Home Forums Noticings… 200708 – A Christmas Song?

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    Noticings…

    July 8, 2020

    The news is littered with stories of people reckoning with our past through marches, protests, and actions. Sports teams’ names are changing. Products are being rebranded. Statues are toppling. The underlying ill is called ‘white privilege’ and it makes for very uncomfortable times for those of us who are white. Although the instances of overt racism in our churches are small in number (I pray to God that’s actually true!) the hidden ways our systems and our traditions actually oppress persons of colour are far more numerous than we’d like to admit. We’d hopefully never act in a racist manner or say a racist thing. Ever. And yet the ways we’ve made ‘whiteness’ the normative thing, against which anything else is ‘other’ or ‘different’ is the problem. That’s a big example of how our system is racist. If white is normal and anything else is not normal then discrimination will emerge – even if we can’t see it.

    Here’s an example. Close your eyes and picture Jesus. Most of us grew up with vivid pictures of Jesus displayed in our churches and dominating our Western art – and most likely that Jesus had white skin. The real Jesus was of Jewish, Middle Eastern, Arab, Palestinian heritage. Remaking and reimagining Jesus in your own cultural tradition is not a bad thing – but going the next step and insisting that your version is the correct version (especially when it’s demonstrably not true!) is a bad thing. Blond haired, blue eyed ‘surfer Jesus’ is the mental picture we probably get. A ‘brown’ or ‘olive-skinned’ Jesus wouldn’t look like ‘one of us’. There’s that ‘us and them’ thing again – that sin we call ‘othering’.

    I know we’re a pretty liberal and fairly ‘woke’ church. And I know that when I would put images on the screen in worship of a black Jesus, or a brown Jesus, or a Chinese Jesus that those images were valued and accepted. We’re trying. We’re learning. We’re growing. And we still have a long way to go – because when I put up those images our reaction is probably “oh, isn’t that ‘different’ picture of Jesus interesting.” See what I mean? It’s still ‘other’ from our ‘normative’ view. This stuff is hard!

    This won’t solve or fix anything, but I offer here the lyrics to a song from James Taylor about how different cultures see Jesus. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a Christmas song: I guess baby Jesus is less threatening! As you read the lyrics I hope you’ll reflect on how different the church might have acted in the world if we had seen the world through this lens decades or centuries ago. And maybe when we close our eyes and picture Jesus that picture might evolve. If you’d like to hear the song (with beautiful art) just click this link. (You may notice that even here most of the images feature white faces.)

    Blessings to you as we journey along this path of learning, awakening, and reconciling.
    ‘Tis love that’s born today.

    Some children see him lily white
    The baby Jesus born this night
    Some children see him lily white
    With tresses soft and fair

    Some children see him bronzed and brown
    The Lord of heav’n to earth come down
    Some children see him bronzed and brown
    With dark and heavy hair

    Some children see him almond-eyed
    This Saviour whom we kneel beside
    Some children see him almond-eyed
    With skin of golden hue

    Some children see him dark as they
    Sweet Mary’s son to whom we pray
    Some children see him dark as they
    And, oh they love him too

    The children in each different place
    Will see the baby Jesus’ face
    Like theirs, but bright, with heavenly grace
    And filled with holy light

    Oh lay aside each earthly thing
    And with thy heart as offering
    Come worship now the infant king
    ‘Tis love that’s born tonight

    ‘Tis love that’s born tonight

    Shalom,
    Rev. Larry
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