A Single Pebble Tossed into a Raging Sea of Injustice
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
The following was taken from a recent Slingstones podcast.
What I'm about to say and share with you seems to be the smallest pebble being thrown into a raging sea of injustice and deep wounding. But it is my pebble, so I want to intentionally toss it in during these difficult times.
There is a scripture that I want to begin with that I think would be important for us. The scripture comes out of Hebrews 13:3, "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering."
Those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering. The scripture says, remember them. That doesn't mean, “Oh yeah, I remember, they're there”. This "remember" means to enter in with them. Draw yourself into these circumstances of pain. Be there emotionally, physically, spiritually. Touch what they are experiencing. Feel what it's like, as much as that is possible.
I believe that if we invite the Holy Spirit to help us enter in and help us remember, we will be able to at least touch the edges of what some people are experiencing and suffering. I want to share some things personally. I need to be crystal clear about something. As I begin to share, you may think I am assigning myself a special privileged point of view...but stay with me, because I'm actually going to say the opposite...so if you will, hear me out.
I never went to a segregated school. My whole life had integration. Neighbors, friends, integration in grade school, junior high, high school, college. My very first friend was Solomon James. He and I were paddled together on the Gastonville School playground by Miss Sarah Thompson because we didn't come in when the bell rang, we stayed out and continued to enjoy recess. Many of my friends came from diverse cultures. I was engaged in sports from the time I was eight years old, and I was privileged in that I was able to learn from people whose experience of being members of a minority culture was quite different than mine.
I had a roommate in college, we called him "Bama." His name was Avery, a really special African American man. When my family and I moved to New York, we were able to participate in a very diverse culture. Our apartment house where we were living was filled with people from around the world. My son had friends who were from Colombia, from Burkina Faso, Germany...we lived in a diverse context and a diverse culture. I had opportunity over and over again to minister in places like Harlem, in Spanish Harlem, among the Chinese culture. It was a great exposure to the difference that comes when you grow up in a minority culture.
It was that exposure over all of these years, that helped make me aware of how low my CQ really was. CQ, Culture Intelligence. The more exposure I have had, the more friendships that have shaped me that come from diverse backgrounds, the more I realize that in many ways I have been blinded to what really happens to people in a minority culture at the hands of a majority culture. I think if I became aware of anything besides my own unawareness, it has been that I am becoming increasingly aware of how much I did not see, how much I do not see, how much I do not understand the blinders that are on me because of the issue of white privilege. An issue that remains to this day, sad as it is for me to say.
That's the awareness that I have gained, not that I have a better understanding of what it is to be in a minority culture because of my exposure, but instead, an awareness of how much I don't understand...but need to.
From the very beginning of Healing Care, I felt led of the Lord to make diversity one of the foundational eight core values. A commitment to diversity has impacted what we do, how we learn, who we hire, and who we involve. That has been great, but there is so much more for me to learn, to see, and to feel so that I can respond to injustice with care and with Christian empathy.
It is true, I get to spend a lot of time every year ministering in very diverse cultures. There are many times where I am privileged to stand before a group of people that are not like me in terms of their cultural background. As I seek to share insights, I am more impacted by them than they are by me.
It has been over 20 years ago that a colleague of mine at Ashland Theological Seminary, Dr. William H. Myers, who is a renowned African American theologian and biblical scholar, asked to have lunch with me. We shared a meal in my home and he began to challenge me that I needed to spend more time reading African American authors, to understand what they're contributing, and to integrate their contributions into my own teaching. That was some of the best advice I have ever been given. To this day, Bill Myers remains a dear friend and colleague who impacts me and my understanding.
So I began to read more of Howard Thurman, the sermons of Dr. Gardner Taylor, the writings of Martin Luther King. The autobiography of John Lewis, Isabel Wilkerson's wonderful book, The Warmth of Other Suns, the writings of James Cone. I could go on and on and on, and in my reading it has helped me understand what I don't understand so that I could lean into the Lord and ask him to help me see what I cannot see about my own blindness caused by white privilege.
These partnerships that I have had have helped me make first steps at moving beyond my own unconscious biases...and there is so much more for me to learn and to experience.
You are aware of why I am sharing this. It's boiling over in the United States and feels at times like it is being not so subtly promoted by people who are holding positions of leadership, when in fact we need them to do otherwise. There is genuine systemic injustice that occurs to people in minority cultures. There is racism, yes, racism. It's something that we have to have some level of conversation about with people who are not like us.
I appreciate the fact that prayer is important. Yes, let's go ahead and pray because we believe in the power of prayer. But we need to do a bit more than pray. We need to engage. We need to be willing to have hard conversations, build friendships, sit down at a meal, ask the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to follow the admonition of the scripture that says, "Remember those being mistreated as though you are being mistreated with them, as though you are suffering with them."
I know that there is a very diverse culture that listens to this podcast. There are majority cultures and minority cultures. The one thing that we share is that we are all Christians. As Scripture says, if we eat of the one loaf, we who are many are one. We are brothers and sisters.
I want to challenge you do some reading. Definitely read Howard Thurman's book, Jesus and the Disinherited. That is a great place to start. There is a book called The New Jim Crow that will help all of us better understand what is going on with our systems of justice, and where it is unfair. There is a wonderful book I have mentioned, The Warmth of Other Suns that gives a picture of a massive migration of African Americans toward the north because of injustice and what impact that had. Then I'm going to say this, if you're courageous, read The Cross and the Lynching Tree, or the poem by Langston Hughes, "The Freedom Train." If you have the courage, read those, read them prayerfully, read them openly, so that somehow our eyes might be opened.
These are our brothers and our sisters and we have learned a long time ago that silence always weighs in on the side of those that are doing the oppressing.
We don't want to do that. I have a long way to go, but I am so grateful that I am surrounded by brothers and sisters from other cultures that are helping me better understand...Joe High, Dr. Neal Siler, Dr. Proctor Beard, Dr. Ben Franklin, Dr. Arlee Griffin. These are my friends, and they are helping me see what I do not see so that I can care in ways that my own blindness seems to keep me back from understanding.
I would ask that you receive this word from one who needs to better understand himself.
May Jesus help us be salt and light and may he help us bring change to this world.
Terry Wardle is the founder and President of Healing Care Ministries. He is a popular author and dynamic speaker who leads seminars and retreats that equip pastors, counselors, clinicians, and spiritual directors. Terry and his wife, Cheryl, have three adult children and six grandchildren. They reside in Ashland, Ohio.