Don’t look away this is our history

A story was related to me about a caucasian man with liberal sympathies who prided himself in his appreciation for all that the Civil Rights movement did to change his more redneck kind. He happened into an African American bookstore in downtown Chicago and meandered around poking through books. As he headed to leave he was taken by a large photo of a public hanging. He gasped and staggered loud enough to attract the attention of the shop owner. As he quickly turned to bolt for the door the African American man stopped him and said in a kindly way,

“Don’t look away. This is history. This is Our history.”

We could assume that the shop owner had no right to share this lesson. That this man was part of the solution. That he didn’t need that reminder of his history. Why should this man who is not racist be confronted with a racist past not his own? Because he is an American. Because he is white. Because he is Christian. These three things make inherent claims to nobility and social responsibility. Whether that’s true or not is not at issue here. If he wants to be any of these he must not lower his gaze from their shared history, which forms his identity.

I use this story to get at what I’m trying to do with all these “acceptability” posts. The dark sides of our religious story are as important as the inspiring biographies. When was the last time you read a history of an Evangelical or Pentecostal figure that wasn’t just a hagiography?

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