Church Views on Colorblind

This week’s eNewsletter feature story
is written by Jim Teague,
FPCE communications coordinator.

Dear friends,

There is a phrase in journalism called “burying the lede,” which means, essentially, to begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing the more essential points or facts. In an effort to avoid this most egregious error, I will tell you up front that I am hoping you will attend next Wednesday’s discussion of the book Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey, to be held on Zoom at 7 p.m.

Please submit your questions for the Zoom meeting ahead of time in an email to Henry Coates at hcoates@firstpresevanston.org. This is being done so we can aggregate as many similar questions into one, and, therefore, have more time for as many questions as possible. We will also have some time for questions from online. Whether by email or in the online chat, anonymous submissions will be ignored (stand by your beliefs by putting your name to them).

The meeting is an important step forward in the challenging process of wrestling, as a church body, with the connected issues of racial justice, social unrest, and knowing the heart of God.

But first, a story.

When my sons were young, I volunteered at the Lutheran school they attended, helping the students into the building upon their arrival each morning. The system involved helping each child exit the passenger’s side of the vehicle dropping them off each morning. For the preschoolers and kindergarteners, we volunteers were there to help them out of the cars and into the building. Once we had a big enough group of children, another group of volunteers would bring them to their classrooms and then come back for the next batch.

We had worked up a pretty good system which had the intended priority of keeping the children safe while also working to get them into the building as smoothly as possible before the bell rang to begin the day’s classes. By helping the children out of their vehicles on the right side, they avoided having to cross the line of traffic snaking its way through the school parking lot. The few parents who wanted to come into the building would first drive into the lot, drop their kids off, and then circle the block, reentering the same lot and parking, entering the building on their own by crossing the line of cars when everyone had come to a stop.

There were, however, one or two parents who routinely pulled into the lot, parked their vehicles and crossed the line of traffic with their kids. There was also one mom who, no matter what, refused to let us help her child out of the car. She would stop, put her car in park, get her child out of the rear driver’s side seat, cross the line of cars and bring her child into the building. Nothing we could say would sway her from this routine. We never had any serious accidents or mishaps, but on a couple of occasions, preschoolers got loose on their own and rushed between two cars without an escort, parent or otherwise.

For the first few months of volunteering, I struggled to understand how these parents could both brazenly break the rules (which I reminded them of on a weekly if not daily basis), and put their own children at potential (if slight) risk of injury.

One morning, I got into a conversation with another parent volunteer about these scofflaws. As we discussed it, we reached the conclusion that they had a different priority — a different law — at work in their minds than we did.

For me, the dual laws of following the rules or social norms and my own understanding of what it meant to keep my children safe were primary in my mind. I suspected, though, that an inner law that said “I’m responsible for my child’s safety, and if I don’t do it myself I’m a bad parent” may have been far more powerful a motivator for the moms and dads that chose to ignore the rules the school had put in place.

That concept of “competing laws” has stuck with me ever since. I often have a moment during a conflict or disagreement when I find myself thinking “they must have a different law at work in this situation.” It helps me take the disagreement less personally than I might otherwise choose to do.

I also have plenty of times when I just think the person with a different viewpoint is wrong, crazy, or lacking in a firm grasp of all the facts. After all, I’m usually right (don’t tell my wife I said that).

Now, I am also a firm believer that there is such a thing as independent, absolute truth; some things are right and some things are wrong, and we need to make sure we are finding our footing for those determinations in the Bible. We might still disagree on interpretation and application, but we should at least be united in the conviction that truth is found there.

What is my point here? Next Wednesday, we will “gather” online to hear four panelists present their reactions to Beyond Colorblind and how it did or didn’t resonate with their own experiences involving race in our church, country, and the wider world. More than likely, something that is shared that night will hit some of us in a way that either makes us unsettled, unsure, or downright angry. We do NOT have to all come away from the meeting in agreement. In order to remain committed to each other as fellow wayfarers on the journey of faith, however, we might find it helpful to turn our own discomfort into a quest to find what law is at work in those whose views differ from ours.

Please do submit your questions for the Zoom meeting ahead of time in an email to Henry Coates at hcoates@firstpresevanston.org.

This Sunday, Pastor Henry will be speaking to us about Romans 8:26-39. Our God is committed to His purposes, and because He is completely good we know that we can trust that His purposes will ultimately work out in our favor as we remain committed to them… And to Him.

See you all online this Sunday!

In Christ,

Jim Teague
jteague@firstpresevanston.org