Lenten Book Discussion (Chapter 7): Kathy Flint

March 31, 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 7 comes from Kathy Flint, lay leader at All Saints' in Chicago. The April 5 discussion will be facilitated by Flint, and take place on Facebook from 7 - 8 pm. Join the conversation on Facebook.

Lynn W. Huber begins Chapter 7 by describing her perceptions of Palestinian/Israeli politics as they were
shaped, and re-shaped, over time. This evolution in her perceptions occurred because she heard new
narratives—different perspectives—about historical events that educated her understanding about what
reconciliation could look like in the Palestinian/Israeli context. Dr. Huber has given us an example of the
power of story and cultural narrative to prescribe our thoughts about (and thus our action in relation to)
what justice looks like in the world around us. Chapter 7 concludes, on page 117, with a broad invitation to
active personal discernment with respect to “where you might be called to help create the Beloved
Community.”

This reflection attempts to provide some conversation points about cultural narrative with respect to
racism. My hope is to provide a trail marker along the path of invitation that Dr. Huber extended in Chapter
7. Let us reflect together about our shared, yet also deeply personal, cultural narratives. Let us encourage
one another in our deeply personal, yet also shared, inner work of discernment.

Anyone who takes up the work of intentional discernment and discovery about their own sacred place as a
builder and much-loved citizen in the Beloved Community will encounter, in a heightened way, powerful
cultural Narrative.* Cultural Narrative provides for us handles and guideposts with which we humans
orient ourselves within our social settings. That's not necessarily a problem. It's not good or bad. It's one
way we humans form cohesive society.

The challenge is herein: Within our specific context, as parishioners within the Episcopal Diocese of
Chicago and residents of the the United States of America, the overwhelming majority of Narrative we have
digested since our time in the cradle has been brewed, steeped, and served up by a dominant culture that
is, on the whole, deeply invested in and therefore steadfastly determined to uphold structural white
privilege. This is not only true of the secular aspects of our culture. It is also true of our “churched” culture.
Academic social studies quantify what many of us know experientially, which is that the types, variations,
and implications of Narrative one encounters in the United States are particular to one's own race, religion,
gender and economic background. Also very different across each of those demographic lines are levels of
power within the dominant culture to influence the prevailing Narrative. Given these differences, the
responsibility of each individual to dismantle and evolve new Narrative will differ from their neighbor's.
What is that same for every race, gender and economic status is that we all have a place and a job. That
being so, we can't do other people's job. We must do our own job.

Dear reader, no matter your social location, as long as you pursue the prize of Beloved Community, you
will encounter dominant cultural Narrative that is contrary to our work. Actually, you won't encounter it so
much as find it welling up about you, raining down upon you, causing your feet to flip up from the socalled-
floor and your tummy to go queasy with all manner of disorientation and discomfort. It will be your
work to prayerfully curate this Narrative in order to form a meaningful and holy idea of what is possible
within the Beloved Community.

For this week's Lenten conversation, I offer a few examples of ways that United States cultural Narrative is likely to influence your discernment about your work to dismantle racism and build the Beloved Community. No matter your race, gender or economic status, Unites States cultural Narrative has lots to say about these topics! My invitation is to think about your internalized Narrative as it has come to you, specifically you, and how that is likely to influence your own discernment work.

Narrative about your social role and responsibility. As you think about your place and role in raising the Beloved
Community you will, of course, reach into your library of “social doctrines” about what it looks and feels like to be part of a community, any community. Whether you have already worked for a long time at dismantling the
constructs of white privilege, or are just now coming into a new awareness, it is natural that your starting place will be what you have learned so far. What does your internally prevailing Narrative say about:

• Hierarchies of allegiance to different but intersecting parts of your social scene?
• Same question, about your faith scene?
• Guidelines that contain you in relationship with others?
• Risks and dangers about stepping beyond your threshold of responsibility?
• Your role as an agent of change?

How do these narratives relate to what you know so far to be true about your place in the Beloved Community?

Narrative about your capacity to enact change. As you think about your capacity to wield social influence in moving us ever forward toward a wider community characterized by “justice, peace, and a love-ethic,” what does your internally prevailing Narrative say about:

• Your power as an individual to enact change?
• Your thoughts about how “far” you should go, how radical you should be or how much (more) you
might sacrifice?
• Your ideas about how success will look and feel?

How do these narratives relate to what you know so far to be true about your place in the Beloved Community?

Narrative about the nature of the evil that we face. What does your prevailing internal Narrative tell you about the nature of the evil that upholds systems of white privilege?

• Is it individual? Is it a system?
• Is it about something that happened a long time ago, or is it about today?
• Who's oppression is it about?

How do these narratives relate to what you know so far to be true about your place in the Beloved Community?

* I use the word Narrative, with a capital “N”, to denote broad sets of stories and narratives that are stitched
together to form a shared weltanschauung about race in the United States.

Category: Diocesan News
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