NPR interviewed a white supremacist the other day. I didn’t want to listen, but my husband said I should.
The weird thing is, I agreed with parts of it. “It’s only natural for people to want to self-segregate.” Boy, if that isn’t the truth.
I write and think a lot about our natural tendencies to want to be around people who are just like us. It is something I have observed in recent years, but because I am white it never really seemed that big of a deal to me. My culture was neutral, my culture was the norm. All others were exotic, had large gaps to be bridged by myself (the intrepid missionary/explorer). I had a natural curiosity that led me to propel myself into situations where I experienced other parts of American life but my heart and mind were still segregated. I still thought of myself at the top of the hierarchy. But then I met other people. Poor people. People of color. Muslims. Immigrants. Refugees. Mentally Ill people. Children. And oh, the things they revealed to me about God and faith. They taught me so much more than the books I read in college.
So once I started to learn from others about a real and tangible and good God who was up to all sorts of stuff in the world, the questions loomed larger. Why did I assume I had all the right answers, when it was so obvious I had only a portion of the picture? It felt like falling off a very tall ladder. It felt like a death of sorts. Now I see it quite differently: I have been reborn, made new, scales have fallen from my eyes. Richard Spencer, the white supremacist, talks about the need to come to terms with European/white/American identity--and this is true! We need to confront our history of oppression, our normalizing of ourselves and our othering of everyone else, our lack of interdependence, and our lust for power and control.
Now here is the where the good news actually starts to seem good: the kingdom of God is the opposite. The kingdom of God is in direct opposition to Richard Spencer, white nationalists, Donald Trump, people who terrified of Muslims or angry at undocumented workers, and to me wanting to just be in community with others exactly like myself.
I have vacillated in the past few months between fear and despair and anger and sadness. But the truth is the sentiments rising to the surface have been here all along. White supremacy is in the foundation of America and we cannot pretend otherwise. It is a principality we have to struggle against. It is demonic. It is the opposite of the transformational work of Christ that was obsessed with neighbor-love. It calls for protests and prayers and fasting and tambourines; it calls for our lives being oriented around being in community with the suffering. And right now it calls for creativity and commitment, to usher in a season where all is exposed, and where so many can be redeemed.
Because I truly believe more than ever, that are we going to see the kingdom explode into full bloom. It starts as small as a mustard seed: a chance encounter that causes you to rethink your beliefs, how you were taught to accept inequality and injustice as the norm. And then before you know it, God has turned that seed into a tree, the branches stretching up high to the heavens, small enough to hold the birds and their babies, the most vulnerable parts of our world.