Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
Intellectual bigotry and racism
Joseph Jadway Marasigan
1 Corinthians 1:30 (NIV)
It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is,
our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
Reflection: In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul warns his readers about the limitations of human wisdom. He lists some examples of people known for their intellectual prowess: “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law?” Paul admonishes early believers’ overbearing — and sometimes ruthless — desire to ‘get it all right.’
Heavy-handed and dogmatic clinging to what we believe to be “right” or “true” leads us to the kind of intellectual bigotry that makes racism so insidious. Racial and cultural insularity paves the slippery slope to prejudice and even supremacy, where we stop regarding certain ideas and beliefs as different from our own and start to see them as inferior.
Paul says that God has made foolish the purveyors of human wisdom. God regularly makes foolish the wisdom of this world. God’s wisdom is not about ‘getting it right.’ On the contrary, it calls us to listen and understand before we seek to be understood.
Christian wisdom can be found in the many ironies and paradoxes that God reveals to us in Scripture and in one another. Ultimately, God’s own nature is a paradox, for our righteous God loves sinners — loves us so much that God sent us his only Son.
Action: Let’s try a thought experiment: For a moment today, try holding your values, beliefs, language, and even your religion as a contingency — a product of time and chance. Radically doubt the vocabularies that justify your daily actions. Talk to someone from a different cultural background about their vocabularies and values. Suspend your own judgment about whose values are ‘closer to reality’ or ‘better,’ and listen for a whisper of the wisdom of God.
Prayer: Heavenly God, we pray for peace in our lives — at school, at work, and in churches around the world. Turn our intolerance into love and acceptance. Look with compassion on the entire human race. Take away the arrogance and hatred which have made us indifferent to the needs of humankind. Break down the walls that separate us and reunite us in your bond of love. Amen.
Joseph Jadway ‘JJ’ Marasigan is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills, NY, and currently serves as a delegate to the New York City Presbytery. He is a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Activist Council. He writes primarily on the areas of social justice, agrarian reform, and human rights.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.