Gracism: The art of radical inclusion

Oookay that last post ended up going to a much broader audience than I intended! I’m thankful to the people who have kept their comments civil, as this is something the internet discourages us from doing these days. That’s what we Christians do, it’s part of our witness to the watching world. We disagree, but we can have civil conversation about it , we still see people as made in God’s image, we resist the temptation to overgeneralize and defame. Thank you to those who have shown this is possible, even when emotions are running high.

To my friends who voted for Trump (and I say friends, because you are! I know and love you, and I know you are not hateful, KKK-loving crazies) – I’m sorry if my words caused you pain, if you felt like I was painting you into the corner as the bad guys. My intention was simply to point out the real pain that I’ve witnessed in the church from the things Trump himself and some of his supporters have said and done. I think many of us in the church naively thought we could vote on a platform and separate that from the person, without realizing the real hurt that would cause to the most vulnerable members of the body of Christ. And that’s what I care about- the hurt to the vulnerable members of our body.

51fqdi-3qcl-_sx333_bo1204203200_There’s a book called Gracism by David A Anderson I read several years ago that has shaped the way I see things.  “Pastor David Anderson responds to prejudice and injustice with the principle of gracism: radical inclusion for the marginalized and excluded. Building on the apostle Paul’s exhortations in 1 Corinthians 12 to honour the weaker member, Anderson presents a biblical model for showing special grace to others on the basis of colour, class or culture.” (source)

As a white person in evangelicalism, I have a lot of power. In the formal structures of evangelicalism, people of my group are represented. In society at large in America, my group has more of a say, more privilege. And As Paul says,

“The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.” 

Right now, the “weaker members” (ie: those with less power in the church and in society at large) are suffering. As part of the majority, I don’t need “special care”. Some people have asked if Hillary won if I would have said the same thing. Hillary winning would have brought several new challenges for the witness and work of the church. (We’re Christians, right, and there’s never been a Savior on capital hill!) There would have been major challenges. But I think it’s fair to say the vulnerable members of our society and our churches would not be as afraid and suffering as much. God says he wants us to give more honor to the parts that don’t have it. Those with less power- racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees, – do need special care. They needed special care before the election. And now that the election is over, some felt as if we said to them, “We don’t need you” and some are targets of hateful actions, and so they need even MORE special care than ever before. 

I care about racial reconciliation within the body of Christ. That’s kind of the focus of this blog. And one of the things I’ve learned from listening to my black and brown brothers and sisters, is that reconciliation does not just mean we decide to all be friends. It involves things like confession and repentance. It involves us “more powerful parts” recognizing we have some actions and some systems within American society and within our own churches that are hurting our brothers and sisters. It involves acknowledgement of hurt and pain we’ve caused. It involves turning from those actions and reorganizing our structures and our worlds so that these unfair systems do not continue. It means being willing to give up some power and privilege, being okay to step back and not run the show, listening to those outside our immediate circle.

That’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see my white friends listening empathetically to the fears and needs of our black brothers and sisters. Not just the ones you already agree with. (The whole, “Well, I have a black friend and she says she’s never seen racism” thing doesn’t work here).

If you care about reconciliation, then no matter who you voted for, we need the ability to say (like any time we’ve hurt people we love):

“I’m sorry. My actions have hurt you. My actions have made you feel unsafe. I’m willing to listen to your pain without justifying myself or defending myself. I am willing to take whatever steps are necessary to repair the trust I’ve broken with you. I care about you. I love you. I understand it will take time to rebuild the trust I’ve broken. It’s okay if you need some space. Here are the actions I’m taking to make our churches and our world a safer, more welcoming place for you. I am open to hearing what you think I should do to make this up to you.Please let me know if there’s anything I can do. I will suffer with you. I will speak up for you in places where your voice is not heard, and work to make those spaces welcoming to your voice. Please will you forgive me?”

This is loosely based on Peacemaker Ministries  “5 A’s of confession“. Their book is great.

If you’re looking for tangible things to do to “repair the breech” I have a post coming up that will give some practical ideas. 

PS. This is very “race” focused, because that’s an area I know something about and care about- but it applies to other vulnerable groups as well. 

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