How can I hope to bridge the gap and promote meaningful conversation in regard to race? What pre-conceived notions do I need to leave behind in order to bridge the gap? How far across the bridge do I need to walk? What conversations are pertinent and necessary right now to bring unity to a hurting and divided nation?
Lilka, Andy Oldham and I have been having a conversation about this since Lilka’s last letter. We want to step up our conversation and include more people. So beginning in January, our letters and posts will be under a new Category called Bridges. This month, we welcome you to add your suggestions for topics for us to address. This month, Andy will add his voice to let you know who he is. We hope and pray this will both expand and lift our conversation. Please let us know if you’d like to be a regular contributor and feel free to extend an invitation to others to be a part of the discussion. And mostly, thank you to those who have already contributed your thoughts and your heart.
You wrote an extremely important and impactful letter before Thanksgiving. Aside from the Scripture you included, three things stood out to me I’d like to address.
1) I don’t believe everyone who voted for Donald Trump is racist. 2) Our “one nation under God” has spent far too much time placing our hopes and dreams in a person and not enough effort in reverence and obedience to God. 3) I do believe that obeying God’s commandment to love Him and love one another would be a definitive step in the right direction… Love can conquer hate.
First, two things I hear from white people unwilling to look within or uncertain of the meaning of racism are, “I’m not a racist,” or “Black people are racist, too.”
Based upon the definition of racism (below), black folks cannot be racist. It is only white people who can be racist. People of color can be fearful of white people, they can be angry with white people, but they cannot be racist.
Racism: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
Thirty years ago, I had to take a long, hard look at myself in the mirror. After a couple of negative experiences with Pakistani men, I concluded all Pakistani men were like them. I carried those stereotypical, racist images with me for more than ten years. I was convinced I was right. When I finally awoke to the ugliness within me, I was shocked and humbled. I always considered myself the furthest thing from a racist. I was wrong.
Based on the campaign words of our President-elect, some fears are well-founded. The question remains, will his actions reflect those words or his words of promoting unity and being a President for all people?
Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of wise people bring healing. (Proverbs 12:8)
Second, as each Presidential election year rolls around, we who call ourselves Christian become agitated and angry as we create idols out of those who vie for the office of the presidency of our country. We then attach ourselves to those same idols and worship them to the point we quickly forget the true Author of our lives because we packed Him away with last year’s Christmas ornaments.
How can we tell if they have become our idols? We allow our anger to consume us. We let fear run our lives. We refuse to offer compassion, grace and mercy, particularly to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Be careful not to let anyone rob you of your faith through shallow deceptions and misleading philosophy. Such a person follows human traditions and the world’s way of doing things rather than following Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Focus on the things that Christ is concerned with, not worldly things. Lift your eyes; see things from His perspective. (Colossians 3:1-2)
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)
Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by discrimination or hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace. These seeds are like seeds sown into fertile soil. (James 3:17-18 [Mark 4:8-9] The Voice & The Mirror)
Third, when we love instead of label, we do what Jesus asked of us. He told us to love more than any other thing. It becomes obvious when we read His words – the words in red letters – and if we are faithful to Him, we cannot deny His instructions to us. For if we deny them, we deny Christ.
Our President-elect is not an ideologue. He is a pragmatic, secular, visceral individual who reacts to events, flattery and slights in the moment. He does not know God. But all that does not matter if we know God. He may yet surprise us, just as he surprised us by winning the election.
To me, it matters not who our President is. It matters that I remember to pray for him. It matters that I remember to pray for and write to my representatives in Congress to ensure justice reigns. It matters that I continue these conversations – uncomfortable though they be – because if we close ourselves off, we will find ourselves “back there” again. It matters that I continue to walk across the bridge. And I will continue to ask you all to open yourselves to new and different information, to watch documentaries like “Rikers,” by PBS and “Thirteenth,” (Critic’s Choice Best Documentary Award, 2016) on Netflix.
Now more than ever, we must be known for our love and our willingness to promote unity. We must be known for our willingness to hold our hands out in grace and forgiveness. We must be known for our eagerness to step out onto the bridge.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)