Listening to Diverse Voices
Listening to Diverse Voices
Bethany and Stephen Clark
Pain, sadness, fear. These emotions are filling our nation and our city. While we are all experiencing it to some degree, there is no doubt that the majority of the suffering is resting on the Black community. We have learned that Black Americans are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after that came the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and the reminder that Breonna Taylor’s life was cut short at the hands of police officers. Last week we sat with friends via Zoom to lament and pray.
We have been reminded about the story of Job in the Bible. Job loses everything he has, experiences the sudden death of his family, and suffers from unexplained sickness. He is in deep anguish. His friends visit and when they see Job, they tear their robes, expressing their grief. For seven whole days they sit with him in silence. After seven silent days, the friends start speaking. A lot. They try to explain why they think these things happened, what they think Job should do, and much more. The thing is, it doesn’t help Job. Those of us who are white can often be like Job’s friends. We see the rotten fruit of racism and white supremacy. As white believers, we want to show up and we want to help, but like Job’s friends, we often miss an important step: Listening.
During Waypoint’s Sunday service the week after George Floyd was killed, Eni read Psalm 42 as she prayed about racial injustice. Later that day, Steve watched a video of a Black pastor also sharing Psalm 42 and talking about despair. Steve realized that he hadn’t felt despair, not in the way this pastor and Eni and the Psalmist were expressing. We are learning the importance of quieting our own voice and not assuming we know what others are feeling. In order to follow God’s call to mourn with those who mourn, we have to truly listen to their experience. This happens in personal friendships, as well as intentionally reading and listening to leaders who are different from us.
Several years ago, Bethany was watching a livestream of a conference for Christian women. During one of the sessions, a woman named Latasha Morrison led a discussion with black women, white women, and Asian-American women. They modeled what a healthy conversation about race could look like. Speaking about that discussion, Latasha Morrision says, “People need to hear from voices different from themselves. There are small bubbles of Christian celebrities, but no one knows Christian heroes in the African American or Asian American or Hispanic American or other diverse Christian communities.”
When we think back six or seven years, we realize our bookshelf was filled with books by white authors - mostly white men. The same goes for conference speakers that we heard at Christian conferences for many years. We were missing out on so much of God’s beautiful and expansive kingdom! Learning from diverse leaders has opened our eyes not only to the experience of black Americans but also how our personal experience and culture influences how we read the Bible, worship God, and love others. We want to continue to listen, to learn, and to amplify the voices of black Christians so that we can grow in love, justice, and humility.
Below we have listed a few of the resources and leaders who have been helpful to us. Please share your recommendations in the comments!
Ministries and Organizations:
Be the Bridge to Racial Unity
The Witness: A Black Christian Collective
Books and podcasts:
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, the movie is now free on streaming platforms.
The Color of Compromise by Jamar Tisby
The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper
Truth’s Table (podcast hosted by Ekemini Uwan, Christina Edmonson and Michelle Higgins)
Amena Brown (spoken word)
It is hard to get books right now with libraries closed and books selling out fast on Amazon! If you are unable to find a book, try looking up the author on podcasts, following them on social media, or checking to see if there is an audio version of their book. We are currently listening to I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown on Audible.