Things I Can’t Say

I find myself in a tough situation creatively. See, the rough draft of my first book(!) is complete and currently being slogged through by some very gracious friends, so I need to break from that and turn here.

But what to discuss? I’m not interested in offering weekly sermons or in-depth Scriptural studies right now, but I’ve also come to realize that, try as I might, I’m neither a political hot-taker nor a self-help guru. It’s not that there’s no inspiration—there are always things to inflame the mind if it’s open to the world. No, my issue is that the things I want to talk about, I just . . . can’t.

I have lots of thoughts on lots of things. You know, light fare like abortion and racism. Things I’d like to talk about but are problematic given my pasty complexion and dangling . . . participles.

Then, beyond social issues, I’d love to discuss a book I’m currently reading, Philosophical-Anthropologist Rene Girard’s Things Hidden Since the Foundations of the World, but that too seems beyond me at the moment.

See with the abortion discussion, I shouldn’t speak if for no other reason than because I’m a dude: one with three children who has never faced—as a partner or obviously a mother—the paralyzing uncertainty of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy.

And I ought to be silent regarding racism because again, I’m a white dude: I have so much of my own stuff to work through in the ways I think of and approach People of Color.

The last is a personal stance: it’s been a while since I read an author that so moves the “teacher bug” in me like Girard. I read his The Scapegoat a few years ago and loved it and have now made it mostly through his magnum opus, but it’s just not time. I haven’t even finished the book so I certainly haven’t had enough time to adequately digest it. And that’s not even counting my lack of cross-research and credentials.

But if I don’t talk about these things, what then?

I’m haunted not only by the question of, “What should I write about?” but also, “If I don’t say these things to those who look like me, who will?

With the renewed attacks against abortion, if men don’t speak out against those who look like us—if we don’t vocalize support of women’s right to have a say in regulating what they do with their bodies, we will be roundly (and justly) condemned for our silence. If I don’t at least try to point out men’s patriarchal and paternalistic attitudes toward women and how these—along with the chasm of lived-experience between the sexes—impair my ability to create fair laws addressing women’s various needs, I will have failed as an advocate and self-proclaimed “feminist.”

What if I don’t stand up and at least try to convey why opposing views on abortion are unscientific regarding the growth of a human fetus—how women often don’t realize they’re pregnant for weeks after the fact and that it takes longer than that for the mass of tissues to become anything that could be considered human (and even longer before it’s viable even in our technologically-advanced age)?

What if I don’t confront their unsound logic regarding history—how abortion has existed for millennia, how wellfare is necessary (if we don’t provide comprehensive healthcare and assistance, these lives we claim to save will likely be shorter and less-full)?

What if I don’t share what little I know of the development of consciousness—how basically all animals possess similar awareness as humans, though we don’t bat an eye at their sufferings (factory farming, anyone?)?

Or finally, as a Christian, what if I don’t speak about against their inconsistent and unsound use of the Bible?

What if I don’t say these things? If I or men like me don’t speak out, won’t our silence be a worse condemnation than our problematic words?

And what if I don’t talk about my limited experiences studying and working toward racial justice? What if other white people (and again, white men particularly) don’t hear how I’ve learned that even our simplest words and actions—or sometimes even our presence—can negatively affect People of Color?

What if I don’t tell the stories and show the data about the frightening intersection of policing and race? What if white people don’t hear the stories from workshops I’ve attended, or on podcasts like Pod Save the People, where it seems every episode I learn about some new way POC have been systematically and historically repressed or oppressed?

Or share movies like Moonlight and Black Panther? What if I don’t relate my experiences reading such books as the classic Black Like Me, where a white journalist in the 1950’s colored his skin and recorded his experiences of being treated as a black man in the American South? Or what about other books like Waking Up White, where an insulated, privileged white woman is forced to face up to the ways society has greased the skids of her life simply because of her pigment? Or even more startlingly, the stories in When They Call You A Terrorist, written by one of the founders of #BlackLivesMatter?

What if I don’t discuss my experiences working within an almost entirely white church and chairing their Racial Justice Task Force? What if I don’t speak about the sadness (but sometimes surprise) of older white folks that the Civil Rights era didn’t solve most of our race problems? Or how we still too often resort to inviting POC into our spaces of power and privilege rather than bolstering or seeking to level the playing field for their communities and spaces that already exist?

Again, my words here are problematic before I ever utter a sound, but if I don’t speak to people who look like me, won’t their closed ears be at least partially due to my silence?

What if I don’t talk about these timely and important things?

And that’s not even mentioning the philosophical/theological/anthropological expansion that works like Girard’s have enabled in my mind and heart.

What if I don’t try to make these ideas understandable for folks who will never want to read 400 pages of fusty French philosophers’ ramblings? How many hearts could find something valuable in my spiritual tradition if they were offered something better than God wanted/needed Jesus to die so we could be loved/saved?

What if I could talk about the ways humanity has been enmeshed in the Kingdom of Violence since its earliest days and that Jesus came to release us from that: not as the last sacrifice that would finally sate the Divine’s bloodlust, but as the first real human to step outside the cycle of violence and invite us into a new world, a Kingdom of God that would flourish under the rule of love and forgiveness and peace?

If I don’t talk about these things to these people, who will?

Oh well, I guess we’ll have to leave them for someone else at some other time.

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