The meaning of the word reconciliation, as the word is frequently used in church circles, has always made me uneasy for reasons I couldn’t define until today.
Here’s an excerpt from Austin Channing’s blog, which I hope you will read in its entirety:
Reconciliation is what we practice after we have chosen justice.
Reconciliation requires far more than hugs, small talk, and coffee dates. Being nice is well… nice, but it is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is what we do as we listen to hard truths from the marginalized among us. As our friends point out how troubling our words have been, how hurtful our actions have been, it’s our reaction that determines whether or not we are practicing reconciliation. Drinking in the words. Sitting in the pain. Committing to understanding. Committing to doing better. Desiring the hard truths because they lead to growth. These are the sign posts on the path of reconciliation. It’s spending time in each other’s spaces- physical space, head space, heart space. And it’s creating shared spaces where both can breathe freely.
Reconciliation requires more than a rainbow of skin-tones at the 11:00 o’clock service. Diversity without justice is assimilation. And assimilation makes clear who’s culture is the favored one, the good one, the right one, the holy one. If your culture is the standard for rightness, you have found the Imago Dei in others to be insufficient. It is the definition of racism- the assumed superiority of your race, your culture, your way of being. We can discuss who is assimilating into what, how and why, but a pound of diversity without an ounce of justice, is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is how we respond after being told we are racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, agist, ableist congregation hiding behind platitudes of love rather than acting justly. Reconciliation is having our hearts broken that people are experiencing these things, not having our feelings hurt for being called out on it. Reconciliation is staying in relationship until all these are cast out and love reigns.
Reconciliation isn’t a matter of avoiding conflict. It’s a matter of meeting it head on.