Newsletter / Issue 34, August 2017

I Can't Even Imagine

By Dick Jaques

Tree Roots

Reading about the evil events in Charlottesville, which just adds more to the struggle in our country (not unique to the US) concerning racial divide there are many comments written about it on Facebook and other places. One of the common things I read from white conservative people is the sorrow over the evil that is displayed by the white supremacists. They will say, “I can’t even imagine what it must be like”, which is in many ways true, and kind to say. I found myself saying the same thing. I was challenged recently by a pastor (he happens to be a black man) in Washington DC. Thabiti Anyabwile. Check out his article called How Deep the Root of Racism?.

When you think about it we all use our imaginations to dream about all kinds of things. At Christmas or birthday, we imagine what kind of gifts we are going to receive or how this person is going to respond when they open our gift. A child or teen going to school imagines what the first day or week of school is going to be like.

We imagine what the vacation we are planning is going to be like, the food we are going to savor, the good time with family and/or friends, and the fun events we will experience. These are not wrong by any means, but there is a tendency to use our imaginations to dream about things we can selfishly enjoy.

Little children use their imaginations to be like some hero of theirs. Matt, my son used his imagination when he was four to be major league baseball players (his dad did the same). My daughters would play dress up and have cafés where they would serve the finest tea and pastries. Mr. Bear (stuffed toy) was a frequent visitor to that café. Now they are all grown up and use their imaginations to create in their own artistic ways to serve people.

What if we were to use our imaginations to begin to walk in someone else’s shoes? To prayerfully call on the grace of God to just imagine what it may be like to be in the shoes of someone of a different race or background that is being discriminated against or is experiencing injustice. Try to imagine some of the following:

  • Imagine what it would be like to have a child ask, “Who stops the police when they do something bad, daddy?
  • Imagine being a white person and you are suddenly surrounded by a group of cops all who are black.  Then three of them pin you down.  What would you be thinking and feeling?
  • Imagine hearing a song sung by a bunch of college students who are from a different race that includes very derogatory names and includes words about hanging people of your race from a noose.
  • Imagine (I changed this story) being that beaten Samaritan (a despised race) and left for dead. You see a priest and other religious leaders walk right past you. Could that be how our black counterparts are feeling?

It’s not too much to ask for a little imagination. Thabiti Anyabwile said,” this is one way a redeemed conscious connects a redeemed heart to feel with those who feel and then do something, too. But one cannot act right if he’s not first thought right.”

Here is one passage that brings the connection between our faith in action, our unity, and our minds.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:1-4)

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Finding ways to foster meaningful discussions that build neighborhoods.
  2. Investigating claims of injustice so that I might be educated and prepared for sound action.
  3. Peacefully demonstrating against injustice.
  4. Advocating for public accountability.

Thabiti Anyabwile goes on to say, "it takes little imagination to get started. We must do more than imagine, but we cannot do less. You can do this, and imagine the cost if you don’t imagine at all."