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.