When I started this blog, I made the decision that it wasn’t going to be overly personal. I wanted the blog to be about faith, about the Bible, about Jesus and about women primarily. The problem with my original decision I have found, is that all of the things I feel called to talk about ARE personal. At least to me. They are the essence of who I am, and the filter and experiences that I have had in life shapes and colors all of my perspectives. It is nothing but personal.
Allow me to delve into the personal realm today and tell you a bit about my family. I have been married to an amazing man for going on 18 years. He is my best friend. My safe place. He challenges me. He protects me. He is on my team. Together, we have 6 children. Two sleeps from the moment of this writing, our oldest son will be 16 years old. Our second son is a surly 13. Then come the triplets. All three are girls, and at the end of summer they will be 10 years old. Our youngest daughter is 4. She is fiery, she is spunky, she is charming, she is bubbly, she never stops talking, she is the light of our lives and the perfect addition to our family.
She is also black.
When my husband and I were working on her adoption, part of the process was to read and learn about the challenges of inter-racial adoption. How does a white family, with white experiences raise and prepare a black child who will experience different things? At the time, I thought it a bit silly and unnecessary. How can the world really be that different for black people than white people? As long as I figure out the hair and skin care differences, we’ll be just fine.
How wrong I was. How naive.
I believe what that is called is white privilege.
Being a white woman myself, and being raised in a predominantly white culture has made me naive to the pain and suffering of racism in the world around me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care.. It’s that I didn’t know.
Over the last couple of years, as God has taken me on a path of studying the Bible; particularly the women in it and their stories, I have found a glaring truth.. The truth is that God values women, and includes women, and believes that women are important to the ruling and subduing of the earth and everything in it; including the church. And yet, as a woman, who has grown up in the church, that has not been my practical experience. In the church as a woman, I have been treated as less important, less valuable and as though my gifts are not as useful to the church.
I have repeatedly been told that I’m interpreting my experiences wrong. That the subtle messages that I’ve picked up over the years are not the true representation of the way the church thinks or behaves. That I feel these things because there is something wrong with me. That if I simply change xy or z about myself, my experiences would all be different.
As I have walked and processed through this, I have started to understand on a deeper level what racism in America looks like. The “Black Lives Matter” movement began to make more sense to me.
Please do not hear me say that my experience as a woman in the church is the same as a black person in America. IT ISN’T. Not even close. My experience is merely a hint, a glimmer of the culture of racism we have here. But that glimmer of understanding is all that it took for the door of understanding to be blown open.
When women all over the country, from all different backgrounds and cultures and races and denominations are finding one another online and sharing similar stories of abuse and marginalization experiences in the church, it means that there is something deeply wrong in our church culture in America.
When women all over the world, from different backgrounds and cultures and races are sharing stories of abuse and marginalization and victim shaming experiences from men and our society, it means that there is something deeply wrong with the value we place on women in our world.
And when black people all over America, from different backgrounds and cultures are sharing similar stories of abuse, violence, marginalization and victim shaming experiences from our police and our culture as a whole, it means there is something deeply wrong with racism in America.
This is not okay. This is deeply, and disturbingly not okay. All of these things are wicked. All of these things are evil. All of these things are an affront to the God who made us ALL in the image of Himself and has given us equal dignity, value and worth.
You may be one of those people, as I was, that doesn’t really understand what the big deal is. After all, slavery has been over for a long time! And didn’t that second wave of feminism change all the laws to give women equal rights? As a white person, it is easy to be comfortable with that conclusion because we have never experienced life as a black person. As a man, it is easy to be comfortable with that conclusion because you have never experienced life as woman.
If you are in that place, I would challenge you, implore you really, to not stop there. In my experience, to even be able to have those thoughts means that you (and I) are part of the privilege. Privilege is comfortable. It is easy. It is easier and more comfortable to disregard and dismiss any person who has a different experience than us. It is easier and more comfortable to conclude we are right.
James chapter 2 warns us all against showing favoritism. It is specifically speaking of showing favoritism to the rich at the expense of the poor, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to universally apply it to all people. The world shows favoritism all the time; to the rich, to the white, to the men, to the famous, to the powerful. Favoring rich and powerful people might gain us something in our jobs, in our churches, in our personal lives, but it does not gain us anything in the Kingdom of God. In fact, it hinders the Kingdom of God.
Thankfully, and solely because of God’s grace to us, the gospel FREES us to lay down our desire for personal gain. It frees us to being able to give equal value, dignity, and worth to ALL people; rich or poor, male or female, black or white. As Reverend Jennifer Bailey said in a RECENT ARTICLE; “The gospel message of Jesus was, at its core, about embodying God’s love through affirming the inherent dignity of all peoples in general, and of marginalized peoples in particular.”
Laying down our desire for personal gain in order to live out the gospel is going to look different for you than it does for me. It begins by laying down our need to be right. When we lay down our need to be right, it frees us to listen to the experiences of others. Without trying to formulate a response. Without trying to counteract what they’re saying. Without trying to prove yourself right.
We need to listen with the heart of God. For the pain. For the suffering. For the knowledge and understanding.
As a white woman, I will never fully understand the experience of a black woman or a black man in America. I can only listen to their experiences with the heart of God. A man in the church will never fully understand the experience of a woman in the church. He can only listen to our experiences with the heart of God.
I don’t know where any of this ends, but it begins by laying down our perceived “rights” and being willing to listen.
It begins with you.
It begins with me.
For the sake of my glorious savior, and for the sake of my daughter, I am listening.