Lenten Book Discussion (Chapters 3 & 4): Cecilia Mowatt

March 21, 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 Chapters 3 and 4 comes from Cecilia Mowatt, a lay leader at St. Paul & the Redeemer. The March 22 discussion will be facilitated by Mowatt, and  take place on Facebook from 7 - 8 pm. Join the conversation on Facebook.


“Why Is This Black Woman Still Talking about Race?”  Because she wants to get the dialogue going.  Authentic dialogue.  The need to be heard and to hear the why of others. I too hunger for that dialogue and continue to pursue it.  

Meeks’ experience is different in context than my own yet the same in substance.  My early exposure to a broad spectrum of people, black, white and brown, came as a result of being a child of immigrants. I was privileged because of my parents’ efforts, yet still subject to the same issues of racism and prejudice that infect darker people. 

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, going to school on the North Side and church in Hyde Park made me a border walker who could see our common humanity juxtaposed with the paradox of our common ignorance of each other as God’s children.


Blame Brings Shame and Makes Lame

Meeks’ admonition that one must first take on an inner journey to self-understanding of projections and passions before going on the outer journey of reconciliation is perfectly aligned with the Lenten season and my own practice that I claimed for this Lent. It is difficult yet necessary work.  It starts with self-awareness, self-forgiveness and then forgiving others as we are asking God to forgive us.   

Might it be time to stop blaming when we discuss the issue of race? Most people don’t intentionally ascribe to being racist but are rather operating on a structural systemic construct that we have all equally inherited. Meeks correctly points out the different personal impact of that construct on blacks and whites. If we can recognize those two facts we will be off to a good start and not be lame in our efforts at reconciliation.

I incorporate “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman in my diversity training. It may offer another way of cultivating the willingness to change one’s mind that Meeks says is necessary to enter into repentance.

Kahneman breaks down the way our brains work into two systems. System 1, which he calls fast thinking, puts us on auto pilot and operates with little effort based on our learned associations, impressions, intuitions, intentions and feelings. Implicit bias resides in system 1.  System 2, or slow thinking, is mental activity like complex computations that require attention and focus. In the deepest form of centering prayer, we use slow thinking. However, most of our time is spent in fast thinking, though we do both simultaneously. Fast thinking can embed bias into our slow thinking, but increased slow thinking can replace some of the inherited biases.

Taking the intentional journey into slow thinking about ourselves and our world may allow us to begin to recognize bias without blame or shame and then chip away at our habit of holding onto it. Inviting others to join us by asking “Are you thinking fast or slow?” may move us away from the overly charged language of discrimination and prejudice and into an authentic dialogue where we can learn about each other as equal children of God.


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