Blessing or Privilege?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone about race, and it seemed like our Christian language was doing more harm than good by preventing the conversation from going to deeper levels of truthfulness and vulnerability? You know... someone risks tiptoeing into the murky waters by sharing a personal frustration about race relations, and all of a sudden the next person to speak is erasing the significance of the story by reciting Galatians 3:28.
Too often, rather than propel us forward into our shared pain, Christian quick-fixes serve to insulate and isolate. In recent years, I think a lot of work has been done to make us challenge these surface responses. Some great theologians, pastors, writers, and teachers have reframed many of these verses, offering a more arduous but adventurous way. Taking Galatians 3:28 for example, rather than using it to suggest God doesn't care about culture and neither should we, we can take a closer look. Isn't it strange that we are all too willing to erase the cultural element (Jews and Greeks), but we continue to explore our differences as male and female quite openly? Instead of using this verse as a blanket to cover up, diminish, or erase altogether our cultural differences, we can use the verse to propel us out of our comfort zone, to challenge the power dynamics and hierarchy between all the groups listed. What if we analyzed our own churches and asked ourselves, if Paul walked into our church on Sunday, would he still see a hierarchy of one culture over another, of one gender over another, of one class over another? Much harder, right?
While there has been much written (and spoken) on this and other verses that traditionally have been recited to tranquilize rather then agitate us into action, I think there is more "Christian-language" that we really need to work on challenging, particularly in our churches that are seeking to be multicultural.
One that I'd like to focus our attention on today is what we call a "blessing" from God, but is actually (or also) privilege at work. Sometimes when opportunity routinely comes our way, we can ask ourselves, "Is my voice continuing to reinforce the dominant culture?" Often times our reasoning that God has given us an opportunity relieves us of our responsibility to seek space for other's voices to be heard, too.
Lets look at Christian conferences. How often have you been to a conference, and more than 80% of the speakers and presenters are white (and male)? If you are one of the presenters who has routinely been invited to this conference, what might it look like for you to invite the planners to seek more voices? What if you as a presenter said, "I would love to talk about this again at your conference, but I have a friend who is also an expert in this field. She is a young, Asian American woman and her philosophy around this topic would be of tremendous value to attenders." Its a thin line between what could be another great blessing for you, and what could be an opportunity to lend your privilege to another voice.
I use conferences as an example but consider where you can release a little of your privilege and bless someone else- worship leaders, preachers, teachers, writers, musicians etc... Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that every time an opportunity comes it must be given away. I am asking that you consider lending your credibility to another voice, and to do so creatively. Can you co-present? Can you feature another voice or new style? Can you promote someone else?
Rather than leading with the assumption that God is just blessing us, might we ask ourselves if privilege is at play, and how we might give that away.