O.K. So, my big mouth stirred up some stuff. What else is new?
I wanted to kind-of explain myself here. This all started on another blog, but I’m posting my reaction here because it started getting a little silly and self-centered for me to continue to use his blog. My point had nothing to do with the main point of the post, and it was becoming kind of arrogant to hijack the comment section of that blog.
The blog in question was the excellent “Stuff Christians Like”. SCL is one of my favorite reads. The author is very funny and insightful. The mere existence of the blog is exciting work for God’s kingdom, in my opinion, and the author seems like a kind, humble guy.
As a result of my comment, the author put in a post-script and a variety of people had things to say about my comment.
So the post in question was one comparing famous pastors to famous super heroes. Rob Bell is Green Arrow, Andy Stanley is Batman, etc. It was funny, insightful, and culturally relevant.
One of the entries was about T.D. Jakes. T.D. Jakes is cast as the Incredible Hulk. Early on, the entry said, rhetorically “OK, which African American superhero would you have picked?” Presumably, the reason for asking this question is to demonstrate the idea that an African-American pastor ought to be represented by an African-American superhero.
I responded to that rhetorical question. Probably in a way that I should not have. Some of my reaction was a result of just where I’ve been going in my head. I wanted to take a moment and explain that.
I’m not sure that this is the best question to ask. I think it’s perfectally fine to cast T.J. Jakes as the Hulk. It’s kind-of funny and appropriate. But I stand by the idea that there is a sub-text to that question. I don’t think it really matters that the post was light and silly. I think it’s interesting, what this question reveals about our assumptions.
I would have been much wiser to express this as an observation about the ways we talk and how discourse usually goes. I think it must have looked like I was attacking the author and for this I’m sorry.
The whole point of comparisons are that they help us notice things that are important between the things being compared. The author explained why Andy Standley is like Batman, for example. He focused on things that seemed important.
Even if somebody new both the eye color of a pastor and the eye color of a superhero, (which, I suppose, would be creepy) nobody would bother to say “It would be ideal if I could find a green-eyed super hero to compare this green-eyed pastor to, but I have to settle for this blue-eyed super hero.”
We’d recognize that eye-color is an irrelevant component of identity.
The question asked implies that race/ethnicity is an essential part of our identity. It implies that the ideal would be to find a European-descended superhero for the European pastors, find a Latino super hero for Latino pastors, and find an Asian super hero to be the paralell of the Asian pastors.
I wonder how many times I’m going to learn this truth before I actually do something with it: context is everything. Written communication not only robs us of tone, facial expression, etc, but when I randomly post in a place people don’t know me, they don’t have any history. Even on this blog, the people who have gotten the most fired up at stuff I had to say are people who don’t know my heart.
I don’t have any issue with that. We can’t short-cut experiences. But I need to work hard at remembering that their is a difference between kicking an issue around in my small group and throwing at a hot-button topic like prejudice in a blog where the people don’t know me.
So, I guess that I’ll invite comments, thoughts, and reactions over here. It seems self-serving to explicitly invite people over here from SCL, on that site, but I’ll work on the assumption that atleast some people will find their way here.
(Through a mishap my original comment on that site was listed by “anonymous”. I just submitted a follow up comment with my name and stuff. The author has always “o.k.’d” my comments before on his blog, so it might be that people will easily be able to connect me to the comment.)