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Why Should We Broaden the Narrative?

[Originally Published: 1/25/2018 on the first Broadening the Narrative blog, which can be accessed here. Though there are things I may say or do differently now, I don't want erase who I was and where I was at this point on my lifelong journey.]


We are Stephen and Nicki Pappas. We grew up in South Carolina and attended public schools in our beautiful state. A subject we never questioned as we climbed the ladder of academia was history. We just assumed that all we needed to know was in the textbooks we were provided throughout our education. The heroes of our history were presented as perfect, and even the sins of our nation’s past were brushed over quickly. We never had to give much thought to the darker aspects.


We were taught a history that wasn’t painful for us to learn because the voices that contributed to the stories that got passed down didn’t put a heavy emphasis on the instances that would disrupt the comfortable narrative. We want to use this blog to highlight the experiences of the historically and currently marginalized. That means we will be bringing you the perspectives of women and people of color. We will be directing the posts towards Christians because we can point to scripture and call one another to the standard God set in His Word, but everyone is welcome to read.

People might say, “Let's not rock the boat. Things are fine” or “Don't be divisive. Let’s not stir things up,” because we know that as soon as these conversations are initiated, people get angry and defensive. This response demonstrates that things aren’t fine. Division isn't being created but rather exposed. Further, where there is inequality, we can't be ok with it because Jesus isn't ok with it. We as the people of God are called to expose the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Our country has a dark history that needs to be uncovered, mourned over, repented of, and repaired. The people of God throughout the scriptures were called to lament corporately, even if they didn’t personally partake in the sin (Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2 as well as prophets of the Old Testament). Corporate lamenting and repenting must occur. We can't call others or our nation to repentance if we are not repentant. In the United States, especially the white people of our country, we need to work on being sorrowful about the right things. The goal isn’t to simply grieve for the sake of grief but to be called to action to bring justice.

If you feel yourself getting defensive already, we urge you to wrestle with your feelings and ask yourself why. We aren’t seeking to push an agenda that lowers a group while raising another group. Instead, we want to give all perspectives equal weight and provide a space for everyone. Our nation leaves out voices and perspectives, and this hinders us from being the best country we can be today. If we think we lose nothing of value by silencing these voices, we must repent for not seeing the Imago Dei (image of God) in all people.

We as a nation historically have struggled to tell the truth, but we hope our endeavors through this blog will bring various perspectives to the comfortable narratives that have been passed down for generations. Understanding the past is of paramount importance to inform us of the current realities of our nation. It isn’t that white people don’t like history. We just like the perspectives of history that make us feel at ease. The famous quote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” most likely due to George Santayana’s belief that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, falls short. The fact of the matter is that those who do and those who don't learn history both suffer the effects of history repeating itself. In light of this principle, it is worth examining a broader historical narrative than we are used to studying and hearing.

We cannot learn from a history we are not taught. When you read what has been excluded from our curriculum, it will stir up anger as well as sorrow and grief. Don't run from those feelings. You can and should be righteously angry about the injustices of the past and present. Anger directed at white people may be a by-product, but it is not a necessary by-product, and it shouldn't keep us from exposing the works of darkness. We cannot separate where we are today from all that has led us here, and it is a history much darker and more stained by sin than we will want to believe. For example, we must know the historical and sociological background of current events to prevent us from perpetuating the lies that those in poverty are poor because of their own decisions, not explaining that many people in poverty did not choose their circumstances but rather the condition was imposed on them. When we are deceived into thinking that all people have the same opportunities and that if they don’t achieve greatness, it’s their own fault, this inevitably leads to pride on the part of those who aren’t in poverty and dehumanizing language directed towards the poor.

The history and perspectives that don't make it to the mainstream will make us uncomfortable, but our prayer is that we won't run from the discomfort and we will instead learn from it. You might want to cry “revisionist history,” but we can always look back and see glimpses of reality that prove there is always more to the story. Our aim by launching this blog is to free our brothers and sisters from the falsehoods and fabrications of our country. We, like Bryan Stevenson, aren’t interested in punishing anyone. We are concerned with liberation. We as the people of God know that the truth sets people free.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32


We devote too much time to discrediting voices just because we don’t agree with those people in other areas. We must remember, though, that all truth is God's truth, as Jemar Tisby has said on multiple occasions. We can hear the truth no matter who is telling it. Further, we have the Holy Spirit, so we can chew the meat and spit out the bones.


We have the option of looking back and thinking that our best days are behind us, or we can look ahead and work together to create a more equitable society for all people. As Tim Wise has said, this isn’t about making America great again. It’s about making America great for the first time. We hope if you know and love us you can trust us and engage with the recommended resources below. Then, you can share with people who know and love you, and little by little, person by person, we can broaden the narrative.

(Resources are linked below.) Sermon Racial Harmony - Matt Chandler

Videos to View

Full “Social Justice Equity” lecture (The first hour is of Tim Wise during a lecture, and the last hour is a "Q and A" session.)

I Am Not Your Negro (The lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are the backdrop. This film explores and brings a fresh and radical perspective to examine race in the United States, a conversation that continues today.)


Recommended Reading

Articles


Books

The Problem of Slavery in Christian America by Joel McDurmon (Audio for this book are available to listen to by clicking on the title. Content warning for racist language used.)


Podcasts (for your listening pleasure and discomfort)

Uncivil (Hear stories that were excluded from the narrative of the Civil War in this history podcast.)

Truth's Table: Grace for Liars

Music (that may make you uncomfortable)

“Facts” – Lecrae

“Dear God 2.0”- The Roots featuring Monsters of Folk

“Take Me to the Alley” - Gregory Porter

A Time Like This - Micah Bournes

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