A few years ago I applied for a position at the national level of our denomination (sorry Calvary folks, but sometimes you have to test the waters). It involved working with people in our conferences who were in the process of seeking ordination or some other form of authorized ministry, and I figured that I would at least get an interview. After all, I had a lot of years in a variety of forms of ministry, I have a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Ethics and I was almost done with a Ph.D. in Leadership. It would be a way to make an impact on the larger church, and I know there aren’t many people with those credentials, so why not give it a try? So I applied, and waited for the call or email to say my application had been received. And I waited. And waited. Nothing.
I don’t know what happened, whether the job never got filled, or it was given to someone else. It made me wonder, though – why wasn’t I contacted in some way? Why would the church behave this way? Years earlier, I had applied – just for fun – for the Senior Pastor position at Riverside Church in New York City. For those who don’t know, Riverside is as close to a UCC (and American Baptist) cathedral as we get – it is a big job. I made it through the first two rounds, and then received a really nice email thanking me for my time. That, my friends, is how you deal with people gracefully. I would bet that there were way more people applying for the Riverside position than the national level position. Just a hunch.
My experience isn’t isolated – too often we are treated this way by people and institutions that should know better. We hear shouts of discrimination – we see boxes checked off and judgments made about our quality based not on who we are or what we know or our skillset, but by what or who we represent. It’s wrong to look at people as categories. We are all human beings. We all deserve respect. None of us “average” or “ordinary” – we are more than our gender or race or age or (you know the rest).
Discrimination has existed for a long time, and I have a feeling that a lot of white men (like me) are yelling about it now because we aren’t getting preference anymore. Our privilege has been revoked, and that’s a good thing. It doesn’t feel good to be said no to, and it is easy to blame bias or systems for those times we are rejected. We might never know why someone is chosen over someone else. Regardless of why this happens, the process to hire someone, are admit an applicant to college, should treat all of us as people of sacred worth. Nobody should leave an interview or gathering thinking that they were treated unfairly because of the way God made them. We have allowed this to go on for too long, and trying to make up for the past won’t work. Treating others as fully human and equal will.
Prayer – We thank You, Holy God, for making each one in Your image. Help us to see each other in the same way. Amen.
Today’s art is “The Prayer” by Alima Newton.