Lenten Book Discussion (Chapter 2): Bruce Plummer

March 14, 2017

On Wednesdays in Lent, diocesan leaders will guide an online book discussion of "Living into God's Dream: Dismantling Racism in America," a collection of essays edited by Dr. Catherine Meeks. Each week our guest facilitators will post a reflection on a chapter (or chapters) that can be found on the diocesan website and in the enews. On Wednesdays from 7 - 8 pm they will also host a Facebook conversation about the chapter and their reflection. All are invited to participate. Those who do not have Facebook accounts may still view the conversation, but will not be able to comment. See the full schedule of chapters and facilitators.

Our reflection for Chapter 2 comes from Bruce Plummer, a lay leader at St. Paul & the Redeemer. The March 15 discussion will be facilitated by Plummer, and  take place on Facebook from 7 - 8 pm. Join the conversation on Facebook.

If the word "dissect" conjures up for you the image of a surgeon operating with precision and dexterity, you're likely not alone. Our author, Lerita Coleman Brown, uses the medical image to focus our attention on the toxic and grave cancer of racism. Entitled “Dissecting Racism: Healing Minds, Cultivating Spirit,” the second chapter of “Living Into God’s Dream,” boldly challenges its reader to question what fuels stereotypes, projections, fear, hate, the formation of racial identities, and the intrapsychological push toward separation rather than connection?Are these behaviors and precepts innate or learned? And, if learned, can they be unlearned?

As I grapple with these questions, my mind is drawn to my college sophomore year psychology class and an epistemological idea known as tabula rasa.The concept of tabula rasa can be traced back to the writings of Aristotle, but in its most modern interpretation the theory suggests that at birth the (human) mind is a "blank slate" without rules for processing data, and that data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by one's sensory experiences. As advanced by the philosopher John Locke, tabula rasa meant that the mind of the individual was born blank, and it also emphasized the freedom of individuals to author their own truths. This theory suggests that racism is a social construct and, as such, is within the reach of people to dismantle.

The ability to hope and the belief that change can be achieved if we all strive to attain it has sustained generations of people. It redefines the impossible and subverts power in society's broken systems. Musicians write songs about it, parents seek to instill it in their children, and it's the common thread that binds all of us together.

My ancestors knew and understood this all too well. They experienced pain and suffering at the hands of their oppressors, yet still answered the inner call to press on despite the circumstances. Different religions may call it different things but the concept of hope is universal. Hope is the descendant of faith and faith is a gift from God.

As a Christian, my faith sustains me through troubling times and keeps me anchored in the shifting sands. I am not naive and know there is much work that lies ahead. And while society and social norms may mold individual behaviors, one only needs to look at history to witness the workings of the Holy Spirit.  With the rising of the sun, each of us are granted an opportunity to change how we view society and how society views us.  It is here, at the intersection of faith and works, where we can begin to live into a God-centered life.

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