Wednesday, September 24, 2008

One Note Charlie

I spend a lot of time on-line discussing/debating with people over all kinds of issues you're not supposed to talk about:  Politics, race, religion, homosexuality, abortion- the more controversial the topic, the better in my mind.  Someone once said "Sunshine is the best disinfectant" and I agree with that.  I want things exposed, brought out into the light. Don't keep ignoring that elephant in the living room.  I love talking with conservatives about politics.  I love talking with homophobes about homosexuality.  And, I love talking with people about the history of racism and the on-going racism in our country.  But, a couple of days ago someone told me that I'm a "one note Charlie" (concerning racism).  The implication is that I play the race card too often and too quickly.  I was really hurt and taken aback.  I never, ever want to be viewed as the angry black man and to think that people might be perceiving me that way was a shock.

Annie is one of my best friends on-line.  We've talked about all kinds of stuff.  If you read my other blog, you might have seen where I posted pages and pages of dialog between Annie and me about the Reverend Wright flap.  Annie and I agree on just about everything.  So much so that we've been accused of teaming up on other people.  But, there are two issues where we just don't seem to see eye to eye.  Race and politics. Interesting enough, in this election, the two are inseparable, at least in my mind.  As our discussions have turned to politics and social policy race has come up.  I rarely (if ever) introduce the subject.  But, I do take every opportunity I can find to share my experience when it does come up.  Maybe because it's so often avoided by the "polite" white people I hang out with who are scared to share their feelings on the subject (at least in mixed company).  I had to take some time to process the label "one note Charlie".  Is it true? Why would she feel that way?  

Coincidentally (there are no coincidences, BTW), on Sunday we extended the call for a new pastor at Nexus.  The new pastor happens to be gay.  Nexus is an "open and affirming" church and does not discriminate based on sex, race, gender, physical ability or any number of other factors for either membership or leadership positions.  But, while the search committee was considering pastors, we all agreed that we did not want Nexus to become known as a "one issue" church.  Whether that issue be rights for homosexuals, feminism, racism, whatever, we would not expect the pastor we hired to center all her sermons around her pet issue.  We didn't extend the call to Mike because he's gay and were not going to withhold the call because he is gay.  By hiring a particular pastor we were not identifying ourselves as a church for women if we hired a woman, a church for gays if we hired  gay pastor , a church for blacks if we hired a black pastor, or a church for white men if we hired a white man.

But.... (there has to be a "but")  as I meditated on this, I realized I am a one issue guy in a certain respect.  I am perpetually concerned about the "least of these" (as Yeshua called them).  Some at Nexus have expressed concern at the mention of "women, black people, gays (etc.)"  too often in our sermons.  Personally, I have zero problems with mentioning the discrimination and oppression in our society every single Sunday.  I am a firm believer in the "social justice" aspect of the gospel.  I truly believe that the way we show our love for G-d is not by going to church, or saying our prayers or reading our Bibles but in how we treat our fellow man.  And, in particular, how we treat the "least of these".  I think G-d has a special heart for the downtrodden and the rejected and to me, this is clearly displayed by how Yeshua hung out with the "sinners" (who I recently learned were the poor who could not afford to study Torah thus were deemed too stupid to be righteous), the tax collectors, women (who were devalued by that society), children, etc. 

So, yes, I am a "one note Charlie".  I will always be vocal about  discrimination against women, the uninsured, fat people, gay people and yes, black people.   I root for the underdog (I've been a Bengals fan for 35 years for Pete's sake).   Because I happen to be black, I have particular expertise on that subject.  That may come across as me being only concerned or even especially concerned about discrimination against black people.  But, that is simply not true.

p.s- I love Annie like a sister and I am thrilled that she felt comfortable enough to tell me how she felt. It's all good.

1 comment:

julieunplugged said...

Brian, excellent post!

Seems to me that when a group has not had the microphone for a long time (perhaps ever), it is the duty of the majority, the privileged, to hand it over for an undetermined length of time. Sometimes that means that the correction seems to be overplayed. But if compared to the extent to which oppression has existed, usually the amt of time offered is brief, a nano-second in history.

The discomfort we feel when not identified with the oppressed is the feeling of vertigo that comes from upsetting the status quo! That's why Jesus asks us to identify with the poor (not just care for them). That helps!