Stewardship, Racism, and Justice

Stewardship, Racism, and Justice

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For those struck by the juxtaposition of stewardship, racism, and justice, and are asking what they could have in common and how they are related, I respond: they have everything in common and are inextricably linked!

Our Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us that we are stewards in God’s great economy. Psalm 8.5-6 states, “Yet you have made them [humans] a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.”

And lest we think this world belongs to us to do with as we choose or that we belong to ourselves, Psalm 24.1 reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.” (Emphasis added)

In the New Testament, Jesus includes stewards or managers in his parables (see, Luke 12.42 and 16.1) and Paul refers to we Christians as stewards (see, 1 Cor. 4.1-2).

A steward is one who manages another’s resources. We humans are stewards, or managers, of another’s – namely God’s – resources, including our very selves. From the first time we inhale the breath of life at our birth until we exhale it at our death, we belong not to ourselves, but to God who gives us the breath of life and sustains us throughout our days (see, Gen. 2.7 and Ps. 104.29-30).

Moreover, the steward is to manage the true owner’s estate and possessions consistent with the owner’s wishes and as the owner would. This begs the question: What is God’s desire? How does God want us to steward or manage God’s resources, including our lives, which have been entrusted to our care? What is God’s end game? Our Judeo-Christian tradition would say it is the world’s salvation (see, Isa. 49.6 and John 3.17).

What does the world’s salvation look like? A world characterized by shalom, or peace, in the fullest sense of that word: a world in balance and harmony, where all life thrives! A world where doing justice and righteousness are the order and rule of the day and the means through which shalom is achieved and maintained (see Isa. 9.7; 11.1-9; but also, Pss. 33.5; 72.1-2; 89.14; 97.2; 106.3)

If shalom is God’s vision and desire for the world, then we, as God’s stewards/managers have that as our guide for how we are to steward or manage both God’s resources over which we have control and our lives. As one theologian has written, “The human being is, as God’s steward, accountable to God and responsible for its fellow creatures.”

As God’s stewards we are to use the resources entrusted to us – our time, our talents, our treasure, our lives, which includes our status in society – to work for and promote justice and righteousness in the world God so dearly loves to move it toward shalom.

Racism is a sin. White supremacy is a sin. Christian supremacy* is a sin. They all destroy life. They all desecrate the sacred image of God that every human being bears. They all oppose God’s will. We are called as God’s stewards to use God’s resources to oppose these sins. This includes using our time, our talents, our treasure, our lives, and what power and status we have.

At this crucial time, when we must both fight against the ongoing  and pervasive realities of racism, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy, and work to create the future we want to see, I urge us – including me – to examine our stewardship and see how we can use God’s resources in accordance with God’s hopes and desires. I implore us all to ask how Jesus, God’s perfect steward and our role model for stewardship, would have us use our time, our talents, our treasure, our lives, our power, and our status to fight racism and promote justice for all.

How would Jesus have we who are white use our privilege and all that comes with it to fight racism and promote justice for all? How would Jesus have us use our time, our talents, our treasure to advance God’s vision and will for this world? How would Jesus have us use the resources God has entrusted to us to steward for healing, repairing, and reconciling, for building up, for promoting life and justice for all God’s children, and for moving the world toward shalom?

Fortunately, we are not left to ourselves to work through these questions and others like them.  Our Minister for Racial Justice, Dr. Donique McIntosh, who helps to equip and resource the critical Racial Justice Ministries of the Southern New England Conference, can also help us think through them and provide wisdom, guidance, and resources. Also, as you probably are aware, the national setting of the UCC has lots of resources.

While recognizing that we are all differently situated, from among the many resources I have found helpful, I offer the following: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo; How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America by Joseph Barndt; Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice by Paul Kivel; The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, & Religious Diversity in America by Jeannine Hill Fletcher; Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation by Jennifer Harvey; related to using our treasure (e.g., investments and funding), Decolonizing Wealth: indigenous wisdom to heal divides and restore balance by Edgar Villanueva; and The Peoples’ Bible. NRSV Version with the Apocrypha edited by Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Wilda C. Gafney, Leticia A. Guardiola-Sáenz, George “Tink” Tinker, and Frank M. Yamada and published by Fortress Press.

My race, the white race, as a matter of course abused its stewardship of God’s resources and perverted our biblical tradition in creating this nation. It imposed genocide, racism, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy. These continued throughout our country’s history and continue into the present. My race has inflicted on non-Whites and non-Christians death and destruction, great pain and suffering. For this, I apologize and ask for forgiveness. At the same time, I also continue the never ending struggle to undo and work against the racism within me and our society.

Acknowledging and accepting this role my white race played in our country’s history is hard, painful, and infuriating. But this past role doesn’t need to be my race’s final one. Our future can be different. We can be a different kind of steward for God/Christ today and in the future. We can be the White actors Jesus is looking for, “actors who are tired of death-dealing plots… who’ve had enough from the grotesque smorgasbord of Black death” Dr. McIntosh writes about in her May 28th Reflection.

To begin with, we can show up whenever Dr. McIntosh (and Jesus) issue a casting call, such as the racial justice workshops in Southington, CT on Sept. 29-30 and in Westerly, CT on Oct. 15-16. We can also make use of the many resources she’s posted on the SNEUCC Racial Justice webpage: www.sneucc.org/racialjustice.

We can play a different role in a long overdue “new script and a new narrative” for southern New England and our country.
 
* I’m referring to the belief and teaching originating with the Roman Catholic Church that there is no salvation outside the Christian Church, and its use to deny the full humanity of other people who were/are not Christian – the so called ‘heathen’ – on religious grounds, and thus, to kill or oppress them. Examples include the Doctrine of Discovery and indigenous peoples, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.
 

Author

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David Cleaver-Bartholomew

Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Transitional Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development for the SNEUCC.

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