3 Things Privileged Christians Can Learn from the Trayvon Martin Case – An article (Christianity Today) that we would all do well to read and give serious thought to. (I’ve quoted excerpts, but the entirety is highly thought-provoking.)
“Based on these data and my own personal observations, it’s seems that blacks and non-blacks/whites tend to perceive this event and the underlying issues that are related to the event very differently. What is perceived as a serious problem to black people doesn’t seem to matter as much (or at all) to others. What is perceived as unjust and racist to black people seems to go unnoticed by others.
This is a problem for everyone who participates in our society. But I believe that this is an even greater problem for those of us who identify as Christian, are called to live out the metaphor of the diverse and interdependent body of Christ, and hope to follow in our Savior’s incarnational and subversive footsteps. We need to pay attention to the fact that America’s consciousness (and in many ways, the Church’s consciousness) is fractured along racial lines – for this misrepresents the cross-cultural and unifying love of Christ. And before we spout our opinions, join sides and dig in our heels, we need to pause for a moment and humbly ask ourselves, what is really going on here? Is it possible that I’m missing something? And how should I respond as someone who takes my cues from Christ’s words and example, rather than my own personal experience?”
“Those of us who are privileged (e.g, are white, male, middle-class or higher, educated, able-bodied, heterosexual, and/or physically attractive, etc.) benefit from living in a society that accommodates rather than alienates us. But these benefits are difficult to detect. For example, as an educated, upwardly-mobile privileged person, I benefit from the fact that politicians pay attention to my social class and fight for my vote. I also benefit from the fact that I can talk with my mouth full without people attributing my behavior to the “uncivilized” nature of my class. But I don’t typically notice these benefits; I take them for granted and think that everyone else enjoys them as well. In fact, I’m motivated to ignore these unfair benefits because according to sociologist Shamus Rahman Khan, “Most Americans want to believe that the world is fundamentally fair, despite all of the injustices we see on the news and the awfulness we find in the paper.”
“Privileged people of the cross seek out, stand with, and stick their necks out for people who have problems that are nothing like their own. Privileged people of the cross resist the magnetic draw of our culturally-polarized society. Privileged people of the cross jump every societal hurdle in order to understand the perspective of, stand with and advocate for the other.”
U.S. Average Food Costs at Home – This is an interesting look at the average food cost for American families over the years, month by month, including columns that show for a two-person home, as well as a four-person family. After spending our first years as a family spending very little (i.e., $20/week) on food, it was encouraging to see that our current budgeted spending still falls slightly below average for the column I wish to be in.
Understanding Evil – This CHE article probably produces more questions than answers, but it definitely challenges the mainstream stereotypes we often have when we think of “evil” and who can fit into that category. (To a degree, I think this also speaks loudly to Scriptural teachings of evil, the Gospel, change, and forgiveness. At the same time, it creates more questions on justice and mercy.)
“The man sitting in front of me is a mass murderer. He is a serial rapist and a torturer. We are chatting about the weather, his family, his childhood. We are sharing drinks and exchanging gifts. The man is in his 80s now, frail and harmless, even charming. Instinctively I like him. It is hard for me to connect him to the monster he was so many decades ago. I think it must be hard for him, too.”
“When we start talking about his war crimes, we might as well be talking about a figure from a history textbook, for all the emotion we show. If we were on a television program and you were watching us with the mute button pressed, you would imagine I was asking about his grandchildren. Instead I am asking about how he murdered other people’s grandchildren.
I want to know because it is important to understand why and how these things happen. It is important to get the historical record right. But when he begins to open up, telling me the details of his crimes, they are so upsetting, so disgusting, that I realize I will never be able to share them with anybody. I do not want to write a pornography of evil. I suddenly do not see the point of another literary forced march through the carnage of history. I begin to wonder why I am here.”
“‘Evil’ can be a sloppy word, an impediment to understanding. It means “bad” plus “unidentified metaphysical stuff.” Saying something is evil is often a way of ending a conversation, stopping further analysis, letting ourselves be satisfied with thought-dulling mystery. “Evil” can also be a dangerous word. To say something is evil is to say it can’t be understood; it can only be hated. We use the word “evil” when we need to prepare ourselves to do violence. Evil is the ultimate “other.”
But to talk about these men, I need a word that insists there are acts that exceed our normal categories of wrong. I need a word that insists that, no matter how long you stare at it, no matter what light you put it in, there will always remain something beyond what you are able to see or say. These were evil men.
But are they now? The Chukiren are no longer the men they were. They were “re-educated” in a Chinese prison camp. They have apologized: some to representative Chinese authorities; some directly to family members of their victims. They have spent the past several decades seeking atonement, working as peace activists. They did evil things when they were young—but when we look at them now, who should we see? What stance should we take toward them? Near the end of each interview, I asked about forgiveness. Do you feel as if you have been forgiven? Do you deserve forgiveness?”