Diving Deeper

In preparing for the conference Annual Meeting and its theme of “Diving Deeper: Race, Economics and Faith,” I’ve thinking back to my early awareness of and exposure to my own racism.

It was my first semester in seminary (Fall 2006) in the Chapel of the Great Commission at Pacific School of Religion. Rev. Linda Jaramillo, the UCC’s Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, was holding a town hall style meeting about dismantling racism. I don’t remember what her question was, but after I raised my hand and gave my answer, my friend whispered, “that wasn’t meant for you. White people are always answering first.”

I felt the sting of shame. I was doing what I’d been brought up to do from within the privilege of my white, middle class, social location. I clearly didn’t get it. I still struggle to see how my whiteness blinds me to the struggles of people of color. There is no blame or shame in who we are, but I believe God is constantly calling us to look at ourselves in the mirror to ask honest and deep questions.

Thousands of years ago, the Apostle Paul, in trying to explain who was in and who was out of the Jesus movement, said: “Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his/her label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing.” (Col. 3:10-11, The Message Bible)

The Quran says something very similar. “Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.” (49:13)

I have learned to recognize and accept that I have privileges as a white American that I can use to benefit those who don’t have the same. I strive to stand up in solidarity with those with little or no voice, with those whose voices are silenced or demonized, and with those whose voices have little or no power. These are the voices God wants us to hear and respond to in extravagant love.

Though my education hasn’t always been easy or pleasant, I thank God for it. I feel I’m in good company with us in the UCC who value education and growth. I will be sharing what I learn from the Annual Meeting in future sermons and articles.

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