Confessing Racism

The following long-read is a more plainspoken adaptation of an exercise for a seminar in Divinity School. You can find the full and footnoted version at the end of this post.

I. Nobody’s Racist, Apparently

Nobody likes to say they’re racist.

Well, I suppose that’s not necessarily true. White supremacists (sometimes called the supposedly more benign “alt-right” or “white nationalists”) will sometimes openly call themselves racists and be proud of it.

But, for most folks, they don’t want to be called racist.

We’ve effectively attached such a shame to racism that no one is willing to admit their complicity or affinity for any sort of racial prejudice. On the one hand, it’s great we think racism is so bad, right? On the other, though, we are so unwilling to recognize any sort of bad in ourselves that we try to invisiblize and hide our own tendencies toward any sort of prejudice, especially racial prejudice.

We need a way of talking about racial prejudice that’s a good deal more honest than that.

We need a way of naming our own biases and prejudices the leads us to change. As long as we continue to ignore the problems racism has created in ourselves, we will continue to perpetuate everything from racialized income inequality to police brutality to white supremacist terrorism. The stakes are high, and we need to be willing to uncomfortably name those parts of ourselves we pretend don’t exist. Continue reading “Confessing Racism”

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Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown

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Marc Chegall “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” courtesy of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library and Musée du Message Biblique Marc-Chagall in Nice, France.

Do you remember that time-honored ritual that occurred when you started a new class? That time when everyone goes around the circle and answers an awkward set of introductory questions is as common to a fifth grader as it is to a second-year graduate student. Currently, I am attending a Methodist school for seminary filled with mostly — you guessed it — Methodists. It’s a startling realization to many of them when I tell them that I am a Baptist. A Baptist named Wesley? Absurd! That’s a Methodist name!

Part of appearing so Methodist but not actually being a Methodist comes out in my encounters with worship at the Divinity School. While I’m familiar with the basic set up of worship, most of the songs we sing are unfamiliar to me. Many of them are mainstays in the Methodist tradition and plenty of students have sung them since they learned to speak. However, that is not the case for me.

This past week, I served communion for the first time at school, which was a very moving experience for me. Consequently, I remembered a lot of the details of the service very vividly. One such detail was the music. One of the songs in particular that we sang stuck with me for the rest of the day and into the night. It was a (big surprise!) Wesley hymn that Charles wrote midway trough his life called “Come, O Thou traveler unknown.”  Continue reading “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”

Ideology and Prayer

“When we are on the street and find ourselves in front of a closed Church,” [Pope Francis] said, “we feel that something is strange.” Sometimes, he said, “they give us reasons” as to why they are closed: They give “excuses, justifications, but the fact remains that the Church is closed and the people who pass by cannot enter.” “The faith passes, so to speak, through … Continue reading Ideology and Prayer