Those of you who read here often know I write quite a bit about race from a multiracial family perspective. Writing and talking about race often brings both joy and, without a doubt, pain. The subject is loaded, particularly in America. So it was with great investment and interest that I have, as have many of you, listened closely to the narrative over the past few days surrounding Rick Warren’s (Pastor of Saddleback Church) posting on Facebook relating his staff team to a picture of the Chinese Red Guard. Just so you know where I stand, I believe the picture he posted represents a gross lack of cultural and racial literacy. I was saddened by the posting in the first place, and then the defense of it, and finally the ‘apology’ issued without dialoging with those who had pointed out his err. For the whole story, here are a two leaders and bloggers that I respect in this past week’s dialog (you can read through their several posts as events unfolded):
Yes, this happened in the church. As a Christian I have felt anger, embarrassment and dismay. As someone who attends a church that proactively discusses the joy and pain of multiracial community, the most hurtful act was the lack of fruitful discussion after the error was revealed to Warren and his staff. Where are those that are willing to talk about what happened? Where are those to listen with humility and try to learn? Sadly, I don’t think that conversation will occur and it can leave us feeling helpless. My friend Rob over at Challenging Tertullian wrote a great response in terms of pressing into hope for the church after all has been said and done. May his post encourage you today.
However, I would urge each one of us to action today. Regardless where you have landed, I believe all of us in the church need to take some next steps in light of the current discussion and as we pursue both racial and cultural literacy. Now is the time to ante up. I would recommend three things.
Three books come to mind immediately. I would consider them required reading to further racial and cultural literacy.
The first two books are by Christian authors who are encouraging the often difficult work of multiethnic churches. Each have their own unique yet similar call to humble listening and patient understanding as we strive to work out life together. The third book listed by Dr. Tatum is foundational for anyone who is in pursuit of greater racial understanding.
Perhaps the most deafening sound bite from this entire conversation this past week has been the silence. There were invitations offered for greater conversation that were left hanging. There were emails sent offering insight that were left unanswered.
May we heed the call to listen to one another. I encourage each of us to listen when it is difficult and particularly when you don’t want to hear. Stories from those around us that we think we know, may we hesitate in assuming what they have to say. May we listen to stories that change our perception, that make us uncomfortable, and yes, that ultimately change the way we do things. Listen. Being heard is a gift.
After we have learned, either from listening to a friend, or from reading a book that engages our racial and cultural literacy, then and only then should we talk. In our need to defend ourselves, or to vent our opinion, may we not trample upon the race, culture, or personhood of another human being. Talking is a privilege, may we be thoughtful about others as we use this privilege.
Ultimately, my hope as this difficult week wraps up is that we would not let this moment – an opportunity – pass us by. Let us pursue racial and cultural literacy with mindfulness and commitment to one another.