As a American White Male I Can Be Most Like Jesus

Posted on May 23, 2012


As you can see from my profile, I am a white male in my thirties. I am educated, employed, and healthy. I am neither distractingly tall nor short. While I sometimes wish for more hair, I think I pull off ‘bald‘ in what I hope will add a certain timelessness to my appearance as I age. I am acceptably attractive, moderately intelligent, and thoughtful.

When I walk into a store and ask for the service desk, I never worry about how I’ll be treated. I never even think about it. I assume that I am going to be treated with respect, if not by the employee, then by the manager who I ask to speak to. I don’t think twice about running alone in the woods. People will ask my opinion on cars, tools, or economics, even though I have no idea what I’m talking about. People will listen to my opinion when I do speak about something I know.

I have a voice. I have authority. I have privilege. I have influence and control.

If you aren’t just like me, if you are a woman, a person of color, non-straight, non-married, child, elderly, uneducated, unemployed, or in any other way do not fit into the mold of…well, me…then the above statement is not something new. You knew all about these things before I even had to think about them as things.

But no one gets to decide where or when they are born. We only get to decide how to live our lives. The way I see things, with regard to my influence, I have two choices:

1. Use my privilege and power to help make the world a better place.

2. Lay down my privilege, come what may.

If I am to follow the example of Christ, I confess that I will choose the second one.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, begin born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

There is something within Christ that was the repeated and regular giving away of authority and power. This began all the way back to the Garden of Eden when God gave Adam and Eve almost everything. Why this aspect of self-emptying is not been the primary characteristic of the modern Church is a testament to the fact that we still struggle with that same first sin: to be like God.

This is what I meant in the title of this post by writing, “As a American White Male I Can Be Most Like Jesus”: I have plenty of power and authority to lay down. I have amply opportunities, probably daily if I was more observant, to empty myself of the confidence, influence, and ego, that in my context, is bestowed upon me simply by my Y-chromosome and my pasty skin tone.

The White-man’s Challenge

To all the white American men. I hereby call upon you to stop confusing “right” with “listened to.” I call upon you to sit quietly for the remainder of 2012. Let’s just give it a shot and see what happens. I call upon you to keep a journal of your fears and doubts. I call upon you to not run for public office, not seek a promotion at work, not raise your hand during a church congregational meeting. I decree that whenever white men of American disagree with someone they must do so in a whisper or in the voice of Pee-Wee Herman.

If we can do this for the rest of 2012, maybe we can make some progress toward repairing the damage we’ve done since the Edict of Milan.

photo: biblevector

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