Challenging reading (and listening) for the week

Three articles and a podcast for your consideration.

To start with the political landscape, David French puts into cohesive thought what I’ve noticed for quite awhile: political fundamentalism. (For once, it’s not the Church’s fault! Wait… except the Church is still in there. Darn.)

From the article:

I’m increasingly convinced we can’t understand the cultures of the far left or the far right unless you’ve either come from a fundamentalist background or have deep experiences with fundamentalist faiths.

This is true for me when I read this article. I came from a fundamentalist upbringing. I’m still extracting my mind from a lot of those issues. So, when I look at the political landscape today I am picking out the new fundamentalism all over the place. I’ve decided that as much as I can help it, “I ain’t goin’ there anymore!”

The Holy Post Podcast tackled French’s article this week. They discuss it in about the first half of the episode.

The other two articles deal with something I posted earlier this week. I’m going to call it “white fatigue.” As whites in the majority culture, we’re already worn out talking about race. We’re on to “backing the blue” or being outraged over monuments again. We’re drifting back to our comfort zones.

Here is the main problem, if I could possibly help others see it: it harms our black brothers and sisters.

And there will be a steep cost.

This isn’t about political movements now. It’s about offending brothers and sisters in Christ:

Even the language of what constitutes “justice” is controversial among evangelicals. In 2018, a group of pastors led by John MacArthur, an influential white megachurch pastor in California, signed a statement decrying “social justice” and arguing against “postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory.” It condemned “political or social activism” as not being “integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church.” This kind of sentiment is common among white evangelical leaders, several Black leaders who work in these spaces told me: White pastors aggressively enforce the boundaries of acceptable conversations on racism, weaponizing any position that bears even a whiff of progressive politics and slapping labels such as “social justice” and “cultural Marxism” on arguments about systemic injustice. Black leaders at predominately white organizations are careful to emphasize that caring about racism is a gospel issue. (More HERE.)

It’s leading to a point where the few black Christians who faithfully attended white evangelical megachurches are starting to head out the door never to come back. They find other churches. They’re not leaving faith.

Jemar Tisby, author of “The Color of Compromise,” a book about White churches’ complicity in racism, calls himself “post-evangelical.” The Black Christian historian, who left his predominantly White denomination years ago, said he receives several messages per week from Christians looking to follow in his footsteps. He says many write him after their White pastors minimize or try to explain away devastating incidents of anti-Black police brutality. They ask Tisby, should they leave? “We are telling them to get out,” he said. “Especially at this moment, if your churches are not taking a strong stand on racial justice it’s unlikely they ever will. (More HERE.)

Let the last sentence sink in…

This is the point of “white fatigue.” We have the ability to walk away. It is our comfort.

Again… folks. Please don’t.

Find a way to stay engaged.

Some ideas I practice:

  1. Visit black churches. Go ahead. Be the only white faces in a church service one day. You’ll get how that feels when we say, “Black people are always welcome at our churches!”

    But visit. Soak in their worship. If you don’t understand everything, just hang on. Let the beauty of a different style of worship wash over you.

    Talk to folks. Greet them. Thank them for the service. Get their names.
  2. Read black authors. Read them on race. Read them on theology. Read them in literature.

    Again… this is challenging. I don’t read fiction well so I’ve gone to audiobooks. On a long trip a few months ago I listened to The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It was shocking to my system. Then, I felt the tragedy. I was so deeply moved by the tragedy of the story. Then, in moments of hope, I wept all over again… while I was driving. It was ugly.

    I am listening to Beloved now. It’s read by Toni Morrison and I love her voice and cadence. Again… it’s tragic beauty all at once.

    I am reading How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Challenging. Hard to work through in some areas. There are places of disagreement. But I plow through.
  3. Watch a movie featuring black actors and possibly directed by black directors or written by a black writer. (I know… research.) I don’t hit every box on that every time, either.

    If I had to recommend one to start with I’d start with Just Mercy. And here is the “two for one” deal! Read the book by Bryan Stevenson and then watch the movie. Or, watch the movie first. But you get so much of what is going on right now in our nation if you will take on those two forms of media.
  4. Get new friends.

    Add people to your life in a meaningful way that will allow deeper conversation. Don’t just add friends so you can ask them about racism! Get to know people.

    Nothing… and I mean nothing boils my blood quicker than having conservatives find one black person saying the thing the conservative believes and then shares the living daylights out of it on social media. To pick a black person you don’t even know and share their quote just to be able to justify your position… is cheap. To not care enough to get to know folks, hear their opinions, and stay with them even if you disagree on some points… and then use other faces you don’t know to justify your positions… is just “hack living.” It’s lazy.

In other words… it’s time for us to join in on a centuries old fight that we, as whites, started. This time, the fight is to undo what has been set in motion. It won’t be changed in a weekend. It won’t be changed in one signature drive. It won’t be changed by ten hashtags on Twitter.

Work through the white fatigue. Join the battle. Win the war.

One thought on “Challenging reading (and listening) for the week

  1. Hi Dan. A very thought-provoking post. I agree with French’s tweet:
    “I’m increasingly convinced we can’t understand the cultures of the far left or the far right unless you’ve either come from a fundamentalist background or have deep experiences with fundamentalist faiths.”

    It’s impossible to understand both sides of the issue unless we’ve live in both worlds. After we do, it’s becomes impossible to stay comfortable.

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