Tuesday, December 7, 2010

blind spots

There are certain things we will simply never be able to see until someone brings them to our attention.  The global slave trade for one.  But there are other issues closer to home, like the barriers we erect for people with disabilities to function as full members of our communities.  And racial inequalities.  And other things.

When I showed up for the meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society last month in Atlanta, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  It looked more like men's retreat than anything else!  One participant joked that he had arrived at "White Males R Us."  I can count on my fingers the number of African-American attendees I saw over the course of 3 days.  And there seemed to be fewer women than last year.  In a crowd of 2500, I would be surprised if there were 250 women.  As confident as I am, my instinct was to head back home.  But what was obvious to me was not so obvious to everyone.

In the first session I attended I met a nice, white, balding man who teaches at a seminary not far from here.  At the end of our conversation he said, "Well, maybe I'll see you around."  I replied cheerfully, "I'll be pretty easy to spot!"  He looked confused.  "What do you mean?"  I quickly explained, "Well, I am a woman."  He frowned at that and insisted, "There are lot of women at ETS!"  I simply raised my eyebrows, surprised, and said nothing.  I watched as he turned in his chair and scanned the entire room.  His eyes changed as the realization washed over his face.  "Oh!  I see what you mean!"

Until we can put ourselves in someone else's shoes and see things through their eyes, we will never notice the ways we are complicitly contributing to their exclusion.  And as long as disparities of race or gender exist, we have not entered fully into the new creation realities made possible at the cross:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

May our friendships, our communities, our churches, and even our theological societies move towards a greater reflection of God's design for redeemed humanity.


  1. So well put. Thanks for sharing this story Carmen! I am sure there are blind spots in my own life that I also need to ask Jesus to open my eyes to.

  2. Lots of good reading and food for thought in your blog entries! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I well remember my first ETS meeting in the NW when a missions colleague looked at me with surprise at the registration table and said, "What are you doing here [emphasis on the you]?" I also realized a few years ago at the national ETS when a vote was needed, so non-members were separated. That's when I realized that most of the women I saw at ETS were accompanying their husbands. Only one woman besides myself was among the members on that occasion. I've heard men also refer to it as the White Boys Club. In spite of this, I stick with it because I love theology and scholarship as well as the format for exchanging ideas. As long as we stay, we can work towards change.