The Struggle of Calling People Into Spaces that Don’t Welcome the Marginalized

The Struggle of Calling People Into Spaces that Don’t Welcome the Marginalized January 8, 2018

You see, the goal of our little group of “wandering nomads”(i.e. family-less millennial pastors), it’s to create an environment for people to feel safe and comfortable; even if it’s just for a day, our hope is that they’re given this remindful feeling of what it is, means, and feels like to belong.

In this moment a million things are running through my head; as I silently try and calculate all of the factors at play so I can effectively defuse the situation at hand: what, if anything, can I say that would not offend my friends in the room? But, also wouldn’t isolate this guest? Should I isolate this guest in order to avoid my closer friends feeling as if they were betrayed by my silence?

The mental gymnastics that go into knowing how to swiftly weave in and out of all of the complex everyday racial, social, political, and economic complexities… it’s, well, exhausting. Especially when inviting guests into your home, it’s like throwing a dart when blinded folded; have fun with that. The platitude is true in this situation: “Be kind, because everyone is fighting an uphill battle.”

(Keeping in mind, this person chose to be with us on Christmas Day because he didn’t feel safe enough spending it with his family at home…)

How do you call people into spaces you’re not even welcome in?

If we could all relate and connect to just one thing, it’s this universal desire to belong.

It’s a desire that could be seen in behaviors as far back as the ancient Mayans. People smarter than me say, “In those societies, like many others, ostracism and exile were considered to be the harshest penalties[2].” Similarly to our present day, these penalties of exile for the Mayans, they were so harsh, because they possessed the consequence of life or death; that is, for us, unemployment, homelessness, or, the lack of belonging…

Which, in NPR’s podcast Code Switch, the hosts speak of how serious this feeling of being alienated, exiled, or ostracized can actually be for oppressed persons; she goes on to say:

“This woman Monica Williams runs the lab for culture and mental health disparities at the University of Connecticut… she told us incidents like this can cause major anxiety. And, she adds an array of mental and physical problems are being linked to ongoing experiences with racism… this is happening all the time; it really takes a toll; we’re talking PTSD, OCD, depression, hypertension, diabetes, even cancer…”

This isn’t isolated to just those who experience racism. This rings true for those who’ve experienced divorce; those who fall beneath the poverty line; women writ large; Muslims simply living and existing in America; literally, anyone and everyone who is made to feel as if they don’t belong.

This feeling of alienation, it’s literally killing us.

The constant gaslighting, alongside the exhausting complexities found within those (aforementioned) psychic gymnastics, it’s exactly what pushes far too many of us out and into the margins; hence, the rippling effects of this mass exodus seen throughout the American church; all of this making the irony even more palpably insufferable when your oppressor who’s pushing you out is also, somehow, demanding that you have more grace and work harder and get better at calling them in [1].

It’s this aforementioned “conflation of good and nice is one of the reasons for ongoing division and a lack of racial reconciliation within the Church. For instance, the unspoken demand that the oppressed still must be “slow to anger,” despite the amount of suffering they’ve faced, and by slow to anger, in Americanized evangelical terminology this means one must never get angry… (Read more here: The Revolution of Niceness)”

“For example, the “tone” argument, the favorite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimize their anger.” – via The Social Justice League Blog

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