Monday, July 20, 2015

On Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates (A Confession)

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I'm reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I was provoked to pick it up by a David Brooks column in the newspaper on Friday.

I thought the Brooks column was a perfect illustration of the difficulty white people have in listening without also having the last word (or trying to do so). Brooks seemingly couldn't finish his column without becoming self-righteous. And what was even more interesting was recognizing my own impulses in that. ("Oh, right," I thought, "this is what we do . . . . ")

So I'm thinking maybe a good next step is to read Coates' book and sit with it . . . listening to what comes up for me but not jumping immediately into "solving."

Yesterday I was attending church at First Congregational Church of Berkeley and was struck by the following Prayer of Confession, written by Pastor Kit Novotny. I will carry these words with me as I read, sit, and listen.

Oh God, who sees and knows it all, and loves us anyway.
We lay our hearts on the table, hungry for your grace.
We confess that we have turned away from you in a thousand little ways --
     we have ignored the needs of others,
     settle for easy answers and half-truths,
     bristled in defensiveness,
     been discomfited by difference,
     and dazzled by distractions.
Oh and in those big ways, too --
     we have played parts in systems of injustice, violence, neglect,
     that ravage the earth, hoard your resources,
     and deny dignity and flourishing to all your children.
Forgive us.
Turn us back to you!
Trouble the waters of complicity,
Free us from the illusion of control,
that we would splash together in the fount of your free-flowing mercy,
     grow in the light of your love,
     and laugh with our sisters, brothers, neighbors,
     that we ever tried to do it alone.


Related posts

I believe when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and said "Remember me this way," he was much more interested in encouraging us to keep having conversations -- conversations that really matter -- with others . . . and finding ways to be in relationship with our neighbors  . . . all the while reminding us "never underestimate the power of food"  . . .

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))

We can't imagine that anti-racism work is just about specific police officers or even specific departments. Entire institutions of racist law enforcement need to be brought to heel in real time. It's a task worthy of a society-wide, national, federal effort. And it's top priority. No leader can ignore this reality . . . .

(See "If elected . . . ." (The Election 2016 and #BlackLivesMatter Nexus) )

All the cameras and microphones and reporters were out in force that day -- and their appearance suggested to me that it does make a difference to take a stand for justice. And maybe the fact that some of us thought this was important enough to come out, hold signs, chant, and march, helped back up that message.

(See Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots )

What would Christians think if someone proposed carving out a slice of their Sunday services to worship the God of Entombment? Wouldn't they think that was absurd? After all, if Christianity is anything, isn't it the religion of "UN-entombment"?

(See When is Christianity Going Back to Being the Religion of "UN-entombment"?)