innocence be gone

The other day I found this quote hung up on the wall of Taproot Theatre, which was hosting a play on racism:

“So I cannot, and indeed should not, feel either guilty or proud of being white, because it is a state of being I have no control over. However, as a member of a society – and especially as a privileged member of society – I have an obligation not simply to enjoy that privilege that comes with being white but to study and examine it, and work toward a more just world in which such unearned privilege is eliminated.” – Robert Jensen

Though this concept of “eliminating” unearned privilege is one I don’t fully agree with (nor believe possible), the idea of studying and examining one’s own advantages in society seems like a noble thing to pursue. These past couple months I’ve sought to touch the surface of a multitude of constructs within America – Wall Street, HMOs, military operations, the education system – to see what kind of system I’ve been born into. But with this, I also place into consideration the fact that I’m a white, educated, middle-upper class male. In light of these aspects, I’m in turn emotionally, physically, and relationally stable, with family and friends who would never allow me to “slip through the cracks.” I’m debt free thanks to my parents, capable of living off my savings during this interim period of acquiring a job, and have been given the time and opportunity to ponder over this whole conversation. I’m blessed, thankful, and living fully into my privileges.

But as I study the structures that make up my life, I’m sordidly wrought with the truth that me being overprivileged results in others being underprivileged. I’ve seen glimpses to the dark underbelly that exists within the configurations that run our lives, and it frightens me to know that the blameless world of my upbringing will never be seen again. But it’s also liberating. If anything, college has stripped my innocence and exposed me a world that needs Christ much more than I’d ever known before.

However, I’m also left with the question of where God’s grace plays into this. I’ve always understood grace to be an undeserved blessing; something you’re given despite not deserving it. Mercy differs in that it’s wrath withheld, but also something one doesn’t deserve. I suppose under these definitions, mercy is a form of grace.

Regardless, I’ve found that it’s easy to talk about grace permeating your life when in fact it’s because your race, sex, and socio-economic status are what culture deems favorable. Actually, no. I’d hate to create a dichotomy between God’s grace and social constructs because I don’t think there should be one, but it’s become apparent that with both being active, tangible realities, their coexistence sure makes things murky.

I think I write this because people need to be aware that their lives are more than simple objects of grace, but also functions within a broken society wrecked with sin. But we can’t fear and flee from such a truth, because that would ruin us from being the salt, light, and leaven of the world. Instead we need to study and examine our own lives, and what our duty is so that we may work appropriately within society as products of culture vying for God’s love to temper both us and others.


~ by Chris Kyle on June 8, 2011.

2 Responses to “innocence be gone”

  1. I wonder if grace is always something that you’re able to note via your life circumstances. In some ways it may be, but in other ways things like grace and our receiving of it are a matter of perspective. That material conditions do not imply God’s grace or lack thereof.

    Like you said things are messy, there are broken systems (internal to us and external to us) that hit us all in a variety of ways whether we inadvertently participate in the oppression of others or are oppressed ourselves. In the midst of all of this God’s redeeming grace IS.

    I think sometimes the hard part for me is having eyes to see it.

  2. dear, brilliant man. i do love you so. thanks for these challenging words.

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