As I think about Christmas, and the coming of Christ (historical, within and among us, and future), the events that have taken place in Ferguson, MO and around the country, remind me how far we have to go in recognizing the presence of Christ in another person.
Crime aside, not following orders aside, self-defense aside, I’m dumbfounded that a community turns on itself in violence and destruction. I’m bewildered by protests by people who are willing to protest but not have a conversation about the real issues. But I’m also left thinking I can’t possibly know the rage that people feel – rage I’ve never known or had reason to know.
I don’t know what it’s like to walk down the street and have strangers cross the street to avoid walking by me.
I don’t know what it’s like to be viewed with suspicion in a store – whether I can afford to be there or not.
I don’t know what it’s like to be viewed from afar, rather than engaged in conversation.
I don’t know what it’s like to be pulled over for driving in a neighborhood where I don’t live.
I don’t know what it’s like to be passed over for a job or promotion because of my name or the color of my skin.
I don’t know what it’s like to be viewed as a gang when two or more of my friends assemble.
I don’t know what it’s like to have a Jesus that is a different race from my own (even though Jesus probably was different from my own).
I don’t know what it’s like to have assumptions made, for better or worse, about my athletic ability or my interests.
I don’t know what it’s like to have my failures attributed to my race or income.
I don’t know what it’s like to have judgments made about me or my intentions based on my race, ethnicity, or religion.
I don’t know the limits of my gender or the color of my hair.
I don’t know the responsibilities of carrying a child or giving birth.
I don’t know that others struggle over things I take for granted.
I am a white male. I’m privileged. I live a life of white privilege. Governments, laws, social and religious institutions are designed to favor me and to oppress others.
But I also know I can’t pass judgment, and that I must understand all sides of a story/situation. I can’t know someone else’s reality or speak for others without knowing their story, their truth, and believing in their inherent dignity, made in God’s image. The Christ for which we await at Christmas is present in us, but he is also present in others, including those different from us. The heaven we seek will only be realized when we all understand this and work toward a just, diverse, inclusive society (world).