On culpability, crowds, and the waters of my baptism

I don’t like large crowds. Never have. 

Which is why I’m really struggling with actively using social media these days. Our world is so polarized right now and it makes me extremely uncomfortable. 

It seems there are only two camps. With us or without us. Racist or antiracist. Right or wrong. Woke or ignorant. 

Right now, I fall into a white progressive social justice algorithm. It’s an echo chamber that’s becoming a religion just as right extremism was in my childhood upbringing. In my algorithm (though I can’t speak for yours), the pendulum of fundamentalism has merely swung the other way and skipped over a vast swath of people as it naturally does. 

I deleted my Facebook app from my phone again. I’m opting on sharing photos with family and close friends via private apps like Google Photos. And then I share my wayward ramblings and ideas here on this publication. 

We’ll see how long it stays this way. 

One interesting thing I’m seeing on the socials is this concept that racism/white supremacy is a systemic construct that can be eradicated. It’s being framed as a type of ideological pathogen, like chickenpox, that can be battled and a date stamp placed on its (future) eradication date. 

This way of framing it places the problem out there in this ominous floating pathological concept called ‘systemic racism’. And as a white liberal, it’s really easy for me to wear the right t-shirts, put up the right filter on my social media profiles, and point the finger ‘over there’ towards this ominous ideological pathogen. 

Now, I’m no social scientist. I’m not an expert on race in America. I don’t play one on TV nor do I plan on going into that profession. I’m a budding theologian which means that my field of study is the care of human souls and the relationship between God and the human heart. 

And when I look at racism of any persuasion or color, I just can’t see it as a thing out there that we ‘good people’ can eradicate. In this same category, I can’t see murder as something that can be completely eradicated. In order to get every single person to stop killing others, I’d have to - well - kill everyone. And that’s no fun. 

Yes, we can thwart these things. And as much work as there is left to do, I’d say we’ve made big steps in our world in the right direction. But the harder we fight against it with forceful shame and righteousness-fueled power, the sooner we reach a point where we’re fighting fire with fire and it all burns down anyhow.

As a theologian, I see racism lumped into sin and evil. I see it as a condition in every single human heart. It’s in me just as it is in you. 

And so, no matter how many rules of white wokeness I follow in order to deem myself ‘less racist’ than my apparent less-woke siblings, I know that I have stuff in me that will always be there. 

And it’s not just because I’m white.
It’s because I’m human. 

This is why I need forgiveness and mercy, not ideological absolution. I need to take a confessional stance, not one of righteous indignation. 

I pray that I never allow my egoic tendency towards self-righteousness to rob me of the culpability that lives in my heart and thereby the forgiveness and renewal that exists in Christ. And my prayer is the same for you. No matter your shade of skin.

No amount of antiracism training or social media posturing can absolve me of this. There is only One who can absolve me continually in the waters of my baptism. I pray that the fruits of this renewal are good and ripe. And that I can look my human siblings clothed in infinite shades of skin in the eyes with dignity and know that we are one.

Grace + Godspeed,