A few weeks ago, I found a meme that uses tongue-in-cheek satire to call out typical, racially-tinged things that people say, specifically white people. I knew it would garner some response and debate, but I was nowhere near prepared for the volume and kinds of responses it got! It went on for days on end, too.
That meme got under peoples’ skin and opened a huge debate on race, racism, and whether or not people like me play any kind of responsibility for it. I learned a lot about how difficult and painful a conversation this is.
But there was one other lesson folks were trying to tell that I was too stubborn to hear.
This morning, I was having a conversation with one of my pastor colleagues, and I was reflecting on the need for us to address difficult issues like race and racism with a non-anxious, clear, respectful approach. To that, my colleague said, “You know Chris, I need to say this to you as a colleague and friend-“
Uh oh. The classic set up! So I leaned in and listened.
My colleague continued, “You might want to check the sarcasm on some of your posts. They’re not exactly the kind of non-anxious, clear, respectful approach you’re suggesting.” Ouch. Yet I couldn’t deny it. I knew exactly what this colleague was pointing to.
I believe clergy have an obligation to address and not skirt the hard stuff. The gospel of Jesus Christ does indeed shape how we see and how we respond to the issues of our day, in deeply biblical, uniquely Christian ways.
And yes, people will denounce these efforts in all kinds of ways. I do get it. These things are not easy to hear or talk about. It’s whole lot easier to just leave them alone, because there’s peril at every turn. To top it all off, I am not a confrontational person. (Most clergy are not, by the way.) This task is nothing I relish.
Yet that said, there is no room at all for sarcasm, snark, shaming, cynicism, or making light of very serious things. The meme I posted did all of that, and as a result, I pulled myself and the conversation backwards, not forwards.
There is a lot of wisdom in something many of us were told as kids: it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. I would add one more thing. Why we say it matters, too.
So, while I don’t regret addressing the issues of race and racism, I do regret how I did it. It just doesn’t belong. It cheapens our discourse. It unnecessarily raises the temperature in the room.
I was wrong to post that meme. And I sincerely apologize.