Peace Across Difference: Confessions of a White Male

Before I begin this post, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. I am a…

Peace-world-peace-2316212-780-417white

American

middle class

straight

Christian

male.

In other words, I am the problem.

Let me explain that a bit. Each of these categories (and I just happen to embody all of them) are categories of what we can call “the dominant culture.” That means that, for the most part, these categories are the set of criteria which is often used to judge what is considered “normal.” Therefore, each of these categories comes with a particular set of blinders towards those who are “other” or different. Not only that, but each of these categories has done more than their share of oppressing those who are “other” or different.

So first and foremost, if you find yourself outside of any of these categories, I want you to hear this post as an apology for the places I/we have failed. Secondly, if you find yourself in ANY of these categories, know that this post is speaking to you in some way.

These categories above are categories of “privilege.” Not in the sense that being a part of that category makes you better than others, but being a part of that category affords you the privilege of not having to think about being in a category. It is just the way it is. Which leads to some huge blind spots in our every day experience. If I don’t have to reflect much on what category I am in, then I fall victim to the assumption that everyone else’s experience is the same as mine. So when people who are “other” begin to complain about being “other” I can write it off. Then if people complain long enough, I can begin to demonize them. Or perhaps because I am so blind to my category of privilege, I write them off for going against “the way the world works.”

I don’t think these blind spots are not intentional for most people. But they exist. Not only do they exist, but they are often a great source of pain and hurt and injustice for people. When we find ourselves in categories of privilege, we have to understand other people in the world come up against issues and problems that we never have to face. We also have to understand that we play a part in the story.

Our individualistic culture tells us that if I personally do not have a prejudice or have not individually wronged someone in an “other” category, then issues of privilege, oppression, and injustice are not my problem. This could not be further from the truth. Because we are all a part of the same story. When I do not take responsibility for the part my people and I have played in a problem, or blindly dismiss the hurt of another, I am ignoring my part in the story. When I allow myself to have blind spots of privilege I am contributing to the problem whether I have intentionally wronged someone or not. When we stay locked in the prison of people who are just like us, we hurt ourselves and others.

So as a Christian, it is completely unacceptable for me to remain blind, deaf, and dismissive of people who are different than I am. It is part of my responsibility as a follower of Jesus to recognize my categories of privilege, ruthlessly hunt out my blind spot, listen to people whose experience is different from mine, and work towards equality and mutuality.

Because the thing about the Kingdom Jesus inaugurates, is that there are no categories. And if I am a follower of Christ, then it is my job to work towards a world where this is true. It is my responsibility to help usher in a world where difference is celebrated as a gift from God, and not used to divide and categorize the world.

Jesus doesn’t see us in categories.

The new heavens and the new earth will be free of categories.

So as Christians, we have the task of breaking down walls, beginning with the walls of our own blind spots of privilege.

This week we focus on peace. As you read the passages this week, you will see another word woven throughout the discussions of peace: righteousness. Peace and righteousness are combined to communicate one idea: “right relatedness.” It is relating to God, others, and creation in the ways God always intended for us to relate.

Peter encourages us to both wait for and hasten the coming of the new heavens and new earth. This means relating to each other in the ways we will in the new heavens and new earth, and confronting the ways of relating which will not last.

In the new heavens and new earth all tribes and nations will be united as one. This does not mean difference and otherness is removed (look at Babel or even creation – difference is God’s idea) but that they will be celebrated as part of the glorious peace God brings through Christ.

The categories I listed above (and their opposites) are the places where the world is crying out for peace. And I am more and more convinced that the only solution to these issues is Jesus Christ and the peace of his Kingdom.

But this requires hard work. It requires difficult and meaningful conversation with those who are not like me. It requires for me to listen to the experiences of those who come up against problems I know nothing about. It requires ruthless self-examination of my own blind spots, and how my blind spots contribute to ignorance,oppression, and injustice. It requires using my places of privilege to elevate those voices of those who have been ignored or dismissed.

Following Jesus into Advent means being people of peace, so may we pray the prayer of peace this week:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life

 

Peace is hard work, but peace only comes after hope. Because we have a vision of the world where peace will not be defeated.

 

One more note for consideration:

This post is a combination of several conversation and several issues in our world today which weigh on my heavily. As I person of privilege I think it is part of my duty to speak out on these things. So here are a couple of issues worth looking at:

Issues like Ferguson and Eric Garner break my heart. Not only are they tragic issues of privilege and oppression, but there is so much bad stuff on the internet out there. Here is one post that is helpful for thinking through white blind spots. There are a few other good ones out there, but I found this to be a balanced, Christian perspective.

In our Church tradition, this video was posted last week. It is an amazing and beautiful story of a church working towards peace in privileged categories. But people all of over the country have spewed a great deal of venom at it, and it makes me very sad. I pray we can support movements right these as efforts towards peace.

Each of the categories above needs to be thought through, but these two have been pressing in my life for the last few weeks and I wanted to share as we do the hard work of peace.

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