No One Is that White

I have clung to this verse rather feverishly through the last 4 years:

Isaiah 53:12 (NIV)
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Because I am a transgressor
And he was numbered with me

It really does not feel good being a transgressor. First there is the spiritual malaise of sin. Then there is the divide it creates between me and God. Next there is this fun fact: while all regular humans are sinners, we pretend we are not.

Jesus was no regular human.

He was poor, dark, and hated. His nickname was “bastard.”

He bore our shame.
He bore my shame.

Isaiah 53 is a chapter as hard as obsidian, so painful, so crucial. And it was written by a guy who walked around naked for 3 years just because God told him to do it.

I figure the naked walking was God’s writing seminar. Not fun or pretty, but soaring, redemptive, essential.

Do you know Jesus?

If you do, you know the only color that matters when describing him is blood red. Blood shed for me, one miserable transgressor.

And if you don’t? Walk that road, that narrow road he lights for us, to the Cross that sets us free.

Isaiah 1:18

What I remember

My father was a southerner of the same generation as Ms. Deen. He did not speak directly to the question of the “n” word and his culture. As a child I knew these stories:

His father owned a hardware store. He was taught to call people “sir” and “ma’am” and so he did so until his father told him these terms did not apply to the African American customers who came to the store.

Why? My father wondered. He never, as long as I knew him, treated anyone with partiality. He was not convinced by prejudice and racism. Always fair at all things except cards–in which case the man played to win.

Or the stories of the black women who raised him. They loved him, put up with him, nurtured him, and gave him his taste for butter on rice and pinto beans. A taste that is sewn into who we are and what we call home.

And then there was Tav–Octavia, the subject of the most explosive argument I remember between my father and his parents.

They objected to loans she got from the government to renovate her shack. She was their employee. If they had paid her a living wage then she could have afforded her own linoleum and shingles.

Hardly luxuries.

But this last story is mine: I was 4 or 5 at most and a relative repeated a familiar rhyme that often has the word “tiger” in it. Only she used the n word. I did not know at first what it meant.

My parents (Paula Deen’s age and no angels) explained that it was a derogatory term we did not use.

If you can teach a 5 year old that some words are painfully off-limits, well…you can teach just about anyone.

Trick is to get’em to understand God sees us all the same–His beautiful children.

Dog Stories…

Mark 7:26-28 (NIV)
The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. [27] “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” [28] “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

I used to see this story differently. I will talk about my used-to-see story separately: the Christian I used to be.

But for now I have to let the woman I am speak.

I have lived in countries where dogs were food. I have seen them wandering emaciated and lost on the street. Some dogs have a tough life.

But not our brothers’ dogs. Not my mother’s dogs.

My mother loves dogs more than me. It is a function of her askew thinking. So now when I see this conversation I see a woman who might plead for her little dog over the life of her daughter.

Hard to face.

Or my mother-in-law…

Who once refused to restrain a dog menacing her grandchild.

Strange choices. Unless you face the truth: in our country we are more comfortable advocating for the rights of dogs than children.

Worldwide the practice of sex-selected abortion is rampant. Our daughters are not safe. We do not plead for them anymore.

And my babies?

My father-in-law once refused his granddaughter a piece of meat from my plate. His anger was palpable and his misogyny extends beyond what is moral.

Small dogs get crumbs indeed.

In my family it is the little girls beneath the table, while the adults let the dogs ravage the meal.

Weddings where the dog is the maid of honor, and the children are not welcome at the table.

I will not go back. Please, God, protect my children from…

The dogs at the table.