Plank Versus Sawdust

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Jesus’ teaching on self-assessment is important to me in many contexts. Beyond the purely individual application, I think it is appropriate material for contemplation anytime I find myself differentiating between my group and “the other.”

I support self-evaluation and discourage judging the other party. I’m Seventh-day Adventist, and I think we should focus on dealing with abuse within the church instead of pointing fingers at others religious communities that struggle with abuse. I’m a male, and I think guys should speak about “reproductive ethics” to other guys instead of telling women what they should do with their bodies. I have dark hair, and I hope I never hear another “blond joke” from anyone who wasn’t born with bleach-blond hair. And I’m also white. I think that the white community should focus on fixing its own issues rather than telling other racial groups what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

This came out again for me in the recent killing of Michael Brown. It’s just seems wrong to hear white people talking about what black people should be doing–stop rioting, stop speaking a certain way, stop getting into trouble with police. With our nation’s history of white people always getting the race issue wrong–genocide of First Nations, slavery, Jim Crow laws, the prison-industrial complex, treatment of Chinese immigrants during building of the railroads, policies of disruption in Central America, etc.–how are we in a position to tell anyone else how to act morally? Why do we think we have it right this time (see this Tim Wise video)?

If the rioting doesn’t make sense to you, then dig into it deeper. White people riot too. Find out what about the human experience brings this out. If demonstrations and protests don’t make sense to you, then dig deeper. All people groups demonstrate. This is not unusual behavior, so if you can’t understand why these people in this community at this time would feel motivated to speak their minds publicly, then look into their stories more deeply. You can judge from a distance or you can get closer and begin to understand. You may never agree with certain actions–I certainly don’t (and this applies to my views of violent people and groups regardless of race or economic level)–but if you don’t understand, then you need to go deeper.

So, my white friends, let’s refrain from telling other groups how they should act, especially if we aren’t friends with a number of people in “the other” category, whatever it might be. Instead, let’s focus on getting things right with ourselves–right thoughts, right attitudes, right words, right actions. We’ve got some planks to deal with before we try to deal with anyone else’s sawdust.

Above all, may we play our part in supporting the beloved community. This is to be on the right side of the “race question,” the right side of history, the right side of eternity.

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NOTE: See my earlier list of articles on the killing of Michael Brown–link.

Friday Web Round-up

Thoughtful Bits on a Screen

In the past week or so, I’ve watched the following:

(1) Budrus. “The film is about non-violent demonstrations conducted by the residents of Budrus (a Palestinian town in the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate) during the early 2000s to protest against the building of the Israeli West Bank barrier inside of the village” (Wiki).

(2) No Impact Man. “The film, which premiered September 4, 2009, follows Colin Beavan and his family during their year-long experiment to have sustainable zero impact on the environment” (Wiki).

(3) Finding Your Roots — Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons. “The ancestral pasts of actor Samuel L. Jackson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Brown University President Ruth Simmons.” My wife thinks there’s a chance I’m related to one of the three. You can infer how that would work.

>Amazing Grace

>William Wilberforce gave his youth and health to abolishing England’s slave trade. Amazing Grace is a powerful rendering of his story and is well worth your time. It portrays the truth that a person can work to build the Kingdom and make the world a better place at the same time.

The reason for the movie’s title is that Wilberforce was encouraged by John Newton, the composer of the hymn, Amazing Grace, and former slave-ship captain, to take on the slavery issue.

After many years, Wilberforce was finally able to pass legislation banning the slave trade in 1807. It was not until 3 days before his death in 1833 that slavery itself was abolished in the British Empire. (Abraham Lincoln did not issue the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S. until 1862.)

Some lessons for social activism: Get the facts. Communicate the facts effectively. Involve senses and emotions as well as the mind (people needed to smell the ships to begin caring). Find a way to reduce the economic benefits of injustice. Never give up. Others?