My wife and I talk about how every family has their “thing.” It’s whatever sets you apart and makes you see life different from others. Your thing may be a job situation, caring for aging parents, or dealing with unruly neighbors. It could be something beyond your control; it could be something of your own choosing.
One thing that makes my wife and I see our world differently began 11 years ago when we decided to pursue adoption. Going through this process requires a lot of paperwork. And that paperwork includes questions as to what adoptive situations you’re open to pursuing. We didn’t say yes to all, but one we did was adopting across racial lines.
I had no idea at the time what a personally momentous decision that would be for me.
I grew up in the rural South. Racism made its way into conversations, jokes … ways that at times I see now were painfully obvious and others when it was dangerously ambiguous and could seep into your subconsciousness. I heard this explained by pastors through the Curse of Ham (Gen. 9:20-27), insinuating blacks were inferior to whites. Another was since there were 12 separate tribes of Jacob, then God must have been good with segregation.
As I grew older and began to see the stain racism leaves on society and the Church, I understood its eradication laid in the Gospel, in seeing everyone as “neither Jew nor Greek … slave nor free.”
Now I have four children, three of them through adoption. And thanks to them, I no longer see the world strictly through a Caucasian mindset. Now it includes views that concern Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans. Although my wife and I are raising them, we have no intention of ignoring those cultural aspects of our children’s identity.
For that I’m thankful, because I can’t say for certain it would be the case had they never come into our lives. It’s also why I watched online the Southern Baptist Convention discussion over a resolution involving the alt-right with such interest Tuesday night.
No, we haven’t (as far as I can tell) experienced outright racism yet directed toward our kids. We have gotten the looks, though, that ask “What’s going on there?” All biracial adoptive families do, and we’re used to it. But, our boys are getting bigger. They may be perceived differently by their skin color as their muscles continue to grow and voices deepen. If a girl finds them attractive, we wonder how her parents will react.
I read Pastor Dwight McKissic’s original resolution condemning the alt-right and white supremacy before the annual meeting. Honestly, I expected it to be passed as written. At least, I hoped it would be.
One thing I’ve come to accept is that although I live in a world with one foot in my Caucasian background and the other in my children’s, I can’t fully appreciate what it’s like to be them or their extended biological family.
This occurs to me every Father’s Day. Yes, I’m their father, but I know they have another. The circumstances by which their children came into my care have become irrelevant to me. But, I feel safe in assuming they want them to be honorable and God-fearing. Those men also want me to be aware that the way my kids see the world – and how the world sees them – will be a different experience from my own.
That’s why I seek out and talk to African American men, ask them questions, and listen. I don’t see what they see, I tell them. I don’t hear what they hear. I need their help.
That’s why I was disappointed Pastor McKissic’s first draft didn’t make it through. It was the SBC’s chance to listen.
Following along online, I saw the firestorm brewing over the resolution on Twitter. Not being in Phoenix myself, though, I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. With the three-hour time difference, I went to bed before all the events later that night that led to the announcement of another vote the following day. After catching up the next morning I began putting the story together for Index readers and posted it. Then, I read a Tweet by Valdosta pastor Ken Alford, a member of the Resolutions Committee, expressing the committee had worked late to redraft another resolution to be voted on later that day.
Alford and the others on that committee may never know what that meant to me. On Tuesday, I kissed my sons goodnight and wondered, really wondered, how the convention I’ve been a part of since I was their age viewed them. In the future, how would they view it?
I believe the people on that Resolutions Committee and Barrett Duke, its chairman, soon recognized Tuesday afternoon how important this was to many Southern Baptists. And, they took decisive action to fix it.
I want to thank them for that. My family is one of many in the SBC that looks different. The committee’s work late into the night – 2,000 miles away from where my family slept – spoke to me. I strongly suspect it spoke to many more.
My prayer is in the future we’ll recognize how topics involving race hit our brothers and sisters of other cultural backgrounds differently. The rise in diversity among our convention has become undeniable. Bumps should be expected in working among each other and discussing how best to live out the Gospel. Many will root for us to fail.
There will be situations, like this last week, where a missed opportunity can be saved. We’ll admit we missed it. We’ll get together, apologize, and fix it. In the end, I hope, we’ll realize once again the strength through different backgrounds, new voices, and a common Savior.
My hope, Southern Baptists, is it becomes our thing.