I write this post not to absolve myself of the sins I have made against God’s beloved children by not being in radical solidary to everyone pushed to the margins by the patriarchy. I write this post to confess my sins and to encourage others like myself (white, straight, middle class cisgender) to start this painful, humbling process of self-examination. I am still learning and hope that people continue to lovingly educate and provide feedback as I move forward to the person that God has called me to be.
When I was in elementary school one of the ways we learned the multiplication tables was by speed tests. We did these individually and by the game inaptly called “around the world.” This game consisted of everyone sitting in a small circle while one person would stand, the teacher would say 3×4, the person who answered correctly (12) would win and move to the next person. If you got around the “world” you would win a Jolly Rancher.
As a white cisgender girl, I excelled at this game. I bounded around the circle leaving all in my wake. No thought to why we were learning by competition, but did noticed the boys in the circle annoyed with how well I was doing as a girl.
In college, I took a course on ethnomathematics and how math is taught and learned that this method was built around the success of white cisgender men and how they learned. I studied how gender impacted math education, then I further studied how race did. Competition being the root of learning the multiplication tables to how we learn higher level mathematics without knowing the big picture first, giving a group of white boys the means to succeed more than the rest of us. I noticed who was in my high-level mathematics courses in college, we were mostly white and the woman who were my peers had fathers who were engineers and had taken the time with their daughter’s education.
What would it have looked like if my teachers had taught the multiplication tables differently, not an on the spot competition, but embracing that not everyone can spit out 12 as quickly and that it created an unhealthy space? I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had just been a little slower so a shy or quiet peer could have had a better chance for that Jolly Rancher. We were fighting over one spot for a prize, the being set apart, when we could have been collectively learning together.
Mathematics was the entry point to opening my eyes to privilege and understanding how I could move within those systems both knowingly and unknowingly. I have been complicit.
Studying something, learning something, is no use unless you apply and live it. I confess that I have not understood the weight of my college learnings until recently. I believe that sin is not living up to one’s full potential, and I have not been living that way.
In understanding how to game the system, I have forgotten the spaces I try to be is not the table of Jesus, it’s the table that the patriarchy built with limited seating and only a few spots for people who do not fit the mold. The table that the patriarchy built is not the full breath of humanity and was intentionally composed to limit all God’s beloved from breaking bread together (as we fight for that one Jolly Rancher instead). It has pitted those who do not fit the patriarchal model against each other. It comes up in siloed systems where justice seekers are not intersectional and working together for our collective liberation.
I have been sinfully slow in realizing that I have wasted too many decades attempting to get a seat at the wrong table when the table that Jesus set for us is open to all. I have not been expansive enough regarding gender, I have not educated myself enough on racism and poverty, and I have siloed myself. As hard as I thought I was fighting the patriarchy, I was doing so from the lens of a straight, white cisgender woman embedded in a system rooted in scarcity when God has taught us there is more than enough. The patriarchy preaches the falsehood of not enough space at the table when Jesus lived abundance and multiplied the loaves and fishes.
Recently, I have been examining myself and what is next for myself in ministry and have been heartbroken with how my United Methodist Church has been. It has been glaring to me that as I have started to re-engage with church activism that I have been fighting to get to the wrong table. Last week I attended a webinar on radical solidarity and found myself in tears realizing that I have caused harm. Saying I’m sorry will never be enough, I needed to recalibrate my course, my actions, my words, and where I invest my energy. As my wise friend, Will (Ed) Green said a few days ago, “Christ has set the table already for us.” That’s the table I yearn to be at.
Our Movement Forward Summit in Minneapolis was a venue to create and encourage dialogue centered on PoC+Q+T voices this past weekend. It allowed space for a white straight cisgender woman to sit and learn, to be in awe of all the collective wisdom from our speakers and those who shared, and to see the table that Jesus has already set for us. We were reminded of the Audre Lorde quote of “[the] master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” It’s time to do what Jesus called us to do, to break every yoke and to turn the table the patriarchy built. UM-Forward is doing just this, turning towards Jesus’ table that has room for us all to not just be together, but to be in radical solidarity together.
Most of all, Our Movement Forward Summit and UM-Forward has woken me up to my complicity and reminded me of my calling to be rooted in social justice that is fueled by grace to be an ally, advocate, and agitator who walks with others as they recognize and grasp their God-given agency. (Even as I type this, I realize it’s time to reflect and rework my framing. Discernment is for life.)
I do know this in the core of my being, I am done with tables composed of the same players by the master’s tools where space is only created by open letters or Twitter outrage. I am done with spaces where PoC+Q+T voices are not centered because when they are we enter the holy ground where the Spirit dances in delight. I am done with the excuse that clergy can only be the primary leaders ignoring the knowledge and wisdom of laity who live their faith outside church walls. I am done with theological institutions preaching scarcity and not living abundant life.
Justice is not quick, hearts and minds changing is painful and necessary, yet I remain committed to this process and the work needed. The table the patriarchy build is heavy to turn and we have many strong, capable hands ready to turn it. It’s time. Come join us, there is room for you, and we will delight that you are with us in embracing abundance.