Synchroblog: Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

I'm excited to be participating in another Synchroblog with a bunch of brilliant bloggers!  This Synchroblog starts:

Marginalization results in an individual’s exclusion from meaningful participation in society and it’s source is many. Economic circumstances, illness, disability, geographical location, gender, sexuality, race, religion are all dominant sources of individuals being marginalized. Sometimes it's easy to see holidays or certain systems from a position of power or privilege.  As God's people, what does it mean to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized? 

 *  What is it like to be one of the marginalized? 
 *  How can we be part of bridging some of these gaps? 

*     *     * 

In my senior year of high school, I remember getting into an argument with my mother: “No Mom, racism doesn’t really exist today – not in any meaningful way.  I don't know ANYONE who's racist.  It's just an excuse to complain.  Oprah is wrong…”

It’s unbelievable to me, remembering the attitudes I held not-so-long-ago.

I recently took a little criticism for being overly negative on this blog.  I accepted it.  I even agreed with it and have tried to spend more time focusing on things I'm FOR, rather than things I'm AGAINST.  I don't want to be liberal the same way I was conservative.  Back then, I was angry, self-defensive, complaining - I had a real chip on my shoulder...  I didn't like the way white males were being "demonized" and the way American Christians were being "oppressed."  Good thing there was no Glenn Beck when I was in high school.

While trying to be positive is a noble endeavor, I won't apologize for advocating for people I love!  I won't apologize for decrying racism and sexism and homophobia and elitism and downright meanness - especially when it's coming from white Evangelicals like me. 

I was recently in a group discussing a wretched biblical story in Judges 11, where a man named Jephthah promises God: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”  So who do you think tends to come out of the doors of a man's house in Ancient Israel after a battle?  The women: daughters and wives.  So Jephthah's only daughter comes out of the house after the battle, celebrating her father.  Jephthah mourns and laments the promise he made to God, but he ultimately keeps that promise and burns her to death: "a burnt offering" to the Lord.

Someone in the group suggested that we needed to look past the murder of the daughter, and remember how deeply Jephthah agonized over the horrible choice.  "It was about his obedience."

Someone else said we were overlooking the narrative that God took a nobody like Jephthah and made him into a great warrior.  That was the point.

The problem is, while both of these excuses understandably attempt to downplay the awful violence of the story, they simultaneously take an already marginalized female character and marginalize her even more!  Not only is she burned to death, but she's also not a very important part of the story...

This is the effect in Scripture and in real life, any time we say, "God has a bigger plan..." and "let's try to see beyond the immediate pain of the situation" in the face of the suffering and the wounded.  We marginalize the marginalized when we cautiously, delicately, judiciously, politely look the other way and move on...

*     *     * 

I don't know what it's like to be one of the marginalized.  I've been picked on and threatened for looking like a "fag," but it wasn't actually painful, just frustrating.  Six years ago I accidentally went on a gay date (I swear I didn't know!) but my response wasn't to see through his eyes - my response was fear, paranoia and... you guessed it: marginalization of him.  I've come a long way since then, but I've got a long way to go.

Here are some other participants in this Synchroblog, trying to work through these tough questions...

  • George at the Love Revolution - The Hierarchy of Dirt
  • Arthur Stewart - The Bank
  • Sonnie Swenston - Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized
  • Wendy McCaig - An Empty Chair at the Debate
  • Ellen Haroutunian - Reading the Bible from the Margins
  • Christine Sine - Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized
  • Alan Knox - Naming the Marginalized
  • Margaret Boehlman - Just Out of Sight
  • Liz Dyer - Step Away from the Keyhole
  • John O'Keefe - Viewing the World in Different Ways
  • Steve Hayes - Ministry to Refugees--Synchroblog on Marginalised People
  • Kathy Escobar - sitting at the rickety-card-table-in-the-family room at thanksgiving dinner
  • Andries Louw - The South African Squatter Problem
  • Drew Tatusko - Invisible Margins of a White Male Body
  • K.W. Leslie - Who's the Man? We Christians Are
  • Jacob Boelman - Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

    kathyescobar said...

    peter, thanks for sharing & being part of the synchroblog. a while back i was in this intensive that was really rocking the boat in terms of all of the justifications we make to try to make scripture work for us. it was in judges 19 & the unnamed concubine. some of the comments were so interesting, all the ways we try to somehow make some of these complex passages work when the truth is that woman was cut up into 12 pieces for goodness sake! anyway, thanks for the great post & challenging thoughts. i have really loved reading these posts. ps: i really like the tagline for your blog, too.

    Peter J Walker said...

    Thanks Kathy, I love participating in these conversations!

    Yup, Judges 19 is rough. And you're right - you can try to twist some of these horrific passages into some sort of Sunday-school-worthy message, but I'm afraid that the process of justifying the narrative might actually make us bad people.

    Rhiannon Y Orizaga said...

    wow, thought-provoking. i always wondered, what did Jepthah expect, a rat? a cat? a pigeon? Surely he knew it would be a human. I think he was hoping it was someone he liked less, which still makes him a poop.

    Peter J Walker said...

    Yes. Still poo, either way.

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