Help us navigate the gaps our privilege creates - Kyle Hanawalt
Last in series: Filling in our gaps
`I had an interesting experience last year. I was getting ready to watch something on TV. SLIDE I don’t really want to get into specifics on it but, It was a back and forth SLIDE between a this famous and celebrity like man and this well known, kinda email challenged woman. It was a matter of national significance, you know something that most people in this country were paying attention to. They were going back on forth on various issues and policy. Maybe you could call it a debate between them. It was actually the first of a series of 3. And the man and women were each trying to make their case for getting the support of like 270 colleges or something like that. Like I said I don’t really want to get into it.
Well, I was preparing for this debate to be pretty ugly. Based on how things had been going leading up to it, I thought it was going to be a ton of mud slinging. My bar for shock and awe was set pretty high. So, I sat down and watched this back and forth, debate, whatever. And I was actually kinda surprised. It wasn’t quite as nasty as I had expected. Like I said my bar for nasty was set pretty high. And at least the first of these 3 didn’t quite hit that mud slinging bar for me.
But, as I began to share this conclusion with various people in my life.
I was rather surprised to find that I had many female friends in particular who had a different experience. They told me they found it very upsetting.
Just to say, they were not talking about liberal v conservative, or this policy v that policy. And I am not trying to talk about that now. Actually as a pastor at this church, I don’t think it is appropriate for me to talk on that.
No, what my female friends told me was that they had a very unsettling experience watching this debate because of how the man talked to the women.
They told me that they experienced the man talking down to the women, condescending, if not in words alone, definitely in tone and body language.
I totally missed that. One friend said to me, “Kyle, I think the reason you missed it is because you have never been a women at a meeting at work, or a woman in a work group at school, or with extended family, and had a man speak down to you. Like you didn’t know what you were talking about. Like you were somehow less qualified.” And they were right, I’d never in fact been a woman. You see, my female friends had seen something I didn’t because they on a regular basis experience something I don’t. Which is being talked down to by men, simply because they are women. When my female friends watched this debate it instantly brought to their mind experiences they have had.
And again, I don’t bring this up to make political commentary, I actually bring this up to make a commentary about myself. That I, Kyle Hanawalt, totally missed something that impacted a whole bunch of people that I care about and am close to, and the main reason I missed it is because I am man, and a white man at that.
SLIDE I’ll come back to this in a moment.
If you were with us, you will know, that In December and January we marked the turn of the New Year by unpacking an ambitious 2 year plan for our church And we’re very excited about it… check out brownlinevineyard.org/next-big-step And as we kick this off, we feel led to take pause and remind ourselves: a humble look at our selves is just as, if not more, important than looking at "our best plans and appearances" or applauding “our greatest past hits”... And so over past few weeks here we’ve been in a series of talks in which we’ve been acknowledging that, Just like any individual person, groups of people, communities, or church this church, Brown Line Vineyard, has gaps. SLIDE Some of these gaps are a result of things we have done or tried that haven’t worked out. We were trying out best, but just missed something or what we just didn’t accomplish what we had hoped. some of these gaps are a result of us doing thing poorly, getting things wrong. And some of them are just natural results of the people that make up this church. Or more specifically the result of having Vince and I as the pastors of BLV So -- in the spirit of not hiding from our gaps and not just doubling down on principle on how we have done things up to this point -- over the last month we have been trying to own and acknowledge our gaps, and look towards how we might go to God for help in discovering better ways forward?
And this week I want to bring this series to a close by really zooming in on that last category of gaps, the gaps that are created by having vince and I, two white men as the primary leaders and voices of this community. That this church is lead by two people who come from the most protected, empowered, and privileged subgroup in our society.
Conveniently for us as a church you know what has historically been the most subversive book in challenging dynamics of power and privilege in our world? it’s the Bible
And so today, to help us think through this as a community, I want to take a look at a passage from the wisdom book of Proverbs.
Proverbs are little pieces of wisdom to help the Jewish people live out the life God was leading them towards. The life that had them connected to him, and participating in the justice, healing, and redemption of the Kingdom of God.
The way proverbs generally work is through absolute statements to make a point. they’re meant to be understood for the general wisdom they are trying to communicate, not as a rule book or code of conduct.
So, let’s take a look as some God inspired wisdom. SLIDE From Proverbs chapter 31
31 NLT 1 The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him. 2 O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows, 3 do not waste your strength on women, on those who ruin kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. 5 For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. 6 Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress. 7 Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more. 8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. 9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
I think at first glance, it can feel like, SLIDE “wait, did the Bible just tell us to ‘drink to forget’?” What?
no, Understood in the context of Ancient Judaism, this passage isn’t actually about alcohol or drinking.
this is about SLIDE privilege.
The kind of wine and alcohol being referred to here is not the watered down table wine of the poor. But the good stuff that was afforded only to the rich.
And the reference of, not wasting your strength on women, is not referring to women in general. It is in reference to the prostitutes and concubines that a King like Lemuel, a man of power and privilege, would have taken as his rightful spoils.
The message here is: when the privileged indulge in their privilege, when they only look towards their own comfort and wants. Then the poor, the outsider, the powerless, they suffer.
That those in positions of influence and power. Those who hold the favored places in society, they are prone to miss the oppressed and, intentionally or not, they can perpetuate injustice.
So, those in power should instead look to use the spoils of their privilege to comfort those in distress. Give your choice wine to the poor
SLIDE What is God calling those like King Lemuel towards? interestingly God uses the words of his mother, a women, which is an incredibly powerful statement in itself given the extremely patriarchal nature of those times. God is calling them to SLIDE 8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. 9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
That is what God is about.
here at BLV, we see ourselves as called to that same mission today.
If we are to follow the way of Jesus, look to participate in the Kingdom of God today.
We must be fight for justice, speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves, the poor, helpless, outsider, refuge, for those who are not being treated with the dignity and honor that they rightfully have as being made in God’s image.
Whether it is because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, country of origin, religion, or socio-economic status. We believe that Jesus has called us love and care for everyone. To look first at the plank in our own eye before pointing to the specks we perceive in others’. To speak up and fight for the justice.
But, here is the thing. Sitting back feels easier
You see the very thing that King Lemuel is warned of in Proverbs 31,
It’s People like Vince and I, White, America born, educated, affluent, Christian, men, who most need to hear this wisdom today.
As I realized in my experience talking to my female friends after the debate. Despite my best intentions, my position of privilege in this society means that I can miss a lot.
I can miss things that I believe God very much cares about and is calling us to care about.
I just want to take a second to say, that if you are a white man in this room, or whatever about you puts you in a position of privilege (certainly that’s all of us in some ways, just by being Americans).
I don’t think you need to apologise for that, but I do think you need be aware of it.
I do think you need to own the reality that your position of privilege puts you at risk of missing other people. It puts you at risk of missing injustice that is happening in the world, and it’s simply because it doesn’t affect you in the same way.
There is someone I have found really helpful in understanding this. Dr. Robin DiAngelo - Although this quote is referring to race, I think there are a lot of parallels you can draw to other categories that imply unequal privilege and power dynamics -- like gender SLIDE “White people enjoy a deeply internalized, largely unconscious sense of belonging in U.S. society. In virtually any situation or image deemed valuable in dominant society, whites belong… We move easily through our society without a sense of ourselves as racialized. Race is for people of color to think about—it is what happens to “them”—they can bring it up if it is an issue for them... In the dominant position, whites are almost always racially comfortable and thus have developed unchallenged expectations to remain so. We have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort...”
The number one thing I want to pull out of that is the comfort, and notably the freedom to be comfortable.
As a white man, I can go through most days without ever having to think about my race or gender.
When I fill out an application to rent an apartment I feel pretty confident that my race won’t play a factor in the land-lords decision.
When I speak up in a meeting I feel pretty confident that my opinion will be respected and heard.
When I watch a debate I don’t even notice the body language between the man and woman.
I can feel totally comfortable and spend my psychological energy elsewhere. This is so much the case that I have come to expect to feel comfortable. I have come to expect that I won’t have to use mental energy considering the role of my race or gender. And when someone else challenges that I can get upset, why are they making things difficult.
Now that freedom to feel comfortable, that expectation that I can go through life and have people treat me fairly and reasonably, and at many times favorably. That is the result of privilege. My unearned privilege of being born a white man.
And today I can see the wisdom and powerful truth of Proverbs 31. Because my privilege can keep me comfortable. It can allow me to sit back and not engage in certain issues. It can mean that I just miss how people are affected by things.
But, as I have found Jesus do in my life over and over again, I believe he is calling me out of a small life and into a bigger life. I believe he want me take part of what he is doing in the world. To bring justice and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Not because I really ought to, but because there is nothing in my life that will feel more worth it than participating in what he is doing
And so, Vince and I wanted to finish this series by repenting, by saying that we have most certainly missed things. That when I prepare a sermon I prepare it as white man, who doesn’t even notice when a women is talked down to. And that can create gaps.
So, if you have ever felt missed, hurt, alienated by something we said. Or something that went unsaid. We are sorry.
But, thankfully we believe Jesus has help we can’t give ourselves here. We believe that Jesus can help us be a community that is living out the mission of Proverbs 31.
So how can you get the goods of what I'm talking about this morning?" Well, If we are to be a Proverbs 31 type community SLIDEwe need you to bring your voice to the table. Vince and I are limited and flawed people, so we need everyone's voice and vision to make this community what we want it to be But, especially if you are not a white man, we need you to bring your voice to the table. We need your help to fill our gaps. White men, we need you too, you’re great. But, I don’t think your perspective or opinion is at much of a risk of being underrepresented So, Vince and I want more non-white male voices at BLV. That is really the only way we can try to cover this gap. So I am left wondering if God might be empowering or inviting you step forward. If you have musical talent, come talk us about how you may get involved with our music team. If you have public speaking experience, come talk to us about how we could try and get you up here in some part of our service. If you are prefer working with smaller groups of people, come talk to us about how you could involved with leading a community group. There are also, I am sure, 100 other ways that have not even occurred to me, where God could be inviting you into more here at BLV. In fact we have an opportunity for you to help us think of those things by participating in our web survey. Jessica Sahyouni will tell you more about that a little later in the service.
And secondly, SLIDE I would also invite you to consider where you may be have privilege.
I encourage you to pray and ask God to show you what blind spots that privilege may cause for you. In what way are you prone to be comfortable? or opt to not engage, because you have the freedom to be comfortable? And I would suspect that if something does come out of that, God may have a challenge for you. He may be inviting you lay down the wine. And take some step towards justice I am not sure what that will look like, but I can promise you that it with be worth pursuing.
Well, in moment I will pray, and we will enter into a time of singing and prayer. Something that spiritual communities have done for centuries. And I invite you to engage in that time in whatever way feels best to you. Maybe it is singing along and dancing. Maybe it is just sitting back and letting the music hit you. And, as we are doing that we will have a team of people in the back who would love to pray with you, It can be a really meaningful thing to have somebody else pray along with you. And I have found that God tends to show up in surprising and powerful ways when I have asked someone else to pray for me. It’s a safe and good group of people, no one is going to make you feel uncomfortable or give you unasked for advice.
So if you will stand with me
Pray: 8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. 9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.