On Wednesday afternoon, I was studying the Great Depression with my 9th-grade son. As he rolled around the floor on his sister’s scooter, I was intensely focused on helping him understand the importance of evaluating President Hoover’s economic plan. Because of this, I largely ignored my phone and all the alerts that the Capitol was invaded by domestic terrorists. Like the rest of you, I spent the day scrolling my phone and the TV in an odd state of panic and passion. Rage and fear all mixed up in my mind. Then, some phrases started to appear. These phrases pop up during fearful times seemingly to give closure to terror. These phrases seem to me like an angry parent wanting to stop the incessant arguing of their children. “If you two don’t stop that, I’m pulling the car over right now!” Fear overwhelms the dam of human emotion and we just can’t take it anymore. So we say…
“This is not our America.”
“This is not my Jesus.”
“This is not my Christianity.”
While the sentiment might hold personal truth, these phrases close dialogue, evading responsibility, and the work of allyship with our neighbors. As a church community, we see white supremacy as a crushing, destructive force in our world. Believing that as followers of Jesus, our mission is to humble ourselves, speak truth to lies, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
These are fragile phrases listed above, and as a white, straight, Christian woman, here is how they help me and hurt my neighbors.
They create emotional distance, allowing me to reject responsibility and stay a “nice” person to my fellow white community where I gain privilege and security.
They keep me physically distant from the pain and despair, and the joys and victories of my black, brown, and gay neighbors.
They allow me to make a quick dissociation from racism, homophobia, and misogyny that are embedded in faith practices, and in human systems.
Owning these facts will not change them. My hope is to change my behavior, my habits, my way of seeing. My hope for our church is that we stay curious and alert. I am proud with so many of you for the work you are doing to dismantle your white supremacy, fragility, and ego. Your work is not done. Keep going! One of the ways we can stay curious and open to growth would be for us to rework these statements, creating open-ended questions for us to clarify what it is we mean when, as white people, we say, “Not mine!”
For example, What is it about our America that’s unjust?
What is it about Christianity that is undervalued or misunderstood?
What is it about your Jesus that was misrepresented?
Where am I complicit to injustice?
At the very least, these questions allow for debate and discussion for growth.
Be wise, church. Stay vigilant with your phrases and your words. Your words can carry life and love. Reject what is foolish, and hold ground for truth. We’d love to have you join us this Sunday at 10 am as we discuss these ideas further with fellow members of our church.
“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” -James Baldwin