June 17, 2020

What Can We Learn From Giglio?

A few days ago, a video surfaced of a dialogue on race between evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, rapper Lecrae and Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy. Setting aside the odd selection of voices for such a conversation, it seems important to address something that Louie Giglio said during this interview. Giglio mentions that "white privilege" is difficult for white evangelicals to hear and that chattel slavery in America was a blessing to white people. There has been a significant number of those coming to Giglio's defense, parsing his words in order to tell us what he really meant. This is not surprising when considering the immense, and appropriate, backlash. Make no mistake, Giglio was wrong–he's said as much in his apology following the social media frenzy around this, which I am grateful for. But let's think about what white Christian leaders can learn from this scenario.

Leaving room for lament
White Christian leaders have a propensity for using language that eases discomfort. Too often, when we ease discomfort for one group we increase it for another. I am guilty of this. Christian traditions and communities that are not rooted in whiteness often have a developed capacity to hold celebration and lament, joy and suffering, beauty and brokenness in tension. They've had to. We need to learn to leave space for lament and sadness without trying assuage guilt, shame and culpability. It's discipleship.

Thinking systemically
Giglio intended to use "blessing" as a synonym for "privilege" or "benefit." Even so, the term "white privilege" merely addresses a symptom rather than root causes. This is why historic and modern abolitionists use the term "white supremacy." Supremacy points towards a system intent on domination, not just the perks of said system. White supremacy is a sin. We white folks are being pressed to address the sin, not whether the sin happens to be enjoyable for us. We need to be able to think deeper and longer about the systemic implications of our actions, and our predecessors, before jumping to solutions.

Passing the mic
Honestly, I kind of wish Giglio had just asked Lecrae–the only black person in the conversation–what he thought and listened. I wasn't there. Neither were you. But white Christian leaders need to do a better job of sharing our platforms, not to make ourselves feel better, not to tokenize or exotify, but because people that have been oppressed by the systems we white Christians benefit from have a lot more to say about this than we do. When we do speak, we have to consider that you and I will make mistakes. Working for justice requires urgency not perfection. Come to terms with this. Be humble. Keep at it.

What else?

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