Dear Lilka, 11-4-2016, Stepping Onto the Bridge

Dear Lilka,

In your letter to me last week you asked four questions, the first of which was, “How can I hope to bridge the gap and promote meaningful conversation in regard to race?” While I don’t have THE answers, I will attempt to respond to this question and the remaining three in a way I think may serve to bridge that gap, rather than divide.

pakistani-suspension-bridge

Sometimes the bridge you speak of may take us into unknown territory. Sometimes the crossing may feel precarious or fragile. Yet we both know the journey is imperative if we are to establish, heal and restore relationships.

It’s important for us to continue to ask questions, to be honest in our responses, and to be kind and compassionate, just as you have done in your letter – as we and our readers have done so far in this conversation. We must make room for a diversity of responses and do our best to understand the cultural view and experience of the other. And we must speak from the foundation of the love and grace of Christ.

 “How can I make my white brothers understand what a black mother fears these days?”

Truthfully, Lilka, I don’t know if our white brothers have a desire to understand this, just as I honestly don’t know if they have a desire to understand what women in general fear or are concerned with. I believe our conversation must start with women: mothers, sisters and daughters. We then must identify both men and women who are free in Christ, who have received His grace and are able to see beyond their own agenda, who are willing to allow the Spirit to transform their hearts and minds.

We must work to gently open men’s hearts one step at a time; we must be vulnerable with them, even though this, in and of itself, can be intimidating. I only know anger does not work. Anger begets anger and leads to marking territories. If we are able to take them by the hand and look them in the eyes and see their hurt, and see each one as God sees him, I believe we may have a chance.

Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, let God transform you from the inside out by renewing your mind and changing the way you think. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and what God finds good, pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

“When a man chooses to take a stand, or in this case, a knee, why is he ridiculed, threatened and viewed with disdain? Why can’t people see there is a difference between an ‘idol’ and respect?”

We have seen this before (and have written about it previously) regarding the flag and the pledge of allegiance. As Christians, our memory is short. We forget we are to have no other God before our God. Yet we make the same mistake as the Hebrews in Exodus who worshiped the golden calf; we worship many things as our idols, and become angry when others fail to worship them. A flag, a song, a candidate: none of these are God; none of them has the power to save.

Didn’t Jesus speak for the broken-hearted, for those who received unjust treatment? Are we to turn a blind eye because we refuse to take the time to understand the neighbor who Jesus said to love? Do we automatically scoff when our friends jeer and mock because it’s all too easy to ridicule what we don’t understand?

Yes, it’s sometimes hard work to get to know someone, to take the narrow road to find out who they are and what they think, why they experience hurt and pain and anger when we don’t. It’s so easy to shrug our shoulders and say something sarcastic or dismissive. But Jesus tells us otherwise, and I like the way Eugene Peterson interprets his words in The Message:

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up! You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:44-48)

“I understand if you think it’s not ‘your problem.’ But the problem arises when you don’t object; you permit injustice to continue and entrench itself even further. Is that what America has become?”

Lilka, as I said last week, the first thing we need to do is what God expected Cain to do – become our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. I fear our country is becoming more and more “hands off” – not only from other countries but from each other. There was a time it seemed things were moving forward. We seemed to care about people in other countries or states suffering from disasters, we cared about our neighbors, we cared about our families. There was a time great movements happened that changed history for the better.

Now it seems we have folded in upon ourselves; we have become afraid of looking outward. We must become courageous once again.

bridge-in-fogWe must first get to know our brothers and sisters who we see as “not like us.” We must be willing to start the hard conversations. We must be willing to validate the experiences described, take them at face value, and call them what they are: injustice. We must step onto the bridge, even when we don’t see the destination. If we do anything less, we discredit and negate the stories of people of color. For these are not random stories; they are a monumental and statistically significant collection of incidents that make up a system of injustice.

We must then take the hands of our brothers and sisters and take a stand with them. We must see these systems for what they are and work together to change them.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend the documentary, “13th.” You can view it on Netflix.

About Susan Irene Fox

Jesus follower, peacemaker, unfinished human. Body: over 60; Reborn: August, 2006. Writing devotional workbooks for new believers. Dedicated to using God's grace and unconditional love to bring people into God's embrace.

14 Responses

  1. Ladies, I’ve begun a Campaign to build the bridge by launching my Don’t hate. Donate. Campaign to help those in the Autism Community. My goal is to increase donations to agencies and organizations that assist developmentally disabled Adults. My new mantra: Don’t hate! Communicate! Listen to your Heart! Then Donate!!

    https://dancingpalmtrees.com/2016/11/15/dont-hate-donate/

    https://dancingpalmtrees.com/2016/11/15/black-friday-or-broke-friday/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think a ‘key’ is when we allow people unlike us to be with us–in church, in community, in our homes, in our lives…It’s how we learn about others–their culture..their beliefs…and they ours. We are all more alike more often than we are not alike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most definitely. When we take time to listen and learn, most of us have the same aspirations and dreams to be able to pursue liberty, happiness, love of family and the like. I’ve been a member of two very diverse congregations since 2001 which has allowed me to meet people and grow in ways I would not have if I stayed in a particular “box.” If most people would only move beyond “fear of the unknown” I know more miraculous experiences and breakthroughs would abound. You never know who hold the open door to your miracle. Thanks as always for a positive contribution.

      You guys be safe up there. I hear there are fires breaking out all over! Peace to you!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. yes..mostly now–the smoke clouds are so thick we can’t even see the sun-or barely see it. I just got back from helping my parents with my dad (and one night my mom too) in the hospital. It’s not nearly as bad down there.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Many Thanks and Much Appreciation and Gratitude to both of you. Wonderful, fantastic Ladies with engaging conversation on a timely topic. May God have mercy on Our country the United States of America on Election Day Tuesday, November 8th!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are quite correct. Some people will never see others as “equals.”

    I think we all grow into who God wants us to be when we allow ourselves to know and grow with people unlike ourselves. Love CAN build a bridge. I have hope for the future…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You make many excellent points. If only more people were open minded and accepting. I’m fortunate to work in a multi-cultural environment and live in a diverse city, New York. Over the years I’ve had to let go of my old hard line dogmatic religious beliefs as I’ve met and gotten to know people of other races. Now I have friends who are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim as well as Jewish and Christian friends. I know if I had been born in those countries my belief system would have been different.

    Who am I to say who is better or best when I worship a Jewish Carpenter.

    I agree when you say that some whites don’t want to understand. I work for a museum in an upper class rich and wealthy neighborhood and the days following the two Black men who were slain this past summer as I stood in the galleries I could not understand how these white people families women with children could smile, laugh and joke while so many Black families were and still are in mourning. Then it dawned on me. Black people dying is in a separate world. Not of their circle. For them Blacks only exist as servants. Maids, Nannies, Janitors or security guards like myself. We clean floors, bathrooms, mind their kids but outside of that sphere we don’t exist as human beings. At least not to most white Americans. We are stereotypes and caricatures not real people. The particular neighborhood where I work is located in what is called the “Gold Coast” of Manhattan. Doorman apartments and upper class private schools. These people make a show of voting for Obama and Hillary Clinton however the comments I and my co-workers of color must endure reveal their underlying beliefs as concerns race. I wear a uniform that represents my museum yet white people consistently think I’m either a drug dealer or sex worker??!! How?? What?? Why?? It never occurs to them in a million years that I am a college graduate and an U.S. Army Veteran and so are many of my co-workers who are not only brilliant but multi-lingual who have taken a job well below our intellect and skills due to the economy, ageism and the road blocks of racism to better employment opportunities.

    If only I could be seen as a unique human being created by God but I know I will never see that in my lifetime. I never married nor had children but I hope and pray future generations get past and/or never experience some of the racism, discrimination or bigotry that is my every day life.

    As one who is descended from African, European and Native American roots I leave you with this song.

    The Judds – Love Can Build a Bridge

    Liked by 1 person

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