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About 26 years ago Nicki and I were just married and living in Nashville, Tennessee.  We experienced a sermon one Sunday that has meaningfully impacted the way we test our reactions to infuriating situations.  The pastor talked about the ways in which we are most angered by qualities in others that we least like in ourselves.  He talked about “combing our own hair in the mirror” of others. 

The events that took place in Charlottesville through the various responses by President Trump have made me deeply sad and angry.  Utilizing the well worn lesson from our Nashville pastor I have recognized that a significant contributor to my pain is the reflection of myself and my own insensitive and ignorant comments and responses to various events, perspectives and arguments. 

Although I would never have self-identified as a white supremacist, as a white Christian male I have enjoyed the supremacy granted me through my unearned privilege.  Most egregiously, I have often allowed myself the delusion that I earned my privilege.  Although I have spent time focused on neutralizing some of the ways my privilege works, there are many more areas that I continue to protect.

When I hear others say horrible and hurtful things about racial, religious, ethnic, sexual or gender identity differences I am reminded of the ways that I think, express or believe no less ignorant concepts through the filtering lens of a well-educated, high EQ, progressive.

So while I unequivocally condemn the beliefs, speech and actions of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and similar groups and similarly disagree with President Trump that the history of slavery is reasonably remembered through the unqualified honoring of leaders of the Confederacy; I also believe that my 62-year complicity with the advantages afforded me through the fortunes of my birth are in equivalent need for repentance.

I pray that at United we not only teach students to express rage at the injustices committed by others but to work to dismantle the injustices in which they and we consciously and unconsciously participate.

Many of us have chuckled at the out of touch nature of the quote frequently attributed to Marie Antoinette about the poor eating cake when they could not afford bread.  We all express some of that out of touch quality when we are judgmental about those experiencing homelessness, individuals with mental illness who act awkwardly, immigrants who struggle with English, people who are not able to write well or the myriad of those less protected by the traditional umbrella of a progressive theological and political perspective. President Trump is masterful at insensitive comments and there is no place for that in government leadership.  It would give some positive purpose to these difficult times if we used them to take stock of our individual glass houses.

Dr. Lewis P. Zeidner

Dr. Lewis P. Zeidner is the President of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

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