Author: Tabitha Driver

White Guilt FAQS

“I'm ashamed to be white,” a student told me several years ago.
Frequently, however, I’ve heard the opposite: “Don’t feel guilty for others’ sins.” “If we play the blame game, we never get anywhere.” “Focusing on white privilege has kept the African American community in the victim mentality.”
It’s not surprising that in a culture that hates personal guilt and preaches self-esteem, collective guilt feels wrong.
Having struggled with guilt and bitterness, I’d like to propose two principles that I believe are applicable for both personal and collective guilt.
  1. Sin must be acknowledged.
Despite the simplicity, this truth has dramatically impacted me. Frequently, my bitterness was compounded when I failed to recognize that I'd been sinned against and needed to forgive. I generally made excuses for the person (e.g. “They were just having a bad day.” “They had this or that reason for doing it.” “It’s not good for me to get angry.”), yet inwardly I wasn’t over it.
Amazingly, when I acknowledged another's sin, I was able to move on and forgive him. But when I tried to bypass that step and skip straight to forgiveness, I struggled. Forgiveness, by its very nature, requires a sin to forgive (Exclusion & Embrace 122).
When I’m the person on the other side of the problem (the sinner), I too need the sin acknowledged. Repentance and change cannot happen if I pretend I never sinned. The redeeming, freeing power of grace cannot enter my heart if I don’t ask for it. And as counter-intuitive as it is, nothing else has given me the “I want to shout from a skyscraper and dance through Walmart” joy that confessing my sin and receiving God’s cleansing forgiveness has (The end of college exam week doesn't come close.)
  1. Sin should make us angry and desperate for justice.
Guilt is not bad. Sin is.
Guilt is simply the pain which jerks our hand away from the fire.
Similarly, anger and pain are appropriate responses to sin. God doesn’t hide his disgust and hatred of sin, frequently punishing nations harshly with famine, violence and plague. Jesus cursed hypocritical church leaders (Matthew 23) and rioted about selfish temple merchants (Matthew 21).
The painful effects of sin hurt all of us deeply. A friend told me once that the biggest motivation to fight a specific sin in her life was seeing the effect of her sin on her spouse. Obviously, American slavery has deep and lasting consequences that are still impacting American economics, justice system, education and politics today. When my students are uncomfortable with the historical context of the Martin Luther King, Jr. biography we read in my class, I let them know that's okay. Literature isn’t designed to give us “warm fuzzies”. Instead, our anger and frustration should ignite our thoughts and propel us to action.
It frequently takes shame or painful consequences to motivate me to rid my life of sin. I would never experience transformation and freedom if I didn’t first cry out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart...See if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Question #1: That's personal sin. Should I take responsibility for collective sin?
From Old Testament priests offering sacrifices for the whole people, God punishing all of Israel to Achan’s sin (Joshua 7), to Ezekiel standing in the gap (Ezekiel 22) and Daniel praying “Forgive us” (Daniel 9), the Bible models collective responsibility for sin (Psalm 106:6). Eve’s sin was our sin, and thus “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
While the argument can be made that personal responsibility came with the New Covenant (Ezekiel 18), Christians are called to intercede and mediate for the world. An innocent Jesus became sin itself to reconcile us to God, and Paul uses this example as an argument for us to be ambassadors of reconciliation between God and man (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Question #2: Does publicly recognizing white privilege and sin really affect today’s issues? We all know it happened. Let’s move on.
As complex emotional beings, we cannot have productive conversations about change unless we recognize our history and the associated baggage. Trust can't be rebuilt without confrontation. Passion for justice and an awareness of our capacity for evil is lost if we continue to gloss over our failures.
Miroslav Volf, who struggled with the tension in his homeland between Croatians and Serbs, said, “Full reconciliation cannot take place until the truth has been said and justice done” (Exclusion & Embrace 29).
Question #3: Doesn’t focusing on the problem encourage “victimitis” and keep the focus off the solution?
We cannot take the “speck” out of another's’ eye until we have first removed the “log” in our own (Matthew 7:3-5). And messy complications are not a reason for us to avoid honesty (a.k.a. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”). In fact, just accept that the road to restoration will be long, messy and complicated. There are no easy fixes to sin's consequences.
Miroslav Volf echoes the turn-the-other-cheek attitude of Jesus in Matthew 5 when he says, “I open my arms, make a movement of the self toward the other, the enemy, and do not know whether I will be misunderstood, despised, even violated or whether my action will be appreciated, supported and reciprocated” (Exclusion & Embrace 147). The response does not change what we need to do.
Works Cited:
Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible, 5th ed., Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2004. Print.
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. Print.

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Femininity (Part 3)

I blame the paint.
Cleaning has never been my strength. Growing up, I quickly learned that if I waited long enough the mess would annoy my sister so that she’d eventually go on a cleaning rampage, and I wouldn’t have to bother. Yet, I always pictured myself as one of “those women” when I grew up. You know, the women whose houses are always perfect; their decorations are tasteful; their cupboards are always full of snacks and their doors are always open. Then, I became an adult and moved to my first apartment. When I made my apartment choice, I cried (which my brothers would say really isn’t that surprising since I cry about everything), Out of my two main options, I'd chosen the shabby option. Although it was the logical choice (location, lawn care, cost, etc…), I had already imagined myself decorating and having friends over in the nicer, bigger house. The very night I moved into my apartment, I found out that despite my landlord’s no pet rule, crickets came with it (Thankfully, most of them left when I moved in). The first couple weeks I scrubbed and scrubbed the kitchen floor before eventually realizing that the scratches would make it look forever dirty. I have an unopenable cabinet door, water damage under every sink, bare walls since I can’t nail pictures up when and where I want, and then there is the paint. The paint.
Cleaning has never been my strength. Growing up, I quickly learned that if I waited long enough the mess would annoy my sister so that she’d eventually go on a cleaning rampage, and I wouldn’t have to bother.
Yet, I always pictured myself as one of “those women” when I grew up. You know, the women whose houses are always perfect; their decorations are tasteful; their cupboards are always full of snacks and their doors are always open.
Then, I became an adult and moved to my first apartment. When I made my apartment choice, I cried (which my brothers would say really isn’t that surprising since I cry about everything), Out of my two main options, I'd chosen the shabby option. Although it was the logical choice (location, lawn care, cost, etc…), I had already imagined myself decorating and having friends over in the nicer, bigger house.
The very night I moved into my apartment, I found out that despite my landlord’s no pet rule, crickets came with it (Thankfully, most of them left when I moved in). The first couple weeks I scrubbed and scrubbed the kitchen floor before eventually realizing that the scratches would make it look forever dirty. I have an unopenable cabinet door, water damage under every sink, bare walls since I can’t nail pictures up when and where I want, and then there is the paint.
The paint.
Cheap paint that displays every grease splatter, every furniture bump, and every sticky tack mark (limited nailing, remember!).
I hosted some --but the flops stood out in my mind more than the successes. The time I served freezer burnt buns with sloppy joes. The family of five crowded around my tiny kitchen table, and then the kids who were bored afterwards. The time my guests noticed the plants growing in my rotting window sills (no, there are no window boxes), and I realized that I had never washed my windows since moving in (not that I washed them after that realization).
I melted a mouse trap on my stove and couldn’t get the remains off which was embarrassing because 1) I had mice. 2) I had mice in the kitchen. 3) I used the inhumane glue traps. 4) I was stupid enough to leave a trap on my stove and then turn it on.
Gradually, it became easier to visit others (something us singles often can get by with) instead of inviting others over. I compared myself to my friends (many of whom had been housekeeping for a lot longer than I had) and gave up. I cleaned less because, well, why clean when the first thing everyone is going to notice is the atrocious cheaply painted, scuff-marked and grease-splattered walls?
It’s a domino effect. The cheaply painted walls led to unclean windows which led to dusty corners which led to….well, I won't share all my dirty secrets.
A statement I read several years ago has nagged at the back of my mind ever since. Margaret Clarkson, a single teacher, wrote the following: “Having a home has given me greater credibility….I have had to face the same situations that householders everywhere must face---appliances that break down, carpenter ants in the basement, a broken water main causing the front lawn to sink, a roof that leaks, gutters to be repaired or renewed, a house that must be painted” (66).
She also wrote, “Although for the Christian single, chastity must supersede any sexual activity, the enjoyment of sexuality, in ourselves and in others, is God’s rich gift to us all….I enjoy being a woman….I enjoy doing the things that women do….I find great pleasure in caring for my home and garden, in handwork, sewing and other feminine pursuits...I have innumerable ways of expressing my own sexuality and enjoying that of others” (86).
While reading her book So You’re Single!, I realized that I had been waiting to host, waiting to decorate and waiting to express my femininity in certain ways until I married or until I got a nicer place --which obviously might never happen.
I enjoy a clean home. I enjoy hosting. And I enjoy decorating.
So why wait?
And so I started. One summer,  I painted a waterfall hanging for my living room. The next summer, I painted furniture. The following summer, I bought pillows and a rug.  And you know what I discovered?
When I paint a wall hanging, then I dust the bookshelves which leads to inviting a friend over. It’s the domino effect again.
Perhaps, I’ll eventually figure out this whole homemaking thing.
Work Cited:
Clarkson, Margaret. So You’re Single! Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1978. Print.
Creating Blogpost Series:

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Book Review: This Momentary Marriage

I haven't read many Christian marriage books for comparison, but I'm guessing most don't connect marriage with martyrdom, hospitality and shame. They probably don't also expound about the superiority of singleness and procreation. [...]

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Christmas Cantata Reflections

I'm not exactly sure what draws me.
On a Friday night in early December with a myriad of other possible social events to go to, why do I choose to say no to parties and hanging out with friends?
If it's solitude I seek, why do I push my tired feet into high heels and join a crowded auditorium?
The Madrigals are performing their annual Christmas cantata, and I find myself debating which red outfit to wear, leaving extra early, and triple checking that I have cash to get in. I slow my pace to the steps of the older crowd, spot a friend to sit with and wait eagerly for forty minutes. Then, as they sing the ancient story in the context of the prophets and the cross, I try to control myself, but I'm soon leaning forward, tapping my feet, and mouthing the words unconsciously.
What makes this beautiful? the profoundness of ancient words juxtaposed with powerful new music? the thrill of high soprano notes and crazy piano runs? the pause before the crescendo? the awe that vanishes the week’s worries and awakens me like a caffeine jolt?
The closing reprise is sung far too soon, and I ask myself again: What did I want from this hour? Why did I come?
My answer doesn't seem quite rational or explainable --even to myself. It's simply this: I came to experience God.
Experiences are often spoken of with disdain: Emotional decisions don't last. "Mountain highs" aren't real.
Yet, Christmas claims that experiencing God is possible. “Word becomes human. Light moves in. Divine glory touches earth.” (my paraphrase of John 1). An infant invites us to touch, hear and see Him.
Immanuel. God with us. God in us.
An experience.

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Beauty (Part 2)

This Biblical motif of fruitful labor [see the previous post] shows the inherent longing of our hearts to be remembered, to do something which lasts, to create. We were, in fact, designed to mimic our Creator. My dad has speculated that two ways we are designed in God’s image are our abilities to “create and relate”. Humans unlike animals, are able to design computers and skyscrapers; and, unlike angels, they can marry.
Creating is Important.
Creating is important not only be God calls us to create, but because He Himself creates and delights in beauty (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Psalm 50:2; 96:6; Isaiah 28:5; 4:2). Dannah Gresh writes, “Beauty and fashion aren’t condemned by the Christian faith. On the contrary, beauty seems to be nearly synonymous with God’s glory....Beauty is one of God’s greatest expressions. I think it’s only fitting that we, created in His image, strive to express ourselves through beauty as well. So express it.” Margaret Clarkson calls this expressing our sexuality which God instilled in us (86).
To my practical mind, I don’t always prioritize the arts or value my inherent desire to create beauty. Decorating, painting, scrapbooking are trivial hobbies which get in the way of bills to pay, laundry to fold and even supposedly reading the Bible. I often find myself downplaying my creative pursuits to others, as if they’ll view it as wrong to write without huge audiences in mind or to enjoy my job enough to work during my summer vacation.
Often I assume that “work” can’t be beautiful, nor do I think that the arts can be spiritually successful. The truth is that everything we do should be worship; everything we do should mimic God’s beauty, glorify Him and produce fruit.
Ann Voskamp points out that God values artists: “Did you know that the first people that we know from Scripture to be filled with the Holy Spirit were not priests, not kings, not generals. The first two people to be filled with the Holy Spirit were — two artists, two craftsmen, two makers named Bezelel and Oholiab — who built Moses’ Tabernacle (Exodus 35:29-31)?”
Creating is Worship.
Creating is a natural response to beauty. Elaine Scarry in On Beauty and Being Just, argues that our two natural responses to beauty are gaping and imitating (1, 9). Beauty makes us long for more and to attempt to create our own beauty. The psalmist displays this response: “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple” (27:4).
I've been amazed at how creating, working and seeking beauty have caused me to marvel at God, the Creator.
When I first started putting more energy into writing, I assumed it'd cause me to think about and describe God. I didn't realize that the very process would point me to Him.
Writing has caused me to study God’s creation (nature, stories and people) for analogies and His imprint and to rejoice that God is a storyteller and beauty creator.
Additionally, I've been dependent on God for inspiration, strength, direction and the right motivation. As Psalm 127 says my creative efforts are nonexistent without Him: “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain. In vain you get up early and stay up late, eating food earned by hard work: certainly He gives sleep to the one He loves.”
Isaiah 26 echoes this, saying in one verse “You [God] have also done all our work for us.” and Isaiah 49:4 states, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and futility; yet my vindication is with the Lord, and my reward is with my God.”
So when I seek to imitate God’s beauty, I find myself redirected back to Him. He is both the Vineyard Keeper and the Vine (John 15:1), the Giver and the Gift, the Painter and the Artwork.
Bibliography:
Clarkson, Margaret. So You’re Single! Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1978. Print.
Gresh, Dannah. Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty. Chicago: Moody, 2002. Print.
Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Bible, 5th ed., Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 2004. Print.
Voskamp, Ann. "What Is Success? Life in the Upside Down Kingdom." AnnVoskamp.com. N.p., 09 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Nov. 2016. .
Creating Blogpost Series:
3. Femininity Expressed (This blog post, also titled "I Blame the Paint" will appear on 12/15/16.)

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