Many of you now realize how you’ve been brought up to think about race and how those ways have helped and hindered you along the way. Many of you have confronted prejudices you’ve picked up along the way, or biases you didn’t know you held, and you thought critically about how you might learn to let them go. Many of you have been unable to get this book out of your mind when you’re at your workplace, or the grocery store, or your school – thinking about how this space might feel to someone of a different race than your own. This is what it feels like to be changed by God through the gift of entering a neighbor’s story.
“We can’t actually say that this one incident of unusually high temperatures at the North Pole is a direct result of climate change. But what we can say is that incidents like these are growing more frequent, and when you take them together, it is climate change. One fluctuation in temperature like this could be explained by other variables, but the overall pattern points to climate change as the culprit.”
I think Coleman is saying something similar about racism in Minnesota.
You’ve probably heard it, or maybe even said it: “I don’t see color.” JaeRan Kim gives another spin-off: “People can tell you they don’t see you as Korean as if that is a compliment” (126). I think that these thoughts come from beautiful places in white people’s hearts. Perhaps the intent was to say “I want to see you as more than the color of your skin. I want to view you as a unique person. I’m not judging you as less than me because of your skin color. I see that there is a similarity between us even though our race is different.” These are wonderful things to intend. What we need to learn is that there is a difference between intent and impact.
I think about that pastor at the Bible study. He didn’t throw out the entire Bible and despair of himself because he no longer felt like Samuel. He just changed the way he saw the story, and changed the way he saw himself as fitting into it. I wonder if we can do the same for Minnesota Nice as we learn to tell ourselves a new story about ourselves.
There is something about this season of Advent that reveals the darkness and despair of our time. In the barrage of consumerism, there is still such need for families to have basic things like safe housing, food and clothing. Depression, loneliness and grief are heightened as memories of what has been flood back and expectations for what should be creep in.
Yet God knows and enters in.
Joel 2:12-13, 28-29 - In these verses, Joel doesn’t speak of God’s need for us to live up to the grand promises we make to God. Instead, he speaks about God’s longing to dwell with us right where we are, in the complexities and pains and broken hopes and regrets of our lives. “Rend your hearts and not your clothing,” God says through Joel. All God requires of us is what life eventually makes in us: a broken heart.
Power, evil and manipulation are real. They fester in insecurity and fearfully within groups. We see it like graffiti all over religious and political history and on bathroom walls. Yet, the promise we find in this story is that in the midst of this mounting power of the world, God enters with a different kind of power, one that is quiet and hidden.