Kind Education

I long for the day when there will be freedom in the body of Christ for believers to unburden their hurts without the fear of being met with defensiveness or dismissiveness.

If people are going to treat me as “other”, I am no better if I fail to see their humanity. Sure there were times when the comments were malicious, but more often than not, ignorance was the root. But the “kind education” needed to correct the ignorance means listening on one side and taking the risk of speaking on the other. Part of that listening may be acknowledging the disparities of experience and humbly asking God where we need to repent of attitudes and actions that are out of sync with the forward momentum toward Rev. 7:9.

 

There’s a beautiful and poignant post over at Fathom Mag by Tasha Burgoyne. Almond Eyes is a letter from a mother to her daughter telling her that she is made in the image of God no matter how people treat her. This article is even more meaningful because of a prior post where her child, still young enough to be riding in a stroller, was the subject of racial remarks.

In some ways, this country has come so far, and in other ways, it’s as though nothing has changed. When Tasha writes about “people who might pull back the corners of their eyes and laugh at you on the playground,” 40+-year-old memories came to mind. I still remember the faces of the kids who thought it was hilarious to mock the only Asian in the school. I remember some of their names. Not because I’ve been holding a grudge all these years, but the whole “sticks and stones” is wishful thinking. Words leave scars that take a long time to heal especially when they have undermined your sense of what it means to be human. But the first stages of my healing have come not by pretending that these incidents never happened but by holding them up to the light, naming them for what they are, and affirming that God did not make a mistake when He made me the way He did.

The author goes on to describe a potential scenario that is also very familiar – where you aren’t seen as an individual but just another two-dimensional cut-out of the perpetually foreign stereotype. Even though we are asked where we are really from, the underlying assumption is that if you’ve seen one Asian, you’ve seen them all. To borrow from Dorothy L. Sayers, we are “reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.” But even in the face of this presumption, I take heart in the way she suggests that her daughter respond:

 People might take one look at your eyes, and without invitation, ask you if you speak Chinese while telling you everything they know about that sushi place in town they love, the Japanese exchange student they knew (at least they think she was Japanese), and about the recipe for spring rolls that they just found. Try to remember that they are image bearers too. If they offer room to respond (many times they won’t), respond with grace and truth. Kind education has power.

If people are going to treat me as “other”, I am no better if I fail to see their humanity. Sure there were times when the comments were malicious, but more often than not, ignorance was the root. But the “kind education” needed to correct the ignorance means listening on one side and taking the risk of speaking on the other. Part of that listening may be acknowledging the disparities of experience and humbly asking God where we need to repent of attitudes and actions that are out of sync with the forward momentum toward Rev. 7:9.

 most of our churches and most of their members have a different experience from that of racial minorities. As a white person I do not have to wonder whether the loss-prevention staff are following me around the store or if it just coincidence. I do not get pulled over for driving in the “wrong neighborhood.” When I walk into a NAPARC congregation (most of the time) people do not give me funny looks, touch my (non-existent) hair, ask me if I am an illegal immigrant, ask me where I am really from, tell me that my English is pretty good for a foreigner, or make racist jokes at my expense. That sort of thing has happened to friends of mine, in NAPARC congregations, just in the last few years. These things have all happened within the last 24 months. R. Scott Clark

I long for the day when there will be freedom in the body of Christ for believers to unburden their hurts without the fear of being met with defensiveness or dismissiveness. In addition to racism, there are other issues that would shame us into silence too such as disability, mental illness, and abuse. This unburdening may not be about blaming the church at all but wanting support from family. There are plenty of places I could go instead, other people I could turn to, but when I am wounded, I need to go home. I need to be reminded of God’s love in the gospel and His unchanging character. I need to be reminded that I am made in His image and that my faith family is standing with me. In the end, all I can do is pray that I will respond with grace and truth. I have no power to change someone’s mind, but what is impossible for man is possible with God. If He enables, kind education does have power.

(Note: I have it linked above, but I would encourage you to read R. Scott Clark’s post – Houston, We Do Have a Problem.  As he says in a comment, “This is a time for self-reflection, repentance, and to embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ.”)

Persis Lorenti is an ordinary Christian. You can find her at Tried With Fire and Out of the OrdinaryThis article appeared on her blog and is used with permission.