149: Entering The Conversation
History has not changed as much as some of us would like to think. The overarching fact that injustice is real and has been present for over 400 years is proof of that. We see a resurgence of a cry for justice before our very eyes, a fight against injustice in our world. In this episode, Thane Marcus Ringler enters the conversation of the cultural moment being experienced in America today. He highlights what is true, what is helpful, and what we still don’t know about the systemic injustice and racism certain races are experiencing.
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149: Entering The Conversation
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Entering The Conversation
I’m excited and a little bit nervous about this show. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure what this looks like, what entering the conversation looks like, but I want to and I know I need to, so here I am with you. Now entering in the conversation of this cultural moment of what we’re experiencing here in America. We’re seeing before our very eyes this resurgence of outcry against injustice in our world. I want to start by saying I want to humbly enter this conversation. What I mean by that is I want to first start by apologizing and saying I am sorry for my own ignorance. I repent of it, first to God and then to my black brothers and sisters. I’ve been ignorant for far too long and I’ve been silent for far too long. I do apologize for that now because I don’t know what it’s like.
What I do know is that when one part of the body is hurting, we’re all hurting together, especially in the body of Christ as believers. If you’re a Christian, a follower of Jesus, this is especially true of you. When one part of the body is hurting, we’re all hurting. I hurt with my brothers and sisters in this. I want to apologize for my own ignorance and say that I don’t know it all. What I do know is that when one is hurting, we’re all hurting within the body of Jesus. One of the concepts in this conversation is a privilege. As a kid, I approached my life wanting not to be privileged. I grew up in a family here in Kansas in the middle of nowhere that was upper-middle-class. I had friends that were not an upper-middle class. I was quickly aware that I had more resources than most that I was surrounded by. Because of that, I had a deep desire to not be privileged. I had a deep desire to not be some stuck-up brat. I had a deep desire to not come across as someone entitled to more than I ought to.
A Game Of Chess
One of the quotes that I’ve said and this was a deep motivation for me to work even harder so that I wouldn’t be seen as that is, “I was born on third base and thought I hit a triple.” I relate this a lot to when I speak or write. I was born on third base and thought I hit a triple. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I was born on third base and I was privileged. What I’ve come to realize now, even with all that’s going on is that the game was predisposed in my favor. It was saying, “Because of you being born into the skin color that you have, into the position you have in your family, and that doesn’t all have to do with skin color, you’re going to be predisposed to favor.” That is still true in many ways, which is crazy to think about, but it is the reality. I want to share something that will be helpful. It was helpful to me when I read it. It’s from a friend of mine, Houston Kraft, Episode 114.
He put up on social media this analogy called A Game of Chess. This is what he said, “I love a good competitive game of chess. It’s especially exciting when the stakes are high. Let’s say for this example that the stakes for this game are financial security, an equal shot at quality education and my life. Let’s say just for this example, that I am playing with the white pieces. With so much on the line, wouldn’t it be nice if for some reason the odds were stacked in my favor? Fortunately, when I sit down at the table to play, I breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a 400-year-old note next to the board from my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather that just says, ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to love the rules we came up with.’ As the game begins, I learned that I can move the black pieces wherever I want. ‘That’s convenient,’ I think to myself. ‘This makes this way easier.’ Not long into the game, my opponent has to give up some of their pieces so that only 3/5 of what they started with remain.
As I read the rules a bit closer, I learned that for the next few turns, I can make my adversary move pieces for me. I don’t even have to get up from the chair. Three-quarters of the way into the game, the rules state that the player playing with the black pieces has to play from a totally different room. They can barely see the board. The room I am assured is “equal to this one.” It seems odd, but with so much on the line, I’m glad to be winning. Near the end of the game, my opponent makes an error. It’s a common mistake, one I made earlier in the game with no consequence, but for some reason, the rules state that my opponent needs to be imprisoned for the exact same slip. The person who comes in to take them away kills him instead. What a game. I had nothing to do with these rules, but I sure am grateful they helped me win. I think, not for the first time, this game doesn’t seem fair.”Having a conversation is always the first step. Click To Tweet
Things That Are True
I was struck by this analogy from Houston because it paints a picture of the reality we face here in America and coming from the perspective of a white man. To enter into the conversation, my goal is just that, to enter the conversation. I want to highlight a few things. I want to highlight some things that are true, some things that are helpful, and some things I still don’t know, which is arguably the biggest column. The first thing is some things that are true. First, injustice is alive and well. It’s present in all areas of our culture and society. Injustice is everywhere. It is rampant but is highlighted especially in the color of skin. Systemic injustice has been experienced more by certain races than others. This is true since the beginning of time. This is nothing new in that sense either. It’s definitely not new here in America, even though we’re seeing it much more available right now in our context.
Some examples of this, if you look in the Bible is people of Israel in Egypt. They were slaves to the Egyptians. They were oppressed. If you look at Jesus’ time, the Samaritans were the half breeds as they were called, who were despised and hated on by the Jews. Likewise, the Samaritans hated the Jews. There’s always systemic injustice that we see within the world, especially the one we live in now. What we’ve seen over the past month are some horrific videos of this injustice taking place, which has all led to the present outcry. Another thing that’s true is that silence and ignorance are not helpful and are no longer options, which is something I’m thankful for. Silence and ignorance never do any good.
The other thing that’s true is that having a conversation is always the first step. This is especially helpful when the primary focus is on listening. The goal is understanding. The goal is listening. The goal is engaging with the conversation by seeking to understand, by putting yourself in the shoes of another. Those are some things that are true. There’s a lot of question of what’s true? What’s the side of the story? What’s helpful? What are the facts? That’s a very common thing to say. The overarching fact is that injustice is real and has been present as we heard from Houston’s posts for over 400 years. There’s been a history of that within our country. That history hasn’t changed as much as some of us would like to think.
Things That Are Helpful
What are some things that are helpful? The first thing that’s helpful is understanding that shame is often what keeps people out of the conversation, especially someone like me who’s a white male. Shame is the thing that will often keep me out of the conversation because I feel shame or guilt for this injustice, even if I haven’t perpetuated any of it. By it being there and by me being who I am, I feel that shame. That’s what keeps me silent. That keeps me out of the conversation. What’s helpful is the church that my pastors were mentioning is that dignifying others comes from just having a conversation. You can dignify someone else as a human by getting into the conversation, by engaging with the conversation. It helps them realize that you see them. You are striving to understand them.
Another thing that keeps us out of the conversation is that we feel like we aren’t racist, so it isn’t our fault. I can relate with this. I don’t feel like I am racist in any way. I don’t feel like I have a lesser view of someone because of the way they look. That keeps me out of the conversation. It keeps me from engaging because I don’t struggle with that. One of my pastors also said, and I thought this was so helpful, “What we’re experiencing right now, this is not your individual fault most likely. There’s a high chance that this isn’t your individual fault. This is our collective problem. What that means is we can’t pretend that it isn’t happening. We can’t pretend that change will happen by chance. It doesn’t. Change never happens by chance. Nothing changes by chance. We cannot pretend that it isn’t happening, that it hasn’t happened.” I heard that over 50 years ago, a black male or female could not marry a white male or female. It wasn’t legal. That was only 50-some years ago.
The final thing that I’ll mention that I believe is helpful is having relationships with people of all colors, of all backgrounds, and of all beliefs is what helps us overcome our own individual biases. We all have biases. We all have them. What helps us overcome that is hearing other points of view from people with other life stories, with other experiences, with other backgrounds, even with other beliefs. That is what helps us see ourselves even more clearly. That’s what helps us try to gain some objectivity on these things. It’s what helps us expand our worldview and our horizons. It helps us realize that a lot of what we think isn’t often true or isn’t helpful. We all are subjective in our own thinking. Objectivity comes from many different points of view. Having relationships with people of all colors, all backgrounds, all beliefs is so helpful for this because it is an individual experience, even as much as there’s a collective problem.
Things We Don’t Know
Those are some things that are helpful. Understanding that shame is often what keeps us out of the conversation. Understanding that dignifying others often comes from just having a conversation. Understanding that we may feel like we aren’t racist. It isn’t our fault, but it isn’t an individual fault. It’s our collective problem we are facing. Understanding that having relationships with people of all backgrounds, colors, and beliefs is what helps us overcome our individual biases. Lastly, there are some things I still don’t know, which is a lot. I don’t know what it’s like to have the deck stacked against me in society or systematically and even systemically. I don’t know what that’s like. I haven’t experienced what it’s like to enter into life with the deck stacked against me. I don’t know that. I haven’t had that experience. I’ve had the opposite in many ways.
I don’t know what it’s like to be sat down by my parents and told how to interact with police when you get stopped or pulled over. I don’t have to have that same conversation with my own child one day. That is something that I don’t know. I’ve never experienced that. Every African-American friend that I’ve talked to has experienced that either from their parents, their grandparents, their uncle, their aunt, whoever it is. They’ve had that conversation. They’ve had to have that with their kids too. Another thing I don’t know is I still don’t know the “full story” from any angle. What I do know is that my brothers and sisters are hurting and thus, I’m going to sit, listen, seek to understand and lament and grieve with them at this time. As we heard from James Bowie in Episode 147, lamenting and grieving is something that we are bad at here in America, especially as achievers. Sitting in the sorrow, the sadness, and the outcry is so helpful for us to truly understand, but also to truly support one another.
Job in the book of the Bible, he was in a horrible place. The best thing his friends did was they came and sat for seven days and grieved with him. We need to get better at that. I need to get better at that. I’m speaking to myself. I want to lament. I want to grieve. I want to sit with it. Another thing that I don’t know is I don’t know what will bring about change that lasts. I don’t have answers. I wish did. I wish anyone did, but I do know that I want to play my part and love and support others in bringing about a change that justifies, that edifies, that empowers the oppressed. If there’s anything that Jesus was for is about empowering those who are oppressed. That was his bread and butter. One thing my grandfather has mentioned several times to me now is that is up to our generation. You Up and Comers that are reading, it is up to our generation to bring about the change that our society needs.
These systemic implicit biases that we are facing become more and more ingrained in our subconscious the longer it persists in the society and culture around us. It’s natural. The longer you carry a disposition that’s subconscious, the harder it is to get that disposition or bent or implicit bias out of our system. This is why my grandfather believes that both his generation and even my parents’ generation are not going to be able to rally enough motivation to bring about the change that we desperately need. He cites this example in Germany, East versus West Germany, and how after 25 to 50 years of the Wall being down, it still hasn’t brought about the unification or the equality that the original goal was in Germany.
He’s talked to many people on the ground floor, and this is what they have said as well. This is why he believes and why I believe that our generation is likely where the tipping point will come from, the tipping point for change that lasts. As a result, I believe we must remain open and active to how God wants to use us and how he wants to partner with us in his ministry of reconciliation here on Earth because that’s what he prayed for. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer, he says, “Your kingdom come here on Earth as it is in heaven.” That’s what we’re praying for. I’ve also heard several sermons on this topic. The illustration that was used was Jesus and John IV with a woman at the well.
There are a few things that you see in the story. If you aren’t familiar with it, Jesus separates himself from the crowds that he was beginning to have. He’s journeying from the South to the North. On the way is this a city called Samaria, and Samaria was filled with the people that were “half breeds.” They weren’t fully Jewish. Because of that, there was this animosity and strife between the two people groups, the two races you could say. They hated each other. They despised each other. They didn’t engage with each other at all. In fact, Jesus uses that as an example in the common parable of the Good Samaritan because it’s so shocking that this Samaritan man would stop for his enemy, for this man that was facing injustice. He stopped and served him.
Jesus was speaking this to a Jewish crowd. This was a slap in the face to them. Back to the woman at the well. Jesus is journeying, sits down, and engages in conversation midday after he sends his disciples away to this woman who comes to the well to draw. She’s a Samaritan. He’s clearly a Jew. If you are familiar, go ahead and read it in John IV. It’s a great story and great parable, but what Jesus displays is that first, he goes to the issue. He doesn’t let it come to him. He meets her on her own turf. He goes to the issue. Second, he proactively engages in the conversation. He doesn’t wait until someone engages with him or brings it up to him. He proactively engages in the conversation with her.
What you also see is that he leads with compassion and love. Jesus knew who this woman was. He knew her background, and it would be scandalous for him to talk to her because she had been married five times and was now living with her boyfriend. All of these things were against Jewish law and against the way of Jesus. Because of that, it would have been scandalous if he knew that to be engaging in conversation with her as a religious leader at the time, but he did it. It was counterculture. He led with compassion and love because he already knew that and he engaged with it anyways.
Lastly, what I think is it came from some of the sermons that he entered the conversation with those who were ready to engage with it. He knew that they were ready to engage with it. As a result, the whole city came out after she went back and shared her testimony with them. He also knew that his disciples weren’t ready to engage with it. He let his actions demonstrate the life that he was calling his disciples to, even if they weren’t ready to hear it at first. What did he do? He got to the well, and he sent his disciples in to get food. He sent them away so that he could have a one-on-one conversation with this woman. He knew that they weren’t ready for that conversation.
When they came back with getting food, they saw it, they were shocked but they didn’t say anything. They didn’t bring it up to him. They were blown away. They had no idea why he was talking to her. They thought it was scandalous, but they were too afraid to ask. That shows they weren’t ready for the conversation. What happened was Jesus’ actions demonstrated the lesson, and actions are always more powerful than engaging in a conversation with people that aren’t ready for it. That is the model that I want to follow. That is a model that we all would do well to follow is to lead with compassion, with love. To lead with anger sometimes is justified.
Engaging Proactively In The Conversation
As they say, be angry but do not sin. That’s in the Ephesians. Anger is a healthy emotion, but the fruit of it is what we have to look out for. How can we lead with compassion and love as Jesus did? How can we engage proactively in the conversation? How can we ensure that we’re engaging or at least be intentional about the people we engage with it, but let our actions demonstrate what we are about the change we want to see? Actions are what matters. Words are cheap. This word right now that I’m saying is pretty cheap. It’s doing something. It’s taking action. It’s taking a step, reaching out and listening that can bring about the change.
A few questions that I’m sitting with, the first is, “How can we lead with humility, compassion, and love right now?” That’s a question I’m asking. The second question is, “How can we fight against injustice as Jesus would? How would Jesus fight against injustice?” At times, it was pretty passionate, going through the temple, ripping apart the tables, and showing his just anger. Sometimes it’s listening. Sometimes it’s proactively engaging with the conversation. Sometimes it’s going away and being by yourself and praying and meditating with God. There are a lot of ways that Jesus did, but how can we fight against injustice as Jesus would? That’s something I’m sitting with.Having relationships with people of all backgrounds, colors, and beliefs is what helps us overcome our individual biases. Click To Tweet
Finally, “How can our generation bring about lasting change that builds up the edifies and that reunites humanity, regardless of race or background? How can I lead with humility, compassion, love? How can I fight against injustice as Jesus would? How can I help bring about lasting change that builds up edifies and reunites humanity, regardless of race or background?” These are the questions I’m asking now. Ultimately, I’m here to listen. Thanks for reading. I hope it has encouraged and challenge you. I’m here to listen. Until next time, I hope you have an up and coming week.
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