By Deb Benigni, Galilee Grow Coordinator
I’m a reader. Summer vacation is normally a time of kicking back and doing some seriously unserious beach reading.
But this is 2020 and it’s like there’s no relaxing allowed. Instead, we have a global pandemic, racial unrest, protracted political campaigns, and social isolation.
2020 is a tough year all the way around!
2020, the ultimate bummer summer?
So when I recently sat in an online talk by leadership guru John C. Maxwell, I was taken aback by a question he asked along the lines of, “What are you doing this summer?”
It’s simple question, and yet it’s not. Most of us are just trying to survive this summer, much less use it to accomplish anything fun or meaningful! Still, his question made me think that 2020 could be a year of great things.
Truly it could be. Take just my reading.
Periods of uncertainty are a perfect environment for making major changes. Instead of mere enjoyment, the time that 2020 is affording us due to our inability to socialize or maybe even work can be used for serious introspection, growth, and personal reflection. Unwanted downtime at home can offer hours to read, study, and learn, laying the groundwork necessary for major changes in society and ourselves.
Thinking about John Maxwell’s question, I realized that an important thing I did this summer was read Ibram X. Kendi’s book, “How To Be an Antiracist,” and discussing it with others including members of the Galilee Book Club and everyone who came to a public Galilee forum on Zoom.
A screenshot of Galilee’s public forum on Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be An Antiracist.”
While I found Kendi’s book a tough read and struggled with his definitions at times, honest discussion led to remarkable insights and I saw in my Galilee family a willingness to explore change. I’m grateful also that folks were willing to let me express my own thoughts in an environment of love and compassion—no one was there to call others out or to blame them, but to broaden everyone’s way of thinking and open up a much-needed dialogue.
As part of that effort, I’ve explored my biases, prejudices, and sensitivities, and owned up to them—otherwise everything I say is performative. Doing the hard work of exploring these areas means that I need to be open, vulnerable, honest, and willing to change. Kendi’s book and other antiracist books and films have allowed me to explore how to be an active ally of marginalized and oppressed people. Allies aren’t silent or passive; they lend their voices to others and then actively step into the breach and fill the gap. Allies put privilege at risk to benefit others.
The church’s mission is to make disciples of all nations.
This matters in a church, because Sunday mornings are said to be the most segregated hour of the week. While churches tend to be congregations of people who look alike, act alike, or worship alike, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus said more than twenty times “follow me.” He made no distinction based on color, religious status, marital status, or profession. He wanted everyone to follow Him. Just look at the twelve disciples! Jesus picked the twelve because of their willingness to learn, grow spiritually, and change, not because they shared a genetic or cultural characteristic.
Paul, who was not one of the original twelve, would never have become a founder of the church if Christianity was based on identity traits. Paul was a Pharisee focused on persecuting the early Christian church. He had to forsake everything to become a part of it, but that’s what happened when his eyes were opened to the message of the Gospel. Jesus wanted followers who were willing to learn and grow, and to love all people.
In that spirit, I have done plenty of reading this summer. It hasn’t been beach reading (I haven’t been to the beach!). Rather than my usual fun reads, I’ve read works that challenge me to examine my biases, prejudices, and ideas. I’m working to grow and learn by listening to others; by having my eyes opened to see the needs in my community and the world around me; and to love people the way Jesus would want me to love them.
I think 2020 is poised to be a pivotal year, if we let it.