No More Mea Culpas for Breathing While White
Ready for a little soap box rant? If not, skip this and move on to next blog.
What follows is a letter to the editor of our diocesan newspaper. The editor neither printed it or acknowledged my epistle, so -- given the power of blogdom -- here is reprinted my letter for all five readers who are given to dropping into the Neighborhood when they're in the area. That's five more than read it before it found its way into Mr. G's circular file.
First, a little background. The Baron and I are Episcopalians, though we are not what the born-into's call "cradle Episcopalians." We are members in good standing -- at the moment -- because it seemed like a good compromise between my former Catholicism (I had to leave when I divorced and remarried) and his former Methodism, which he remembered fondly from his youth but quit attending as he grew up. Or maybe when his parents stopped going; I forget.
Anyway, I love the potential of the Episcopal Church. I need a faith community with a sacramental basis and one which celebrates a liturgical year that is similar -- if not identical -- to the one I grew up with. I love the rubrics, the traditions, the whole gestalt. Being received into the Espicopal Church felt like coming home.
It doesn't feel much like that anymore. Maybe it's me; maybe it's the people in charge. For example, the Baron got all enthused about church blogging when he read Hugh Hewitt's Blog and he wanted to start one for the diocese. You can imagine the reception that idea got in a top-down hierarchical bureacracy complete with a ministry of communications (run by someone from the MSM, by the way). The fear and loathing evidenced by the p.i.c. (people in charge) was disheartening. Their compromise was to discuss it at their leader's retreat sometime in the Fall and then meet in a committee and assign tasks, etc. Now there's a real prophetic outlook.
But I digress. I came here to talk about -- dare I say it? -- racism. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of talking about it, thinking about it, and certainly giving any more energy to it. All the talk does is bloat the perceived resentments of the "victims" and the masochistic tendencies of those who beg to be forgiven for being white. What follows is a response to a letter from a priest who loudly beats his breast about his racism and calls on us to work harder to eliminate this scourge from our church. We must attend more meetings, give forth with more pronouncements, and generally crawl until we are told we may get up and get on with doing something useful. Like educating our children in the ways of our traditions and the sharing of our faith.
Here's my response to "THE SIN OF RACISM" as it appeared in The Jamestown Cross some months back:
'The Sin of Racism': A Reader's ResponseI will have more to say about the history of Episcopal schools in this country -- before they became the haven for the well-to-do -- and how they led the way to public education in the 19th century. The Episcopal Church needs to get back to its roots and it needs to get back there quickly. It is becoming irrelevant so fast that it's almost invisible. It is certainly irrelevant.
The downward spiral of the Episcopal Church in its rush to irrelevance can nowhere be seen more clearly than in the enormous amount of leadership energy now spent on 1970's-style consciousness raising. Periodically, congregations are subjected to yet more hortatory about the need for right thinking. Once again, congregations are shown to be lagging behind the bureaucracy: whether it be race or gender or Palestine, Episcopalians have to be in line with whatever the politically correct thinking is at the moment.
Surely there is not a white Episcopalian left who has not discovered with great personal dismay his own covert racist thinking? Right? As a racism workshop facilitator once said, "if you're white, you're wrong." This facilitator also told his audience that it's inherently impossible, given the racist culture in America, for a black person to be racist. How's that for the ultimate in condescension?
My bona fides: I am white, but I live in a black community. I was married in a black church. Back when it was authentically cross-cultural, I was a member of the NAACP. In fact, we have some black people in our family.
Those who would condemn others for their failures to think correctly simply don't understand the hard-wiring in the human soul. We are born with a capacity to prefer our own kind. Watch any child encounter a stranger and you can experience the primitive startle effect that leads to a preference to be with one's own. This inclination toward the known is neither sinful nor wrong; it is human.
Game theory has shown that when members of a community are left to their own devices, groups of similars will collect or 'bunch' together. It is not deliberate segregation, it is congregation. Ask the black students on any campus who they prefer to hang with. And then ask them if this preference is racist.
In the continuing rush to right thinking, it is the children who lose out. The Law of Unintended Consequences is easily seen in the effects on children of both no-fault divorce and mandated diversity. The idea that culture can be sorted out and regulated is surely one of the most pernicious legacies from the 20th century. It is past time to move beyond this dated, statist thinking.
I'll be the first in line when a commission is formed to investigate the harm which accrues to children from illegitimacy and illiteracy. With all the oxygen in the room being consumed by correct thinking, though, it seems there isn't any left over for the kids. Bill Cosby had it right when he said the main problems facing black children have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with poor decisions. Now whose fault is that?
We are Christ's people. We need to be about our Father's business and we already have a Creed to tell us what that business is. The statements of Fr. Kelly's Creed - the ones that begin with an individual examination of guilty conscience and ends with a call for a permanent national Episcopal committee on racism - are jarringly wrong-headed. How about a national committee to make illiteracy uncool? That would be both Christian and cogent. How about a church which devotes its energy to strengthening the good rather than a church which is compelled to wallow in its own sinfulness? If I wanted to be a Calvinist, I would not have chosen to be an Episcopalian.
Once upon a time, the Episcopal Church was at the forefront of educating children to the fact of their individual free will and their membership, via Baptism, in the City of God. Now it seems that we stand only for the further balkanization by race which has so grievously retarded our culture.
Race and ethnicity are accidental. They are not instrumental in our salvation.
And lest you think this is not a top-down problem, I leave you with the sentiments of our current Presiding Bishop, stated in the first few days following 9/11. This consecrated man of God, Frank Griswold, elected to his position by members of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, said that he was ashamed to be an American. He made me ashamed to be an Episcopalian.
"Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."
You know, I really like these new soapboxes. Much lighter than the old ones...probably made in China.