Over the summer, I took a free course taught by Dr. Esau McCaulley offered through Nashotah House Theological Seminary. The Coordinator of The Chapter at Nashotah House asked me to write a reflective essay about the course. The Chapter is an online resource for alumni and constituents of Nashotah House. I’m delighted to say The Chapter posted my essay last week, here.
You can read it there if you sign up for an account, or I’m sharing the full essay below. I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity to share my reflections.
Then the World Will Know
originally posted on The Chapter, November 2, 2020
I found out about The Bible & Theology in Color course from a friend. At the time, I was reading The Color of Compromise and participating in the Facebook study group with Jemar Tisby and the Witness.
When I learned the free course offered “the opportunity to study the history and theological insights of the Black Church, Latino/a Protestantism, and Asian American Christians and learn what these insights have to teach us about the present moment”, I signed up. The present moment was heavy and confusing for me, a white woman who has been around or in the church my entire life. Only in the last several years have I realized how narrow-minded my white evangelical world is, and the Color of Compromise opened my eyes to my ignorance and failure to love all my siblings well.
I knew my black and brown brothers and sisters were feeling a weight and a pain I could never know, and I wanted to learn from them. The course promised to help me appreciate their insights, their history, and hear what they had to say to the church.
Let Us Begin
As we began the course, Reverend McCaulley asked that we engage with humility and invited us into a lifetime of study. His claim is this: The Bible contains the story of God bringing glory to himself by creating a diverse group of people and bringing them into a community centered around him and rooted in the good creation he has made.
I believe that. I’ve always believed that. The question then is this: Do I live like I believe it?
The class has changed me deeply in a variety of ways and I believe there are more changes to come.
In addition to my own study, I’ve learned about God and the Bible mostly through white male pastors and scholars. This gave me a limited view of God and His Kingdom. I did not do this on purpose, but I didn’t do the work of looking for and learning from a diverse group of theologians, authors, and pastors.
I thought I cared and loved my black and brown brothers and sisters well enough. But how can I love them well when I don’t know them. How can I know them when I’m not listening to them or learning from them?
Over and over again, God tells His people to remember. We can’t remember what we haven’t learned. So, we pay attention. We listen with curiosity and humility. We learn their stories. Dr. Diane Langberg says it this way, “Teach me what it is like to be you.”
The more I learn, the more I hear their pain and their cries for justice. I believe them and I believe their pain. When we’ve learned from them, we can remember together. Though remembering can be painful, remembering well and honestly builds our faith, grows our patience, gives us courage and hope, and enlarges our hearts so that we look on others with compassion.
Truer and Fuller
Reading black and brown theologians taught me a truer and fuller Gospel. In one of the first lessons, Reverend McCaulley reminded us of the blessing of Ephraim and Mannasah. I’ve read this plenty of times, but it was necessary and important that I learn what it meant to a black man. This happened throughout the course. We gained different perspectives on a Bible story or a Psalm or the words of Jesus because we read the interpretation of them from a non-white scholar.
One of our assignments included a lecture by James Cone. He spoke boldly and truthfully. I heard the pain of oppression and a passionate call to resistance. We read J. Doetis Roberts, Jonathan Y. Tan, Robert Chao Romero, and a round table discussion in Womanist perspective. All are enlightening. I wonder now what other treasures I’ve missed in the Bible due to my failure to learn from people different from me.
“We need all cultures throughout time to help us discern the mind of Christ.”Reverend Esau McCaulley
I’m in awe that the most oppressed people trusted Jesus even though those in authority over them distorted the teaching of the Gospel. Jesus is to my black and brown brothers and sisters something he isn’t to me. Something more vital. As I learn from them, I know Jesus better and I have a clearer view of God and the Kingdom.
This class opened my eyes to ways in which I need to be more intentional in how I practice my faith. What we believe matters, and how we live it out matters. People are looking for someone to help them make sense of what is happening in the world.
We have a responsibility to pay attention, to listen, and learn from our brothers and sisters. We can’t harden our hearts toward the brokenness of the world or the broken ones in it. We must work with them toward justice in a Christian way. At the least, this means calling injustice by its name.
We Are Family
Reverend McCaulley said this, “The idea of the church as a family, that we’re all brothers and sisters, does not rule out making demands. So I can say the white Chrisitan is my brother, and precisely because he is my brother or she is my sister, there are some things they need to do for other members of their family.”
In John 17 Jesus prays, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”. NIV
Then the world will know.