Blushing for Hope

Everyone is greedy for unjust gain…
They heal lightly saying “Peace, peace,”
when there is no peace.
They did not know how to blush.
-Jeremiah 6:13-15

It felt easier to love myself spiritually when, prior to 2016, I felt at home with the majority of Christians around me. It’s not easy to love my wounded spirit that struggles to belong. Likewise, it felt easier to love myself physically when the scale showed what I deemed a healthy weight. Loving the self I am compared to the self I was or wish to be sometimes feels unattainable. But, what if actual love requires something deeper than the ease that comes from belonging spiritually and meeting social physical ‘norms’. What if genuine self-love is an act of denying ourselves the temptation to bury the things that make us blush?

Philosopher George Yancy, author of the book Backlash said that love is the capacity to be wounded. “I’m really asking white people to learn how to love themselves at a different level. If loving oneself is linked to telling the truth about oneself, then risking the white self is having the capacity to love even more.”[1]
Hope springs eternal in the human potential for deep, authentic love. The love that invites an honest look at oneself and one’s flaws, a love that loves in spite of what makes us blush and honors the trust that comes from admitting such things. “Believers whose faith is greatly diminished may utter a truth greatly reduced. ‘Smile, God loves you.’ Does God love because God is engaged in some cover-up with us and does not know about the alienation? Because if God knew, God would not meet me with a smile, but with a deep, deep cry for life run amiss. The alienation is heavy, serious, and burdensome for us, because it is heavy, serious, and burdensome of the alienated father God, for the mother God who grieves for us while we are too numb to grieve,” said theologian Walter Brueggemann.[2] The dominant culture of white Christianity has found a way to elevate this numbness as some type of holiness, it seems. I cannot feel, therefore I am cool-calm-collected, platformable, tweetable – a leader. Our facades of “good” Christianity are the same as they ever were—the same as the rich young ruler’s when Christ questioned his perception of the word “good.”

The great temptation of our time is the same as it was in Jeremiah’s time. “We lie long enough and we forget how to blush,” Brueggemann said in Here Comes the Poet. Hope comes when we remember how to blush. Hope comes when the dominant culture can learn to love itself enough that it acknowledges white privilege, white power, white dominion, white systems, and white pedestals. Hope comes when we teach our children the truth about our nation’s history even if our schools’ curriculums do not. When we have to answer their innocent and honest questions about what our ancestors did. Hope comes when we, with the heat in our cheeks and repentance in our hearts, respond.
In his New York Times piece Dear White America, Yancy challenges us to let go of our “white innocence, to use this letter as a mirror, one that refuses to show you what you want to see, one that demands that you look at the lies that you tell yourself so that you don’t feel the weight of responsibility for those who live under the yoke of whiteness, your whiteness.” Loving our wounded selves requires honesty, reflection, and a resolve to move in a different direction. Love is a stronger requirement than the appearance of a love that costs us nothing.

Hope springs eternal when I hear others of my same skin tone open up about what all our skin represents and what all we reap from it currently. This makes them blush. It makes me blush. It is a gift.

Yancy’s letter is an invitation of hope. An invitation to learn how to love my white skin by first understanding the fullness of what it is. To acknowledge that I am, at best, an anti-racist racist, and that my “comfort is linked to the pain and suffering [of people of color].”[3] Pointing to his own wounded male skin and the fullness of what it is, Yancy said, “In my heart, I’m done with the mask of sexism, though I’m tempted every day to wear it. And, there are times when it still gets the better of me.”

There is it. An invitation to self-love and blushing through the avenue of blushing itself. Our honesty is our hope and our example – our burden and our renewal.

By Gena Rucco Thomas

[1] The Faith Angle podcast with Kirsten Powers & Jonathan Merritt.

[2] Walter Brueggemann, Here Comes the Poet, 17.

[3] The Faith Angle podcast with Kirsten Powers & Jonathan Merritt.

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