David Whited, a white co-pastor at Church of the Shepherd located in Hyde Park, a very integrated (both racially and socio-economically) community on South Side Chicago, wrote the following on his Facebook page yesterday. I thought it worth re-posting during this tumultuous week in Ferguson and the nation as a whole. —————————————–
One night in high school youth group, my youth pastor told us a story about the first time he was invited to preach at a historically black church in our hometown in Arkansas. My youth pastor had just graduated from seminary and was feeling pretty good about all of the stuff that he learned there, so when the invitation came, he thought he’d preach on a subject he felt would relate to the people he was preaching to.
The topic he chose for that Sunday’s message? Suffering.
My youth pastor told us about how he got up to the pulpit on that bright Sunday morning and preached his heart out. He was shocked by how the shouts from the congregation made him a better preacher than he had ever been in a white church. He was convinced things had gone really well, so he was really excited to see one of the men he had identified as an elder in the congregation start to move toward him to shake his hand at the end of the service.
As the old man made his way to shake his hand, the young preacher indulged in some quick fantasies about the assessment he was about to receive. He was pretty sure that the elder was going to tell him he was surprised that a young white man could “bring it like that”.
Instead, the old man reached out to shake my youth pastor’s hand and gave him exactly one sentence of feedback. He said, “Boy… you don’t know nothin’.”
Ever since the night I heard that story while sitting cross-legged on the floor in the youth room at my church, I have tried to take that elder’s simple remark as my starting point in any conversation I engage in around topics of race, difference, or marginalization. It’s true. I don’t know nothin’. That’s why I need to listen long before I speak and learn before I make a judgment. I’m not naturally good at either one of those things, but because of that old man’s rebuke (and the humility of my youth pastor), I know I have to try.
I pray for all the people of Ferguson tonight and offer up this confession before so much violence and fear:
It’s true. I don’t know nothin’.
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