Paul and I are attending the National Youth Workers' Convention in Pittsburgh this year. Yep, just down the road. So far it's been phenomenal... thought provoking speakers, great dialogues, amazing food (dulcet beem en bop at Sushi Kim's... ahhhh...), hanging out with our team, and lots of soul searching.
One of last evening's speakers was a guy by the name of Dr. Soong-Chan Rah. His premise was that the American church is held captive to western white culture more than the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, he spoke of the insidious racism hidden deep within the Christian community. Two of the most recent explicit racial attacks have been committed at the hands of followers of Christ. Does American Christianity really perpetuate racism?
I had never entertained the notion that I could be prejudiced. In regards to religion, I grew up with a best friend who was Jewish. In regards to race, my years in Korea gave me a sensitivity and a compassion for wanting to understand others. In regards to economic divides, I do what I can to fight injustices and to help right wrongs.
Yet the more I listened to God speak through Dr. Rah, I realized that all is not what it should be. I have tolerated racism before. I have put up with hatred and sly remarks though I have been sickened with disgust. And in remaining silent, I only perpetuate this problem.
Not only that, but my brand of Christianity carries a privilege. I understand God from the perspective of a middle class white American woman. Like it or not, I see God through a particular lens, a narrow one at that. I have made no concerted efforts to surround myself with non-white voices and that is to my disadvantage, to say the least. The kingdom of God is not a white one. It is gorgeous in its' brilliant array of colors.
When I neglect to hear the rich stories of others, I also miss out on different facets of God's radiance. It's almost as though pieces of His beauty go un-mined. It's no less than a travesty - for me, for those voices who have been silenced far too long, and for our children who deserve to hear the wonders of God spoken from different tongues and heritages and perspectives.
Before one of our Compassion children was old enough to write, I corresponded with his mom Gina. Gina and Rodean (and the rest of her children) live in the Philippines. It is one of my fervent, crazy, almost unattainable prayers to be able to meet Gina one day on this earth. I always told Paul that Gina knew something about God that I didn't. Her letters to me were so rich and thankful and warm and giving. They were authentic and pure and almost shocking in their understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. Though we were the ones who were supposed to be giving of our wealth, I was the recipient of her riches. And hers were of far greater worth...
All that to say, that I have a lot to learn. I have a lot of questions to ask my unbelieving Dad, my neighbor, the youth group students, the homeless guys from the shelter, my co-workers, our Compassion children and their parents. My first question out of the starting blocks will be, "What does my life communicate to you about my Jesus?"