainbow filter. Yet, I'm still thinking about what happened over the last few weeks...
One thing that I continued to emphasize in my contributions to the conversations/debates about race and same sex marriage was...what narrative are you following? A follow up to that question, what does Jesus have to say about the narrative?
What I noticed about our conversations over the last few weeks is that the work we need to do is to understand that there has been a history and a story that has been shaped by those in positions of power. This story (narrative), this history, is to white people (especially white men) as real and ever present as the air we breathe. It is the history of our text books, it is the history taught to us in classrooms. It is the narrative we hear spoken of on the news. It is the narrative that turns the wheels of our economy. It is the narrative that fuels the political system. When the history/narrative is all you've ever known, when you've never had to question it, it can begin to feel as if it is the only history and narrative that exists.
And then things like Charleston happen. Then Bree Newsome takes down a flag. Then marriage equality happens. All of those things take place so close to one another and all of a sudden you cannot help but see that there are other understandings of history out there. That there are other narratives out there.
In seeing another history/narrative we can feel suddenly off kilter. We can feel defensive. We can feel like things fear, and anger. So we get on FB and we defend. We respond to our fear and our anger.
I noticed my Christian brothers and sisters discrediting the existence of other peoples stories. I noticed them ignoring a different understanding of history. I noticed them accepting and supporting the narrative of the United States as it has been told by white, straight, men. It got me thinking...what does Jesus have to say about all of this?
I see the life of Jesus as a long attempt at encouraging us to see another narrative. To see the narrative underlying the one that is in power. In Mark 8 we get the story of Jesus rebuking Peter. Peter pulls Jesus aside after the narrative changes. Jesus had just finished saying that he would undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes. After all of that suffering and rejection he would be killed by the people in power. This made Peter flip his lid. This WAS NOT the end of the story he had imagined (even though Jesus had been telling them this all along). This WAS NOT the narrative. Jesus was not going to be the kind of king that would propel Peter and the rest of the disciples into the palace. If Jesus was going to be killed their opportunity for power was gone.
Jesus continually pointed to another kingdom, a different understanding of how the world worked. He was a pain in the ass of the empire because he knew the tools of the empire were not those of God's people. Jesus broke the rules. Jesus loved the wrong people. Jesus flipped the script. Jesus ripped open the narrative and exposed us to the narrative of the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten, the rejected, the shamed, the broken...
My question to American Christians is what makes us believe that Jesus isn't still ripping open the narrative to expose the narrative of the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten, the rejected, the shamed, and the broken? Are we not alarmed that we have become complicit in the narrative of the empire?
What part of the story are we missing? Who have we left out of our story? Who have we left out of our history? How might seeing the story differently change us?
If you have time, I'd invite you to listen to the message my colleague Mike Huber gave last week. It covers alot of the same themes.