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Sunday, December 9, 2018 Second Sunday in Advent

December 9, 2018

adventcal2018week2And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more 
in knowledge and every kind of perception, 
to discern what is of value, 
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 
filled with the fruit of righteousness 
that comes through Jesus Christ 
for the glory and praise of God.

–Philippians 1:8-11

The second reading for today holds a prayer for right perception in the service of God’s love for us, so it seems an apt place to begin this reflection. Coming after a week of engaging here with a variety of Christ images – some conventional, some less-so – I want to dig into what right perception and the ability to discern what is of value might mean for us today.

After Michael Brown was murdered by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014, many people of European descent in the US began to pay serious attention to the Black Lives Matter movement in a way they had not before. For some this was a welcome movement, for others a serious annoyance, for others a sign of serious societal breakdown. I can’t imagine that it was easy or comfortable for anyone, no matter what their reaction to it, but it seems to have resulted in the loss of some beliefs and erroneous perceptions about African Americans and their experiences. It’s harder for white people to remain blind to the fact that black people are not treated equally or fairly by police, for example, or to continue to believe that our system of mass incarceration is somehow justified.

I see that as an entirely good thing, since living in a bubble of ignorance that rests on a belief in superiority based on race puts white people in a false moral position. It’s not good. It’s not good for us. It’s certainly not good for black people. White supremacy, white people are finally coming to understand, is a spiritual sickness, and as such it’s up to us to seek for healing for ourselves. For ourselves, and for our afflicted culture.

But, given the sharp cultural divides that persist in our country, how does one go about that? How can we “increase ever more and more 
in knowledge and every kind of perception, 
to discern what is of value?” Who or what will help us break out of our ignorance? One way is to engage in the kind of daily engagement with images that we have been practicing here this week. Some of them are comfortable and familiar, some are challenging and difficult. What do we do with the discomfort, and how does it shake us out of complacency?

But that’s not enough. Fortunately we live in an era when it’s possible to listen and learn about this sickness of white supremacy without being too obnoxious about it, that is, without expecting black people to come to us and educate us out of our error. That’s not their responsibility.

So where to go? Social media is replete with Black Lives Matter activists and sites. Twitter is a great place to listen in, especially if you can be patient enough to sift through the immensity to find a good combination of people to follow. The key is listening, I believe, not responding, correcting or educating. You’re the one being educated here, and the way to do that is to listen, to listen to the person you’re following, and also your own reactions and beliefs. Let me suggest DeRay McKesson and Nekima Levy-Armstrong as good people to listen to on Twitter. Listen long. Keep listening. Join your local NAACP and go to the meetings. Listen. Show up to protests and celebrations led by people of color. Don’t try to lead. Just listen.

Listen. Sometimes it’s really, really uncomfortable. But listen anyway.

Here are two other good resources for learning:
Invisible Backpack
White Supremacy Culture

White supremacy is a systemic spiritual sickness of our society. White people must choose to take to prayer and wake up.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Healing often is.

–Baya Clare CSJ

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    December 9, 2018 7:08 am

    Great reflection and challenging. Thanks Baya.

  2. Linda Neil permalink
    December 10, 2018 5:26 am

    Powerful reflection. My ministry is in a black neighborhood and I see the ravages of white supremacy constantly!

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