Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

The other day I was watching the Pursuit of Happyness and I
was struck by Thandie Newton’s portrayal of Christopher Gardner’s(Will Smith)
wife. She really was mean. Really mean and hopeless. And not only that but I discovered that she was not African American but British. She definitely portrayed her character well. There was an accent but definitely not enough to hinder the story or look corny. Only a few scenes in the movie but well acted. So I decided to look for other movies that she had been in and I found this brilliant TEDTalk she did earlier this year on Otherness and her experiences being bi-racial and also being an actor portraying different “others”.

I love how she talks about our selves as transitory and not
static. It is a beautiful picture of a cruciform life.  Guess what? Jesus was right. We die only to live again. We lose our life in order to save it. I wrestle with identity
issues as I have never felt perfectly at home in any particular group. But I
think she hits it on the head. Her talk pushed some thoughts to the surface for
me concerning the self and identity. If it is true that we are never born with
a self and that our self is developing over time then o define our “self” at
any one time is futile because we are constantly changing and constantly dying.
Some of us deal with change faster than others and some of us do not like
change. The ones who deal with change faster because either they have to or
they like to have a harder time giving a static definition of self. The ones
who do not like change and do not want to change give a much more static
definition of self. So my thought is the more that we are open to change the
more we become “the other” on the margins of society. Becoming the other on the
margins of society means that we have much more to give. More life. More empathy. More creativity. It’s because there is no “self” to get in the way. Over the years I have been a hip hop head, a criminal, a class clown, a preppie, a graduate student, a preacher, a husband, a father, a missionary, and a whole lot of other things but I think no matter what God has made me the “other”. And now that I finally realize this is a
blessing and not a curse I do not want to squirm out of it but to love it,
embrace it, flourish in my otherness. It is one of the ways that I can imitate
Christ, the totally Other who came and lived among us (John 1:18)

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Scapegoating is on the rise these days. I believe we all have a need to find someone or something to blame. This is not anything new. It has been done to my people for years. Once we were emancipated from slavery, the embittered Southern poor blamed African Americans for all of their problems and they took us out in the woods and hung us on trees. They found their scapegoat. Recently it has been immigrants. Yes they are to blame for all of our problems. They overspent our federal and state budgets. They sanctioned and unjust war and let the economy wither and die. Now as we are approaching the anniversary of September 11th we find scapegoats to blame for that horrible massacre and we say its Islam and Muslims. We have pastors burning qurans and people marching on Washington. All in an attempt to find someone to blame….a scapegoat. Scapegoats can usually be identified by three characteristics:

They have to be weak and voiceless. To be a proper scapegoat you cannot be in the center of power. You must be at the margins. Those with power do not get blamed for the problems that we collectively face even though they collectively lead us. It is those who have no say so and no voice in the decisions that get blamed and are scapegoated.

They have to be different. The scapegoat has to be in the minority and be different. Uniformity is often equal to holiness. This is quite opposite of the nature of God who is three persons in unity and not uniformity. He is a unity in diversity and yet we see difference and diversity as a stain.

They have to be purged. In order to deal with this problem the scapegoat has to be purged. Whether its lynching them on a tree or deporting them back to their country or burning up their defiling books or holding them without due process for being a suspected terrorist, it is a way to rid the land of their unclean presence so things can be made “right”.

On September 11th I will not be scapegoating. I will be baptizing people as they make a commitment to the one who was the ultimate scapegoat. In John 11:50 Caiaphas the high priest says “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” And so he died as a scapegoat for the Jewish people but also as a scapegoat for all of us. In so many ways I wish that was the end of this awful practice. Sadly it is not and all I can do is pray that we do not continue to blame innocent victims for our problems but work collectively to deal with the challenges that face us and look in the mirror at what needs to be purged and made right.

Ten years ago I experienced something that changed my life. Right about this time I would have been reeling from it and trying to process what I had just experienced. I had just returned from my first short term mission trip. Before this trip I had never been out of the country and only a few times out of the state. Many go on short term mission trips and say some of the same things but this trip was special and I was privileged to be a part of what God was doing in Ethiopia in the summer of 2000. Even though I am far away time wise and geography wise I still experience the sights and sounds of that trip and I believe it was powerful not just because it was a trip to a faraway exotic place but it was one of the most poignant glimpses of God’s kingdom that I have ever seen. It wasn’t really the actual trip but the people involved and I am forever grateful to be a part of that team. There are so many reasons why being on that team was so powerful for me but I can really boil it down to a few that I take with me wherever I go. It was a team that was powerful enough to embrace the diversity of the kingdom of God as we were comprised of caucasians, african americans, asians, ethiopians and even a mexican (shout out to Miguel!). It was powerful enough to display the unity of the kingdom as we united together for not only a common cause but common virtues of love, humility, and peace. Lastly it was powerful enough to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom as people witnessed our unity in diversity and we were known as Jesus’ disciples because of our love (John 13:35). Since then I have longed to see that kind of community in action and I’m glad to say that God has given me occasional glimpses along the way. Thanks alot Ethiopia 2000 Summer Project! Ten years ago in Whittier I had no idea that meeting you God would give me such a picturesque glimpse into his kingdom.