The New York Times recently published the diary entry of one Yale Professor Extraordinaire, Dr. Claudia Rankine. The title: “I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.”
Read it for yourself (if you’ve enough free articles remaining) here.
Or, if you’re short on time, and, like me, really don’t care what other people of any community think (I mean ‘ambivalence’ in the most noble way, of course), here’s the summary: Through many displays of academic prowess and charming intellectual honesty, Professor Rankine adroitly conveys earnestness. She really is curious. (Mind you, her judgement–and sentence–have already been pronounced.) But she really, really wants to learn. And so, what does she learn? She learns that White Men are aloof about their White Privilege.
Most of you know that I was an officer and pilot in the United States Air Force. As my uncle, himself a retired sailor, opined regarding my desire to join the Air Force as a pilot, “You will walk on water.” He was right. We pilots walked on water. (Incidentally, I’ve been tightening-up my understanding of the sky, and there is one very concrete sense in which we pilots do tread on water.)
That is to say, I believe this Jesus-like trait of mine is evidence that Professor Rankine would happily include me in her research sample.
Why did I read her piece if I really didn’t care what she thought? Well, I like to be a good communicator. I like to make people laugh. I like to be approachable. Mostly, I like to talk.
So I reasoned that maybe there are other “Claudia’s” living in fear of big, bad Pete. Maybe they are snooping around, cowering just out-of-sight. Maybe they are just waiting to pick up some cue that I won’t mind chatting about my not-just-internal narrative of White Privilege. I thought that maybe I could learn that if I wear the right clothing, or have the right glasses, or smile, or don’t smile, or stare, or never make eye-contact, or tap her on the shoulder as I cut in line, or have the right book out, maybe, just maybe, she’ll become courageous and chat me up.
But then, no. That’s not how fear works. Fear breathes; but it inhales only the decayed air of windowless rooms. Fear sees; but it is blinded by light. Fear feeds; but it consumes only lies. Fear is curious; but it never learns.
And so, sad as it may seem, I will be left unmolested. Because I am not afraid. But you, Professor Doctor, are.
(But you shouldn’t be! Just talk to me.)
(But watch out!)
I’ve shared on here before that when my ex-wife and I were going through our divorce we used a mediator. We were luckier than many couples. Some couples are forced to use a judge. In either situation, however, it is clear that when two people disagree, the best–sometimes the only–solution is for an outside party to make the decisions.
This last week the seminary put on both a seminar and an evening service on the topic of racism. Racism is like a divorce proceeding; except that in racism every single human ever is a petitioner. Who is wise enough to act as judge? Who is impartial enough? Who is not the victim or the perpetrator?
I’ve also shared on here that I am in a Christian apologetics class right now. We’ve moved on to Christian ethics, but there is still a heightened feeling of pressure to constantly evangelize. This feeling, for me, has been accompanied by a unique thought. Every once in a while I think to myself, “Boy, this evangelism would be so much easier if I could do it without using the words “Bible”, “God”, “Sin”, “Jesus Christ”, “Resurrection”, and the like. Those words, to most of us, are so hot-button that people can’t think clearly after they are uttered, moreover, people often don’t want to think about them at all .
Back to racism as a divorce proceeding involving the entire human race.
Do you understand that there actually does exist an outside Judge and Mediator? Do you understand that sin is the only reason you and I segregate ourselves? Do you understand that a book many people take to be the very revelation of God–the Bible–says we are all created in God’s image and likeness? Do you understand that this necessarily implies that our self-segregation means that we’re willfully looking away from divine beauty? Do you understand that the outside Judge and Mediator–the concretely risen Lord and Savior of you and me, the very Son of God, Jesus Christ–made his ruling on racism known to the world in the Bible? And do you know which race he singled out as worth dying for? The human race.
George Clooney has a great line in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” in which he says of the devil, “Well, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Pete, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork.” To this description, the escaped convicts’ new-found, soul-less, hitchhiking, black companion replies, “Oh, no. No, sir. He’s white, as white as you folks, with empty eyes and a big hollow voice. He likes to travel around with a mean old hound. That’s right.” If I was given a turn in the conversation, I’d describe Satan as Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park when he is picking up the barbasol shaving creme can with which he’ll steal the dino DNA. Remember that? His entire body jiggles in a giddy laugh at how easy the theft will be.
Can you understand post-enlightenment, post-age-of-reason, what the satanic is? The satanic is anything other than the truth. It is lies, distortions, half-truths, diversions, and denials. Take racism. Even widespread knowledge of science’s revelation that “pure” races don’t exist hasn’t helped the problem of racism. The only possible solution to racism must come from some manner of transcendent being. Christianity goes to great lengths to announce that this transcendent being is the triune God who created the universe and sent His Son to die for the sins of mankind some two thousand years ago. Resurrecting from the grave on the third day, Jesus the Christ gave us the victory–if only we choose it.
So, no, Satan (the adversary), I am not going to water down the gospel. The good news is only *and precisely* that Jesus Christ is risen. And it is only through Him that humans can be free.
Last week I felt more critical than the one or two weeks before it. Part of humility before God is the recognition that the playing field of life is level. We’re all living on the same level. To get angry or be critical requires an “I’m up here” while “You’re down there” attitude. So that what bothers me about last week.
Another area of life that I’m struggling to deal with is work. You know how you always hear about ex-cons heading back to their previous neighborhood and gangs etc. after being released from prison? And then they fall right back into old patterns and end up back in prison? Well, I’m not an ex-con. But at the pizza place I do behave and talk differently than anywhere but the pizza place. I’m sure part of the reason is because I’m a bit once-bitten-twice-shy about talking about Christianity much at work, but there’s also just plain muscle memory. I worked at a pizza place for 6 years as a smart-alec kid in high school and college. It’s difficult to not conform to the lackadaisical attitude that comes with high schoolers and pizza shops. Retail as a whole is pretty negative, and so even the adults can add to my giving in to jack-arsery. In any case, I sometimes hate apologizing but other times I can’t believe that I just said some things that I said. I’m too old for immaturity.
One thing that is for certain is I am falling in love with the Psalms. In my class on the Old Testament class covering the kingdom of Israel and the prophets, we’ve been working through David’s reign, and really working on building an accurate historical picture of the ancient near east. As I’ve been memorizing the Psalms, often written by the very same David, I almost feel like I can like I can tell which event recorded in 1 or 2 Samuel would have led to his writing them.
Here I can’t help but mention the lesson we were taught regarding the difference between King Saul and King David. Both kings committed unspeakable acts. Yet David is the only man in the Bible (God’s self-revelation to mankind) who is described as being a man after God’s own heart. The question is why? What is the difference between Saul and David? Repentance. Saul passed the blame; David repented.
And here, I can’t but repent for my attitude whilst working at the strip club. Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” The NIV has “mockers” instead of “scornful”. I was mocking God and life while working at the club. That’s no good. All I can hope for is the Christian account of life to be true. Insert commissioner Gordon here.