The National Treasure known as Dr. Yolanda Pierce tweeted this the other day:
It occurred to me – as someone who works with churches in transition (which is all of them) – that this is exactly why churches flounder and die. We speak the words of spiritual growth and church growth but we really don’t want to do what we say we want to do.
- “We want to become more diverse.” This line can be found in countless files of congregations seeking a new pastor. The white churches have noticed that demographics are changing in the U.S. and they’ve heard that “the young people” like diversity. What this really means, though, is that the church wants to think of themselves as open and inclusive to all God’s children. It’s not true. These congregations want to welcome new people who will pledge money and keep their diversity to themselves.
- “We want to reach out into the neighborhood.” Sometimes this means that we want to reach down to the neighbors. We want to help the poor but not to the point that they are sitting beside us in the pews. We will go out to the homeless shelter or the soup kitchen, but we don’t want to house the homeless or invite them into our own kitchens.
- “We want to deepen our spiritual maturity.” Interpretation: we want our kids to have good morals and we want to learn enough about Jesus to hold our own in the Bible Belt, but please don’t make us sacrifice anything. We have a hard enough time giving up coffee for Lent.
- (Especially in these days post-George Floyd’s murder) “We want to understand what white privilege is and of course, we want to dismantle it.” So, is there a book I could read? Is there a short video I could watch? Actually a commitment to dismantle white privilege – not to mention white supremacy – is a life long responsibility that will involve being very uncomfortable. It will mean acknowledging that we white people have prospered in this system. It will mean that we must pay close attention to what’s happening around us where we haven’t had to pay attention before. Is there a person of color being dissed in line at the grocery store? Is there a young black man being roughed up beside his car after being pulled over? Is there a brown family interested in buying the house next door? Will I choose a person of color when I next look for a new doctor or dentist? Will I be curious about the life experiences of my Native American neighbor, myTransgender cousin, my Asian colleague?
We don’t lack the resources or the imagination to dismantle oppressive systems – from everyday white supremacy out in the world to entrenched patriarchy in our congregations.
We just don’t want to do it.
Nevertheless . . . there are people out in the world who are willing to make the changes the world is clamoring for – in the name of love. There are congregations that clearly see what is breaking God’s heart in their communities and they can no longer stand by and watch God’s children suffer.
These are the people, these are the congregations that will thrive after the marches have ended and the vaccine is discovered and the election is over.
We pray for melted hearts and open minds all around, for the love of God. And we thank God for the brave people out there who are making sacrifices for the weak and vulnerable.
Image of Yolanda Pierce’s on-the-mark tweet from June 9, 2020