Who Can be Wise?

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One thing thing that I’m wrestling with these days is the idea of unpacking constructions of wisdom – particularly constructions of wisdom in the Mennonite church with antiracism work.

& I have some questions that I invite you, if you are open, to engage with – & maybe you have questions too.

Some itchy rhetorical questions (because y’all know I love itchy questions):

1. How has wisdom and the idea of truth (particularly who can be a truth teller and who can be reknown truth tellers) been influenced by white supremacy and how have those ideas informed current systems, practices, policies and curriculum in the Mennonite church both in the micro and macro levels?

2. How do traditional understandings of wisdom (within the Mennonite context) allow or disallow our ability to listen to the needs of those whom are not ethnically Mennonite or white?

Specifically, it strikes me that quote (and I can’t remember who said it) that you cannot love the poor unless you know them (Jesus said something similar but I’m not thinking of the Jesus quote – ironically 😂🤣👀). Ostensibly, it would then seem that unless you love and know the poor you would now have an inkling about what they need specifically because of your relationship with them.

I want to be clear here – relationships with others that span power and privilege dynamics MUST be routinely, intentionally and rigorously self interrogated by those overprivileged. Otherwise – is it a relationship or is it a mission, token, or fetish?

And yet – I wonder about our ability to build relationships in ways that honor one another.

Have we committed to doing that well or is that why so many friend groups remain in the same SES and networking circles?

Do we know how to love one another well?

Do we know how to love or even identify our neighbors?

I think perhaps one thing churches could critically investigate at this moment in time is to interrogate how the church has built relationships.

Are BIPOC people more often than not mission trips?

What are we calling friendships that really aren’t?

It strikes me that we are at this moment in time where I hear a lot of Mennonite churches asking “what BIPOC need…how can we help” and it would seem to me that those churches asking those questions:

1) perhaps do not have a fundamental relationship with people in the global majority or communities in the global majority in ways that have historically amplified BIPOC voices, bodies and lived experiences and

2) may not have listened to what communities are asking (ie: defund the police, reparations, stop gentrification, equitable access to resources, representation, honor the lived experiences of Black people, protect Black LGBTQ persons, bring back our girls, #NODAPL, no kids in cages etc.,).

I think these questions go back to the idea of wisdom because the church has a history of hearing voices of people in the global majority and systematically writing them off as not theological, too “spiritual,” “too charismatic,” “too liberal or worldly” or simply not Mennonite enough in doctrine – which is just a plain old dog whistle.

The other day a girlfriend called me in about something that I did.

& I had to take a hot minute to think about my actions and listened to how my behavior impacted her.

It wasn’t easy to hear.

But it was important for me to hear.

& hearing it and growing and course correcting and repenting is critical – CRITICAL – to this journey.

I apologized.

But it took time to repair the damage.

In fact – she didn’t owe me anything. She could’ve said that it was too much and she didn’t want to be friends and I would’ve had to hear that and respect that.

Here’s the tea – Black folk have been asking for what we need in the Mennonite church for decades. This isn’t new post George Floyd.

So, it often seems disingenuous to see new laments and new statements being issued when the Mennonite church knows what it is being asked.

& it seems even more deeply harmful when reparations are given but given within systems that keep the same power structures and then demand receipts via questions like: “what was the money spent on?” or “how y’all gonna spend the money?”

When we say Black Lives Matter we also mean listen to and trust Black wisdom.

Listen and trust that Black people also were made in the image of God and hold divinity.

Listen & trust our lived experiences.

Upward & Onward Together

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