“It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming – as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with men and the coming of his kingdom.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer on religionless Christianity
We whites were uncomfortable talking of our good fortunes as divine blessings, because what about the misfortunate? Was God against them? Were they cursed, rather than blessed? Talk of “blessings” came with white guilt. But some of the black Christians said, “Wait a minute. That’s our heritage. That’s how we talk about how God has cared for us.”
We’ve got totalizing thought systems that can take a beating and keep fighting. It’s an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Something’s gotta give.
“We can’t breathe together,” says my friend John, a black pastor. “There’s not enough oxygen to wail and to laugh.” How do I find the oxygen to wail? Where do I fit in? How do I make this my story? What a luxury: Straight, white male, unaffected, needs to feel something. The worst thing a cop has ever done to me is to have given me a speeding ticket I deserved.
When I mash-up the story of humble faith in “Little Drummer Boy” with Wilco’s directive to “learn how to die” in “War on War,” I’m not just making room for the Cosmic Christ sharing the Gospel through songwriters who don’t claim him. I’m trying to see if there’s room for me and my Dad.
“Colored.” Where did she hear that word? That’s not how we talk in our house.