When’s the last time you had a heartfelt, open dialogue with someone who was your complete opposite? What does that even look like?
Maybe it looks like being a “youngin” like me having a discussion with someone in there 80’s about Facebook… Or maybe you are a woman who works and you are having a conversation about raising kids with a stay at home dad… Perhaps you are Caucasian talking to someone who is African American about the criminal justice system (or vice-versa). It might be that you read this blog because of generation discussions, so maybe it looks like talking to millennials like Keagen does (read his thoughts here) even if you hear nothing but stereotypical hype about what a bummer that generation is.
I would harbor a guess that this type of dialogue hasn’t happened in your life as often as it should. Perhaps you were brought up to stick with your own kind, to not engage with the “other” who are outside of your circles. I wasn’t explicitly taught this, but I naturally fell into it like most people do. Most of us can’t help it. We live in communities surrounded by people who are like us. Many of us grew up going to schools full of kids like us. Then we go to churches full of people like us. Whether it’s race, income level or social status, we all tend to gravitate towards sameness.
This is not how the Kingdom of Heaven is structured:
Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes we try to make it look a certain way though. Sometimes we like our brand of *Fill-In-The-Blank*. Church for instance… Back in Jesus day, it was all about separation, about division. The religious elite leveraged something sacred, God’s law, for their own selfish gain. This is why Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” in Mark 10. I don’t think we can fully understand what it means for the social structures of this would be turned completely upside sown unless we are willing to step across divides within society that we ourselves contribute too.
This is where dialogue comes into play. It is where engaging the “other” comes into play. Where “we are one in Christ” comes into play.
Last night I was blessed to be able to lead a discussion on a very touchy topic; Racism. Now to be clear, I am a white male. My church is mostly caucasian as well, but we do have other ethnic groups represented sparingly. In light of these factors, one might assume the topic of racism not come up often which is true. It really doesn’t, but is that ok?
I don’t think so.
Fortunately for me, I have a church full of people who are willing to have a real dialogue, to take a hard look at Jesus words and how they apply to our daily lives.
So, we had a dialogue on racism.
I’ll be very candid, I was slightly anxious about this discussion. Not only am I on the younger end of the spectrum, I am also not necessarily the most qualified individual to speak about every topic, racism included. I had a lot of apprehension opening up this discussion for the simple fact that I knew there was a chance that someone wouldn’t like what I said, that someone might disagree. So I let someone else start off our discussion that night, not out of fear, but out of a desire to do the topic justice. I wanted someone who had experienced racism first hand to share what they did about it.
Thank God for youtube.
The manes name is Brian Stevenson and he left me forever changed after hearing a story about how he became the legal representation for a 13-year-old African American boy who was being tried as an adult. That little boy’s life will be forever scarred because he had to spend three days in jail with actual adult prisoners.
The hell he had to have experienced is excruciating to think about…
Brian felt ill-equipped to fix all the wrongs, he felt overwhelmed by the injustice of it all and was at a loss for what to do, but he decided to do something. He was tired of seeing the disparity that is all to often driven by the racial divide in this country, so he turned his thought and feelings into action. Here, he can speak for himself:
From the source
I played this video at the beginning of my bible study because I wanted someone more qualified, someone, who had dealt with the topic of the night, to share their story. I wanted the dialogue to happen, and I’m lucky because my church wanted it too.
In this video Brian speaks of Identity, of how our society will not be judged on how great it is on the technologies it creates or the innovation it fosters, but on how much it engages with the marginalized, the cast outs, those things we are fare more likely to gloss over because they are icky and we don’t like talking about them.
What Brian is talking about is the words Jesus spoke, about the first being last and the last being first. Jesus is challenging his church to bare one another burdens, not to turn a blind eye when someone else is suffering an injustice. Jesus words are palpable when applied to our lives. They breathe life into a situation that can become stagnated by political rhetoric, by talking heads, by biased pundits.
Brian shared a story in this video about meeting Rosa Parks. He gives her his schpeel about his life’s work, (this is what he does) about fighting injustice. I want to end this post with her response. She tells his first that he is going to be “tired, tired, tired” and follows it with an elegantly simple but powerful follow-up encouraging by saying “which is why you have to be brave, brave, brave.”
We need to be brave. Our country needs to have more bravery. Our church needs to be braver, to have tough dialogue, to not ignore Jesus teachings but to exemplify them. Brian and those that would be considered the “other” in my situation, those who are the racial minorities that I am lucky enough to have as part of my local church, reminded me of how important this dialogue is to my humanity, to my ability to follow Jesus. I was afraid to engage in this discussion, but I’m glad the big man upstairs was having none of it. Dialogue is powerful because through it we can get a glimpse, if only for a moment, of what its like to be “other.” Whatever “other” is for you, whether is another race, a different generation, gender or maybe something silly like a rival sports teams fanbase, whatever it may be, don’t let fear prevent dialogue from happening.
Fear almost kept me from turning what was supposed to be a private journal into a book that I am willingly going to let other strangers read. This though is where I think God shows up, in the moments we are unsure of what to do, but still we do something, hoping God blesses it. If God is for us, then who could ever top us?
So don’t let fear divide. Remember the words of Rosa Parks, words she herself lived by… Words that embody the gospel message Jesus gave us of loving others the way we want to be loved…
Be “brave, brave, brave”…
Until next time…
On the blog this week is Ryan (see his other stuff here) who will be sharing some of the struggles and fears associated with preaching to those who are more “seasoned” in years than himself. Stay tuned.