Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thanks for checking out the blog: I've moved!

Thanks for checking out the blog,
I've moved to:

I look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where's Home?

Home is a safe place which belongs to you and to which you belong. I’ve been on a journey to find that safe place in recent days (or maybe years – I’m not really sure where I belong). I find myself in the company of mystics at times, believing that the journey inward is the one in which the divine is revealed and tranquility attained. The journey inward, for me, is a roller coaster ride into the belly of hell (at least when it’s ventured alone).  

I have often denounced the belief that truth can be obtained in abstraction given that revelation is highly relational. God reveals himself through interacting with persons and nations in history. God makes his dwelling on earth in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. I now know that my emphasis on the importance of church community however, remains an abstract truth rather than an experiential reality.  

Home is in the company of those with whom I already have acquaintance. Antithetical to home is the pursuit of those with whom I have yet to be acquainted. Home is the opposite of the pursuit of relationships in quantity and quality which will satisfy the longings for affirmation. Home is being satisfied, content, wholly complete in what has been provided, and thankful toward the one who has provided it. 

But again, home is that safe place. Home are the few Christian misfits who love Jesus, love their brothers and sisters and neighbors, yet still do not feel at home. Home is those few misfits who comfort, encourage, and strengthen me as much as I ever do them. 

Though I speak of the select few who “get me”, I would venture to say that if we took off the masks and were honest, very few of us feel at home. If we could be honest and vulnerable with each other, maybe we could begin to build a home together, and in this home we can live a hopeful exilic life.

Time to Disappear

It’s incredibly strange how anger, resentment, angst, agitation can creep into your life. I always think of myself as a person who is committed to finding the source so that the symptoms are not belched on to everyone within reach.
That is to say, behavior is always driven by a source. More often than not the behavior is only a symptom of the source that we are too afraid to confront. None of this is intentional. Projection is not a conscious choice.
A man who has invested a great deal in me once challenged me, when I was angry with someone or engaging in behavior meant to alleviate such burdens, to stop and bring to the forefront of my mind exactly what motivated the behavior.
I’ve been trying to get to a place where it takes less time for me to identify my symptoms and track them back to the source. It’s a lot of work. There’s a reason that our minds create these barriers: to protect us from the pain a full frontal confrontation will bring. In the long run, addressing such issues is far greater than the damage it causes inwardly and for those who love you when they are suppressed.  
I had a nickname in college that demonstrates one of my major symptoms. One of my professors used to call me “Mr. Jaded and Cynical”. Truth be told, I think the reason he did this was because he suffered from the same symptoms. The old adage “it takes one to know one” is incredibly accurate.
Whenever my tone (in print or in-person) becomes caustic, hostile, or juvenile, I’ve got some things to work out.
So I’m going to disappear for awhile. I’m going to work on making things right, confronting those whom deserve my anger, stop making others pay for it, and lay down these burdens I carry unnecessarily. I’m going to become a bit more contemplative and reflective. I’m going to throw myself into my studies (my act of worship). I’m going to start living with my wife instead of inside my head.
The more I think of it, my burdens sound like powerful gods to which I must appease, bending and bowing before their demands. I hate them. I renounce them. I will confront them and put them in their proper place.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dear Pretentious White 20 Somethings

I've heard whispers that my generation is the next "Great Generation". There are very few ways that we can be negatively caricatured the way other generations can (at least for the time being). There is something I'm beginning to see that concerns me however. 

Yes, I find my generation to be very informed and engaged with issues that actually matter. Yes, I find it to be the case that my generation is laboring toward issues of justice; whether they be racial, societal, or global.

What concerns me is that the same air of paternalism saturates the attitudes of many who look like me. We speak of unity, partnership, collaboration, reconciliation, but when it comes time for us to collaborate with each other we act pretentious. We act as if we're more enlightened than our white peers.

Perhaps some examples might help: 
Hey, fellow hipsterish white guy who lives in our neighborhood: I see that you take time to greet everyone else on their stoop, but when you walk past my wife and I you ignore us. Even though I make eye contact and say warmly "how are you?" you keep rolling by like I'm begging you for money. I'm sorry, I didn't know I stole your thunder for being the great white hope of the block you pompous douche! 
Oh, and PS, there's more than one of you.

I've been passionate the last year and half about issues of race relations in our country. It became important to me first because of a man named Dr. Al Tizon who spoke about urban/suburban partnerships and issues of racial reconciliation and the new trend of urban gentrification. More recently I attended the YWCA Racial Justice Initiative.

Through those mediums I've been able to have conversations about race with people of color without consequence. I talk to the guys at Champs, the folks at C-town, and my neighbors about these issues, and I'm often surprised when they invite me into their experience. At the Racial Justice Initiatives our talks began with us granting permission to feel uncomfortable, permission to say "ouch" whenever someone’s toes have been stepped on, and permission to make mistakes. 

For some reason though, I can't have a conversation with other white folks in their 20's about race. It becomes a competition of who's less racist. Everything becomes about wagging a righteous finger for not being as informed. Are we really that afraid of our ignorance being discovered that we have to one up each other? This is the worst kind of delusion: believing that it's our responsibility to correct others while being blind to our own prejudice. Another example...

In a group setting, an African American woman speaks of her deep hurt and self hatred, and some of the resentment she felt toward Caucasians at times. A young white woman my age says to her:
"Can I challenge you on something? You need to get over that hurt. You need to put that behind you and move on with your life. I had things in my past that hurt. I once was where you are, but I put those things behind me."
Really, you know what it's like to be an African American woman in a racist society? REALLY? You just put the hurt behind you? It's just that simple?
As John Oliver says:
"If you're wondering how many balls it takes to say something like that... it takes three balls!"
In the same way, when I bring up issues of race with other white folks, I get corrected with cliché’s addressing issues of race that in themselves are incredibly ignorant and racist! As if even bringing up the subject amongst white company is a social racist foul. Why do we feel the need to put this topic out of our minds and discussions? 

If you feel the need to establish yourself as someone who isn't racist in order to squelch the conversation and alleviate your guilt, than perhaps you ought to look within yourself before correcting others. If you feel the need to correct the racism in others as if you're not a part of systemic racism, than you need to come to terms with your duality. 

Me? I know I have racist tendencies simply because of the cultural cues I've absorbed (some consciously and some subconsciously). It's not beyond me or any other person of privilege, and I need a community of diverse people to extract it. I need a person to show me where I have bought into the societal lie that privilege does not exist for those with lighter skin. 

The worst kind of prejudice are those who enjoy their privileges while insisting they do not have them, and insisting they're not a part of the problem.

Therefore, my pretentious peers, you and are in the same boat. We have a legacy of hatred and oppression going back generations. We are intricately connected to that legacy. We knowingly or unknowingly participate in those systems daily. Just because you denounce racism does not make you incapable of it. And just because I want to talk to you about it doesn't mean you have to assume I need to be enlightened.