Saturday, August 15, 2015

White Meat, White Privilege & Washed White As Snow

Oh hallowed Chick-fil-A: The haven where mothers go to sit in air conditioning, eat food they didn’t prepare, unleash kids in the mostly-sound-proof play place, and trade their children’s educational Kid’sMeal books for fattening ice cream cones (which they may or may not hide in the bathroom to eat all by themselves… call it the tax for keeping offspring alive... and don't think I don't see those judgey eyes!)  

Last time I was luxuriating in this paradise created expressly for mothers of small children, I met a new friend. A man so ancient, he looked fragile around the edges, but so spunky you couldn’t help but enjoy his sparkle. He had loads of old man kindliness in his eyes and sass in his personality. We chatted it up from our separate booths about kids and jobs and athletics and what it’s like to be retired. 

He peppered the conversation with not-so-subtle Christianisms to let me know that he was ‘A Believer’ as they say. If I had to guess, I’d peg him for a long time Baptist Evangelical who prides himself on going to the ‘contemporary service’ despite his age. 

I volleyed back vaguely positive responses… because I like to keep ‘em guessing and watch how they act. 

Then he proceeded to tell me about his neighborhood: “It’s nice. You look around and you just feel good about living there, because everyone is like you. I mean, it’s not like down here. You don’t see people from different… err… you know, different cultures. I don’t mean that in a bad way. You don’t have, you know, any shenanigans.”

My heart broke. 

I’m not good at saying what needs to be said with bravery to strangers. And, yes, I see the irony between that and my chosen profession of writing to a vast world of readers I’ve never met. But, the conflict, the collision of emotions… it scares me silly. I’d rather filter it through pen and paper and give the emotions space to breathe. 

So, what I failed to say in that moment was…

Sir, the Jesus you claim to love made a life long habit of inserting himself directly into the heart of the shenanigans and the “cultures” at which you are turning up your white privileged nose. In fact, you might say the whole ‘coming to earth’ thing was him leaving the ivory tower of Godburbia (where everything is awesome, the landscaping immaculate, and he is perfectly adored) and entering the ghetto… where people have attitudes, don’t celebrate him, are quicker to distrust than love, constantly demanded handouts, mocked him and ultimately killed him. He swapped paradise for the ultimate low rent neighborhood of the universe. A place where the grit and the grime and the reality of brokenness commingle with the warmth of genuine healing love. “For he who has been forgiven much loves much.” Sir, dear Sir, until you love the low (not tolerate, not patronize, not dabble in, not visit on Christmas Eve, but deeply love), you will never truly know the love of your Savior.

I didn’t say it. I couldn’t. I’m sorry.
But the message is ringing in my head and in my heart. 

People, dearest people, there is no culture, no comfort, no economic theory, no way of speaking and dressing, no normal that is more important than throwing Jesus’ uninhibited love for the downtrodden around like confetti. It doesn't even matter if you believe they ARE downtrodden... Jesus overwhelmed all logic and loved the low.

There was literally no social class, no ethnicity, no profession however distasteful, no ability or disability level, no sinner that Jesus turned away. The only people he rejected were the puffed up religious elite, the “clean.” 

Does that mean we give up our gated communities? Does that mean we put our kids in public school? Does that mean we stop insisting that everyone speak our version of “proper English” to be taken seriously? Maybe. Is that hard to live out? Yes. Will that challenge a lot of the choices you make in a world that prizes getting ahead, moving up, having it all? Uh huh! If that doesn’t convict some hearts, something’s wrong. 

But ultimately our calling is clear… and it ain’t white flight: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).  

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