Lawson field, PC: KSB

Confessions of a formerly racist woman

A busload of college students preparing for summer ministries filed into the open room that evening, abandoning the Midwestern winter air. We were entering a space of lament that MLK weekend. Mostly we sat, stood, or bowed in silence, allowing God to heal us from ways we had been sinned against throughout our lives. We let ourselves grieve.

But as we did this, the Holy Spirit showed me something ugly within myself, a way I had sinned against others. It was disgusting and shameful.

I knew God could and had forgiven me, but that didn’t stop my heart from pounding and burning with a pressure that only comes when the Holy Spirit is compelling me to do something. That night as I kneeled on the carpet, God was telling me to publically confess my sin.

I stood up in the silence, shaking.

The roomful of students preparing to share the Gospel in cities across the US, hostels throughout Europe, and countries in the Global South listened as I confessed my sin aloud. I had failed to understand the Gospel I proclaimed, though I did not realize that yet.

I told them I was harboring racial prejudice.

Though not intentional and not directed towards people I knew personally, because I was able see my friends as full humans, I was prejudiced towards black people. I had internalized the belief that they were less intelligent than me, a white person. I was racist.

Four years ago last night, in the dim room at that retreat center, God turned my life around again. I’d been “born again” at age five, when God rescued me from a life stuck in sin and welcomed me into his Kingdom; baptized at ten, which was a marker in my life though not particularly life-changing; and now God was saving me again from a life of racism.

Instead of rejecting me, my peers listened with respect. Some thanked me. And when I returned to campus a few days later, I jumped into a life pursuing racial conciliation.

Through sociological education, relationships with gracious people of color, the love and conversations of the Office of Multicultural Development, events put on by Solidarity, I began to fight my ignorance and racism in order to love others better.

Where I had once been afraid of protests, I joined campus demonstrations combatting racial injustice. I began to use my writing and social influence to teach other white folks about racism, however subtle, unintentional, “innocent,” systemic, or blatant it may have been.

The focus of my life had shifted completely, all thanks to God. He helped me to love my black brothers and sisters. He saved me from the miry bog of ignorance, prejudice, racism and gave me a new song.

As a white person, I still benefit from the systems of racism in the United States. That means I am still racist in a sense. Moreover, I am still ignorant: I have years of racial understanding and conversation to catch up on, and there are things I may never fully understand because I do not experience them.

But that doesn’t stop me from striving to see things from other people’s perspectives, listen to and believe their experiences, research racial justice in order to share knowledge and support communities of color, and generally live my life in a way that esteems my friends and fellow Americans who are a different race or ethnicity than me – and not out of guilt but out of love and a sense of what is right or just.

I say none of this to glorify myself but to celebrate the way God transformed my life, saving me anew, in the hopes that he might open your eyes as well, if they are closed in the way mine were. I am forever grateful to God for this.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend.

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The bloody beauty of Communion

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” While singing a hymn about Jesus, I take a cracker piece from a silver platter and pass it to the Believer next to me. Everyone in the room eats the bread as one, partaking in the first “course” in the Lord’s Supper, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist.

Crunch, crunch, mangled flesh. The image revolts me, yet I am chewing this flesh. Raw. It is Jesus’ body, which he sacrificed for me.

“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’” All around me, heads tip backwards as together we sip grape juice from tiny plastic cups. We are proclaiming Christ Jesus’ death. We celebrate the victory of grace Jesus demonstrated when he took our eternal punishment on the Gethsemane cross.

Swallow, gulp, fragrant blood. I shudder; perhaps the woman next to me notices, but she is silent. I detect an aftertaste from the juice. I picture Jesus’ blood on the cross, in my mouth, in my body now, shed for the forgiveness of my sins. For the redemption of the world.

I was raised to view Communion symbolically. I still lean that way. But my Christian Thought class from last spring opened up faith conversations with which I was not always familiar. For example, Roman Catholicism claims we are eating Christ’s actual flesh and drinking his actual blood when we take Communion. This phenomenon known as transubstantiation is derived from Gospel passages like the ones I quoted. Ever since I learned about this, Communion has become a more vivid and powerful reminder of Jesus’ saving sacrifice.

That is the point. At his Last Supper, the Jewish Passover, Jesus began the Christian tradition of Communion, but he never meant for it to be a thoughtless ritual. I do not want to forget his sacrifice despite its physical repulsiveness.

At the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crowds did not see a handsome, naked man with a perfectly combed beard on some smooth planked pedestal. Nay, they witnessed a bloody, gnarled, practically dismembered body essentially lynched on couple tree branches shaped like a T.

They came to view the humiliation of the two convicts alongside my perfect King, but I don’t know why they were drawn to the inhuman spectacle.

Yet I too am drawn to it, only in a different way. Jesus uses the Communion Table to draw me to himself, for I am part of his body now. His Spirit is in me, and I am his. I do not desire to view his formerly grotesque body in any bloodthirsty manner. Rather, I am grateful, so grateful, that he sacrificed his body for the world and thus for me, so I can spend eternity with God, whole and redeemed and new.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. I must remember him and proclaim his deep love, as demonstrated in his body and blood.

For this reason, I eat his flesh and drink his blood until he returns. And Jesus is coming soon! When he gathers his Church to him and makes all things new, we shall drink wine again in his heavenly kingdom, this time in celebration. The members of his Church, his Body and Bride, will have new bodies. We will be complete and whole, for he is making all things new.

Until then, I remember him. I proclaim his death until his coming. And through his death, I live.