3 Ways To Undermine Justice

Reading the book, Re-Visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice these days.

We’re having some good, constructive conversation about race at Open Table Community Church lately, but it hasn’t been all easy. But these couple of paragraphs have made me feel that I’m not crazy when I bring up the notion that racism is still alive and well, particularly within the context of church. I have noticed that bringing this subject up in church can make people feel very uncomfortable, but in the introduction to this book it is mentioned that problems behind political correctness and multiculturalism is that “it draws our attention to the discomfort of the privileged rather than to the pain of the oppressed. Such discussion implicitly blames those who attempt to discuss their oppression for making the privileged uncomfortable–thus blocking discussion of privilege.”

Here are “three techniques by which accountability for injustice is undermined.

In paralysis, people become so overwhelmed by their own pain that, fearing the possibility that they might offend again in the future, they do nothing and feel impotent. A response of overwhelming guilt can end up entrenching the status quo.

Others respond in a patronizing way, taking on the issues of the oppressed to the extent that they inappropriately become self-appointed spokespeople for them.

A third response is individualizing, through which a person denies the relevance of group norms and behaviors, making it impossible to discuss issues of power, privilege, and accountability….Denial that one belongs to the category of privilege, such as denying that one is “white,” for example, keeps one from having to be accountable for the privileges of whiteness and makes discussion of the problems of racism, sexism, and other discrimination impossible.”

This helps me to understand the nature of the responses I get when bringing up the issue of race. Just as with all sin, I know that it is in my nature as well, to deflect and de-fuse responsibility. I always have the suspicion that injustice and sin is something outside of me, but it is wholly a different thing to realize that these atrocities, whether incipient or explicit, are inside me, requiring me to ask for forgiveness and extend grace because hypocrisy begins with me.

And I cannot credibly claim to know the one who is without hypocrisy or sin without acknowledging my own need for that one. In other words I cannot legitimize to you that I know there is someone who never tells lies without confessing that I was once a liar. It would only be fatal to my claim if you discovered that I was a liar but did not tell you. How could you believe me then?  And this is the precise problem with the contemporary church and the issue of justice. How can we believe that the mission of God is justice and love if we can barely see ourselves as even part-time criminals and haters who desperately need that very God?

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