"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 17: Making Amends for Racism

This morning on Facebook a lesbian pastor friend posted a horrifying and violent car decal combination endorsing both Trump and violence against LGBT+ people, with the request for those who love them and people of color (and, I would add, women) to prayerfully consider this before voting for him. A commenter declaring himself straight but with friends in the LGBT+ community minimized the offensiveness of the decals and told her "get a sense of humor and a thicker skin" followed by accusing her of not truly being open minded when she calmly and graciously invited queer folk and those of color to comment on the topic of getting thicker skin.

Her friends rose to the challenge with a wide variety of honest, charitable, and witty responses sharing their experiences of oppression and danger and inviting the commenter to a change of mind and heart. One of my favorites was that it was people in oppressor groups who need to develop thicker skin in order to listen to and learn from, rather than dismiss and shout down, the protests and self-defense of people in oppressed groups. This thin-skinned defensiveness and terror of facing my anti-Semitic behavior and its roots was exactly what spurred my initial Facebook re-aggressing, rather than repenting, in response to prophetic challenge on Yom Kippur.

So I knew just how to make my own response here, as concrete lived amends following up on my public and private verbal amends for the above situation--so unlike the shaming and superior tone of so many of my previous "white knight" call-outs. This is especially the case when I was not expressing the justified anger of a victim, as with sexism, but the aggressive and arrogant stance of a "better ally" as with racism. This actually meant being a poorer and self-deceived ally acting on my own oppressive privilege shared with the called-out person, because the admonition was all the less likely to be received when carried out in that way.

The process of writing the FB comment and then reflecting on it here have been a graced, if challenging, Ignatian First Week consolation as I was moved to both deeper contrition for the anguish I caused my victim and renewed gratitude for the fiery mercy of God mediated through her courageous protests and my friend's appropriately public calling me in. I pray that none of their pain go to waste by a failure to fully embrace the conversion of my heart She offers, that She might anoint my lips when I am called to embody Jesus' fiercely gentle and humble teaching of other sinners and my ears when I am called to receive it.

E., I understand how hard it is to honor and acknowledge the protests and pain of people in an oppressed group when we are in the group that oppresses them because I said something unintentionally but very hurtfully anti-Semitic on a friend's FB feed last week... and my first response to her Jewish friend's protest and hurt feelings was totally dismissive and defensive of my "innocence" and her "oversensitivity"-- thus adding even more trauma and leading the friend's friend to block me.

It was very difficult for me to recognize my gravely sinful behavior, and her terrible danger and oppression for her faith in comparison to my unjust power and privilege for mine, until God and my friend engaged in some very loving and very honest sisterly correction for which I am (finally) profoundly grateful. And this is true not just despite the fact that I pride myself on being a progressive theologian with a deep appreciation for Judaism and distress at Christian anti-Semitism, but because of it. Because those good beliefs and intentions made me totally unwilling to see that sin in myself out of shame and fear.

This is the same shame and fear, I believe, that fuels straight cis men's unwillingness to recognize their safety and power, and our grave danger as women and queers, from the physical and emotional assault and abuse that Trump engages in and endorses. And the accompanying hurtfulness of mocking our pain and fear rather than standing against those who cause it. So I will pray for you to receive the same grace and mercy God my loving Mother and her precious Jewish Son granted me to see a bit more of their sweet and searing truth and begin to make both direct and lived amends so as to be less part of the problem and more part of the solution. Thank you so much for listening and considering and P. thank you so much for making this safe space for conversation and letting me share.

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