Dr. King’s Excerpt: Because we don’t know each other. Because we are afraid of each other. Because we’d rather be intellectually lazy and reduce one another to stereotypes. Because, because, because, therefore we take up these actions and we continue to injure one another.
This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright.
Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau. And Bishop Wright and I are having a conversation based on For Faith a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and the link to subscribe in the episode’s description.
Good morning, Bishop.
Rob: Good morning, Melissa.
Melissa: There’s a lot going on in the world today.
Rob: A lot, a lot.
Melissa: This week’s devotion is an excerpt from one of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1962 address at King’s Chapel in Mount Vernon, Iowa. You named it, Because, and it’s Dr. King’s explanation for why men hate each other. So, I’m wondering if you can explain why this passage and why now?
Rob: Yeah. Well, I mean, we’re recording this just days after, you know, an 18-year-old boy walked into a grocery store and shot to death, largely senior citizens who are unarmed. He was armed to the teeth, dressed in tactical gear. And as far as we can tell right now, he drove 200-miles to accomplish this terrible act. And also, had put a lot of planning in it. And also, streamed it live as he was doing it. There was a white man in the grocery store who was cowering and thought that he would die, but the gunman apologized to him once he recognized that he was white. And continued to shoot black people.
And so, you know, as a Bishop, and as a public figure, so often people are looking for statements from people like me. And they’re right to look for some statements to help people make some sense out of things. On the matter of hate, because they’re labeling it a hate crime, on the matter of white supremacy and all of that. I wanted to invite Dr. King into dialogue with us.
And he’s been talking, I mean– You know, this little known lecture that he offered in 1962 in Iowa. I wanted to bring that forward to people so that they could have a real resource as they think about it. About how this is not a new thing, about how this is an old and insidious thing, about how it is enjoying, sadly, new attention and new sport, this idea of race hatred. And so yeah, just want to always try to give people the best I can.
And so, Dr. King, I think, is one of the best in trying to help us see, you know, how we are not the beloved community, and what the work is that is necessary to do so that we can become the beloved community, which of course, is God’s dream for us.
Melissa: Right. And tribalism is certainly not a thing that’s going to help us lead, you know, to becoming beloved community. And that is what we have a lot of right now.
Rob: No, no. Well, tribalism is a response to fear. And I think that that’s one of the things we have to talk about. It appears all this is preliminary. But it appears this youngster was fed, you know, a diet of fear that he was somehow smitten with this notion of replacement theory, where black and brown people or were sort of replacing white people in America, taking their country, and so that mobilized him to wage a war against, you know, black elderly people in a grocery store.
Let me just say something also here, it’s interesting to me at least, the cowardly nature of this. You know, you are armed with war grade weapons, you are armed in a war grade outfit, you’re waging war against 80-year-olds, octogenarians, in a grocery store who are unarmed and unaware, non-combatants. Being ex-military, this is a violation of honor. And so, it further proves, at least to me, how hatred, you know, grotesquely, mal develops us to where we think that grandmas, and great grandmas are the same thing as combatants. So, there is no honor here. There is cowardice here. There’s a grotesque sort of maladjustment here. And so, this youngster while he is responsible, who else is responsible? The rhetoric, you know, the doubling down on fearfulness. So, you know, it is individual actors. Yes. But there’s a community component to this as well.
Melissa: That’s right. I don’t know if we’ve talked about the book, Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. But that And it’s sad to me, because I read that book, and it was so disturbing. But I’m sure Miss Wilkerson has predicted much of what’s happening right now because of that replacement theory.
Rob: Dr. Wilkerson, we share our undergraduate college. So, I’m awfully proud of her work. She and others are working on this idea, you know, looking back and also looking forward at what is our American future? Are we going to become seething, you know, sort of armed tribal camps? Or are we going to be the Republic that is interdependent on one another, celebrating one another’s gifts? Are we going to continue to be, you know, an imperfect American experiment, but nevertheless an American democratic experiment? Or are we going to descend into something which is going to be beneath our framers, the best of our framers hopes, and beneath God’s call to us?
And so, what is scary to think about when we think forward is that as America browns, as the color of America browns, we become increasingly black and brown. And we become more of a nation of minorities. You know, how will we be America?
You know, fiction writers, and, and people who make fiction movies have imagined one way forward, that is always apocalyptic. It is always gray and dark, and there’s lack, and there is suspicion. And we’re all armed to the teeth. And it’s an interesting thing, that God imagined something altogether different for us, that we find a way to be siblings, that we find a way to share, that we find a way to better care for creation. And so, what we have, every time we have one of these tragic events, not only in Buffalo. But in California, a man walks into a church because he hates Taiwanese people. He himself is Asian. But he hates Taiwanese people. So, he kills one doctor who bravely rushes to try to sort of save everyone else. And the congregation sort of acts heroically together. And they subdue him until law enforcement come.
But instance after instance after instance, people are being seduced by this idea that we’ve got to wage war against each other. And, you know, this is all in response to the American I think that is coming. Where white folks are, some white folks are feeling like the nation that they have built is being taken away now by some inferior species of people, black and brown. And this is the narrative that is sadly mobilizing some young people.
I think about Dylann Roof who walks into a church. Again, a cowardly act. Grandmothers praying on their knees. And this is the war fear that he thinks that is going to save America, etc. And so, we’ve got to acknowledge that people are sick, that there’s a sickness. And at the core of the sickness is a pervasive fear. It’s all fear. It’s fearfulness. This is why, you know, I chose this lecture from Dr. King, where he gives the reasoning for this. Because we don’t know each other. Because we are afraid of each other. Because we’d rather be intellectually lazy and reduce one another to stereotypes. Because, because, because, therefore we take up these actions. And we continue to injure one another.
Melissa: So, you know, he talks all about those because, but that he ties all of that to leadership. And you study leadership. And I’m wondering what resonates most with you regarding that theme?
Rob: Well, you know, for the people that know me, they know how happy I am that you are asking this question because as far as I can tell, it’s all about leadership. I think that leadership is a spiritual discipline. And leadership is driven by hope. And hope is energy. And energy comes from inspiration. And we are inspired because of Jesus’s example and teaching to do hard things. Leadership is among the most difficult things that you and I can do. Because it means that we’re going to mobilize people to address tough problems. Particularly and especially the problems they’d rather avoid. And so, one of the things we would rather avoid as Americans is the fact that we have this pervasive, systemic, multi-tentacled monster living in our midst called white supremacy and race hatred. And it’s been with us since 1619. The pilgrims come and 1620. But the first Africans come as chattel slavery, as chattel slaves and slave people, in 1619. So, it’s been part and parcel of who we are. And so, we need men and women of every color, of every ethnic background, of every class, of every learning discipline, to take up leadership. That is to say to the status quo, this is wrong. And what we know when things are the status quo, they are the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s all in us.
But we in America, as James Baldwin has said, are addicted to this notion of innocence. And so, to say that white supremacy lives next door to us, and perhaps lives in our upstairs apartments, and you know, is very close to us, is not to condemn the nation. But it is to have the courage to critique the nation on the way to transformation and renewal. And so, when we see people stopping conversations about our complicated American history, they’re not doing the nation any favor. What they are demonstrating is their own fragility about facing the truth. And this is where the church can help. This is where the mosque can help. This is where the synagogue can help.
You and I, s we try to follow God and try to make God’s values our own values, what we are increasing in ourselves is an ability to look at the truth, the world as it is. And to bring real sensitivity to those narratives, to acknowledge when we’ve missed the mark, or our group has missed the mark, our people, our nation, our country, our county, our cities, have missed the mark. And not to be sort of condemned in that moment. But to understand that we all of us fall short and now the call is, what can we do about it? So, every time, you know, we have one of these heinous acts, and we ought to just say and tell the truth and love. Why so often are they often young white males? What is going on in our white families? What is going on with our white youngsters? What is going on there? Why are they mobilized in this way?
Now, people will say, well, these are just a precious few. But, you know, if you just do a quick search on Google, you will see any number of these kinds of horrific acts, and you will see each and every time that they are white males. And so, what’s going on? I want to know. I just want to be curious. What’s going on with these folks that they are being seduced by these ideas to be soldiers, you know, in a war that’s been concocted in the heads and the hearts of people who have prominent office? Who have, you know, positions in law enforcement, who have the microphone over various internet platforms, who think they are patriots. But they are really just pulling the fabric of this nation apart. So, I want to know about that. So, for us to engage this in any way, to address this, the scope of this, the scale of this, and the depth of this, people are going to have to exert leadership.
Melissa: We have to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
[Message from the Producer]
Melissa: Welcome back to For People. Bishop, I heard a sermon not too long ago, where the preacher unpacked the nuances between discipleship and apostleship. Both of those are big fancy words. But the crudely summarize, disciples are followers, whereas apostles moved from student to teacher. And teachers are leaders. So, I used to think we have a discipleship crisis in our church, yet I’ve come to wonder if it’s really an apostleship crisis. I mean, we’ve got lots of students, but few who stepped out and up to lead. What are your thoughts on that?
Rob: Well, Jesus, you know, there’s nothing new under the sun. And so all of us fancy preachers with all of our sort of linguistic fancy footwork is always interesting to watch. But Jesus said a long time ago, “that the laborers are few”. He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” If we want to subdivide the leadership into disciples and apostles, that’s fine. I like the notion of apostle being someone who was a learner and because of accumulated experience and wisdom becomes teacher. I liked that idea.
But I think what we’re asking everybody to do is, you know, whatever you can do. You know, do all the good you can do, whenever you can do, wherever you can do is what we’re talking about. And leadership is not just a role. Just because I’m a Bishop doesn’t make me a leader. It’s just a role. Leadership is about action. And so, you know, my guess and my hope, is that in East Buffalo, men and women will rise up and exert leadership. You know, all kinds of folks, black folks, white folks, rich folks, poor folks. I hope they will exert leadership. I hope they will make action. I hope they will close the gap between what we say about ourselves and how we actually live.
I mean, you know, the thing is so deep and so wide. You know, why is that the only grocery store for 150,000-people in Buffalo? I mean, I live in a community in Marietta, Georgia that I can take a very short walk to two grocery stores and any number of other services. And so, what’s the history historic piece here where this guy could drive 200-miles and hunt, hunt for black people?
And so, you know, because there are no easy answers, that’s why leadership is required. Leadership is reserved for the most difficult things we face. And to face them, you got to begin to talk about them. And, you know, I think that there is a real reluctance to talk about things because I think that people are going to default to what I call the two cal-de-sacs. They are going to default to either just sort of blind rage, and I understand that. But nevertheless, you can get stuck there. Or you’re going to default to shame and guilt. And I understand that people can get stuck there. But neither one of them are going to move us forward. You know, just blind rage, a sad shame, is not going to move us forward. We are going to have to increase our capacity, all of us if we are going to move forward. So, this has everything to do with how we vote, this has everything to do with how we talk, this has everything to do with how we create climates and cultures in our businesses, in our schools, etc. So, this is a multi-faceted way to go.
Melissa: Well, really, I’m thinking about Martin Luther King’s, the whole excerpt. And he’s like, “Why do we hate? Well, we hate because we fear.” And my big question, Bishop, why do we fear? Is it because we don’t have relationship and so it’s other? And we are just unsure? So, where is that? Where is the rubber meeting the road in things that we can actually do to conquer our fear, to reach out, to bridge the gap, to do all the things to be in relationship with people who are different than us?
Rob: That’s right. You know, in America, especially around race, we walk around on eggshells with one another, black to white, Hispanic. You know, we have lots of things we say about other, and I find that when you talk to most folks, they haven’t actually spent a lot of time around the very person that they’re othering. So, I think there is a profound lack of knowledge of one another. I think in some cases, there is a track record with other that needs to be acknowledge and then therefore changed. I think about, you know, what are the people in East Buffalo now going to think about white males? You know, some 18-year-old white male is going to walk into a store and that’s going to cause somebody to think twice. You know, so I think, all of that stuff needs to be interrogated. We’ve all got to go the extra mile to reach across these divides.
Again, I think here’s an opportunity for churches to find ways to have conversations one to the other, the black church and the white church. I’m sure that makes God sad, that very statement, the white church and the black church. But nevertheless, to find ways to build connections that are not just on February, and not just in January, Dr. King’s birthday. But to figure out how we can continue to talk together. It is bigger than black and white. We also have to say too, we think about the synagogue where people were murdered in Pittsburgh, not too terribly long, you know, so there’s antisemitism. There are all kinds of, you know, gay and lesbian folks have been targeted. Asian folks. I’m in New York City right now recording this, and so the Asian people in our community have been given reason to pause because of this sort of monstrous hatred that is sort of stalking our streets and our hearts.
And so, you know, it’s multi-tiered work, but it comes from, I believe, a deep and abiding commitment to wanting to make sure that we understand that we are siblings, that we are neighbors, that is God’s dream for us. And everything else, that has us as warring, competing tribes is not of God. It is not of God. And so, we’re afraid and we have to deal with the fear.
Melissa: Well, I think it would be really appropriate Bishop if you close this out with a prayer. Would that be all right?
Rob: Yeah, of course. Let us pray. Gracious God, you’ve made us in your image, all of us, all of us. The young one and the old one, the black one, and the white one, and the Asian one, and the Jewish one, and the Muslim one, the gay one, and the straight one. You’ve made us all in your image God. And oh, how we have because of fear injured one another. We are terribly afraid. We demonstrate our fragility and our insecurity every day as we interact one with the other. And only you’re saving power, working through us and in us, can help to save us.
We pray for those who grieve right now who have lost family members. We pray for families who have been destroyed by hatred. We ask you, oh God, through the power of your Holy Spirit, to raise up in us a strength and a courage of fortitude that is for love, not the sentiment, but the sole force. Help us to face who we have been on the way to being who you want us to be, who you call us to be. Help us to find in Jesus an example of leadership, his teachings, and his availability to all kinds. Help us to deeply embrace that. Purge us of the sickness of hatred. We pray this in the wonderful name of Jesus who loves us all. Amen.
Melissa: Amen. Bishop, thank you. And listeners, thank you to listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. You can subscribe and leave a review. We look forward to be being back with you next week.
Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau. Bishop Wright and I are having a conversation based on For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Fatih and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description.
Rob: Good to be with ya.
Melissa: It’s good to be with your Bishop.
Melissa: You shared an excerpt from Ms. Arabella Brown’s Sermon.
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Oh my god, oh my god, well, let me just say, I’ve been doing For Faith, which is my sort of weekly devotional that gets sent out. I’ve been doing it 10-years now, as a Bishop in the Diocese. And have never before used a sermon from somebody, you know, other than Dr. King, or some luminary, or some sort of Saint. But I was there celebrating with our high school graduates and I was so impressed with this young lady. And so, this is the first time ever, that we’ve done this. And what I loved about it was, that it wasn’t sort, oh, the adults have given me this task. And I’m going to sort of try to rip something off the top of my head about this. But I mean, it was really thoughtful. And you know, what I really want to underscore, if people get a chance to look at the text of this thing is, is that she has some understanding of the character of God that shows up in Scripture. And that is where I think relationship comes from. This is the God who is portrayed in Scripture. And she sees this God as friend as she goes off to college. And wants us to remember that this God is friend, even in transitions for all of us. It was fantastic.
Melissa: The other graduating seniors in the Diocese of Atlanta. And I have so many questions about that. But I have to say, like isn’t it a sweet thing when our young get it?
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Melissa: I know it. I know. And our youth do this a lot. They surprise us. So, I want to plug your For Faith because I know some listeners don’t read that and they just listen to the podcast. And I just feel like you’re missing out friends if you’re not reading For Faith, especially this week. Because it really is great.
Melissa: Well, Bishop, you named the excerpt then, Filled. Can you unpack that a bit for us why you chose that word?
Rob: I mean, as I heard her talk, you know, I heard her just fill her imagination field, I guess that’s what I want to say. I hear her imagination fill with who God has been. And that God has been with her through fellowship with other youngsters, with other young people. I see her, you know, if you read it, she’s talking about a God who fills our imagination and has filled her family and her home. I love that she doesn’t soft peddle anything. She recognizes that sometimes we feel lost and disoriented. And yet, you know, so we know empty is a season sometimes with God. But then God comes back around some kind of way and we are filled with fellowship.
So, I mean, that’s sort of where I was going with that. You know, as you know, I tried to pick one word in the meditation that sort of ends up being a bit of a clue to where we’re going. But can’t say enough good about this young woman.
And let me just say also, that, you know, there’s a lot of young people who are in seminary who are preparing to be priests, etc. And I think also, what struck me too, was that she had retained even though she’s a high school senior, she has in her possession what so many people lose. It’s like, now I am going to speak to you of God. And sort of this intellectual thing to try to legitimize the God talk. And she doesn’t do this. It is if she saying, hey, let me tell you about a friend of mine that I have learned that you can depend on.
Melissa: I love that. I love that.
Melissa: It’s all about hope and love.
Rob: Yeah, without a doubt. Without a doubt.
Melissa: And Arabella admits that there will be hardship just like you said. And that there’s really nothing that can, or should take hope away from us yet. Here’s the thing, like there are a lot of people that I know and love and I know you probably know and love who are feeling quite hopeless. And so, do you have a message for them?
Rob: Well, I mean, I have a message- I am a steward of a message that lots of people are a steward of. And that is, you know, the Buffalo, the City of Buffalo horrific event happens, life has evil in it. There are those who choose to use their strength and their bright minds to do harm to other people, but that doesn’t disprove God. And so, that’s our hope. You know, I said in a Sermon once, you know, the fact of winter does not disprove the fact of summer. It just proves that God has found a way to be involved with all of the seasons of life.
And so, you know, what Arabella’s sermon also calls to mind, for me at least is that, you know, hope is this thing that we have to share with each other. Because sometimes I’m running a quart low, you know. And sometimes I’m running the half a tank low. And, you know, this is this exchange that we have with one another, not that we fire platitudes at each other. But there’s this knowing, you know, in the community of faith and said, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know what that feels like. You know, despair for us, it might be a temptation but it’s not a real option for us.” As long as God is alive, there is no reason to despair. We can be tempted to it, I understand that. When you look at the news, when the seasons of life are difficult, bad news from the doctor. I mean, a lot of people are really sort of fretting right now. They’re looking at their finances and they’re looking at inflation, and they’re looking at, you know, the marketplace. They are really tempted to sort of fret and give up. Hope comes along and taps us on the shoulder and says, “Okay, now that you’ve had a good cry. I’m still.”
Melissa: Well, Amen to that. Thank God, right?
Melissa: Well, Bishop, it doesn’t escape me that this message of hope and love is from a teen. And I’m a huge fan of Gen-Z. I’m curious if you have identified any markers of this youthful generation that might set them apart from others before them?
Rob: Yeah. That’s an excellent question. I don’t know that I’ve seen any markers. But you know, I’m a city boy. I grew up believing that trees, you know, belong in parks. But as I’ve gone along in life, I’ve met a few farmers, and they’ve shared their wisdom with me. And, you know, I understand this notion of fallow time. And that is when a field has to be left alone for a little while and sometimes I wonder in the Church, if we haven’t had a fallow season. In other words, you know, things just sort of didn’t spring up. And all the things we tried didn’t necessarily sort of take off. And we’ve wondered if we’ve lost a whole generation of young people.
But then, there’s this group comes back around, who are trying to, you know, reach out to faith, reach out to God, reach out for one another, reach out for service in their own way and in their own idiom. So, not the ways in which the Church sort of is wanting them to or inviting them to, but nevertheless, sincerely saying there must be something better out there. And they want to be a part of that. So, when I hear people like this young lady and others who want to clean up the ocean, or who want to go to law school because they want to make a difference, that could go for the money, but they’ve decided to go for the service. When I see people who could go off into corporate America decide they’re going to go off into nonprofits so that they can fill bellies or get healthcare down into the cracks and crevices. It really, really encourages me. And so, I think that they are exactly what some of us older folks need. They’re dreaming these dreams and seeing these visions and sharing, you know, with us in their own way.
Now, they’re not going to be the Church that we have been. And so, some of us gray haired people have got to get over that. Right? They’re not going to sing the same hymns that we sang. But I think that they want to make Jesus known in their own way and I think we should be okay with that.
Melissa: That’s right. Amen. All right, friends we’ll be right back after a short break.
Melissa: Welcome back to For People. So, Bishop, what are your thoughts about youth as leaders? And what’s the Diocese of Atlanta doing to help its youth cultivate and nurture leadership qualities? I mean, I have to say, I’m just curious about you giving platform to your graduates? So, what’s that all about?
Rob: Well, you know, I’ve said it before, you know, one of my favorite gospel lessons is John 5, Jesus walks up to a guy who has been on his back for 38-years and says, basically, “Hey, man, what do you want?” And I think that that is one of the most important spiritual questions that any of us can grapple with, what do you want? And one of the things I want is to in some way make myself obsolete or another way to say that is to use leadership so that it convenes and encourages other people to take leadership behavior. And so, what I want by giving people platforms, as the Bishop, not taking the microphone every three minutes, I want other people to, you know, get the microphone and to try on this thing called leadership.
I think, you know, our young people are really smart. They don’t want to sit and watch. They don’t want to, you know, they don’t want the equivalent of sit down and shut up and you’ll get your turn. They they’re walking around. They’re born with, in some cases, a supercomputer in their back pocket. They have seven times as much information as we had when we were kids, doesn’t mean they know everything but they are further along when it comes to just information.
So, what I want to do is, is that I want to give them opportunities and experiences that will begin to crystallize for them a way to live. A way to live, you know, where you are taking responsibility for the world. And not just simply sitting, you know, with your phone, or your laptop, critiquing the world. And so, to give people– I mean, I could have sort of insisted, I’m going to preach to high school, the Bishop has got something to say to you graduates, I would never do that. And when I go on a visitation to, you know, Churches on any given Sunday, I tried to do only what I have to do as the Bishop. And so, increasingly, I’m passing over to folks more and more and more to distribute communion, to read the gospel, to do various other things. Previously, you know, roles exclusively for clergy. Because I think that when you give those kids those opportunities, they see themselves in that role a little better, a little clearer. And then, they’re never going to forget that time when the Bishop said, “No, man, you preach.” Or you do this or that. And who knows that may be their Isaiah. Isaiah said, he got a glimpse of God, high, and lifted up. And who knows, maybe that’s the work you and I are supposed to be doing now is given these kids a glimpse at every turn. We’ve got to get over ourselves, I do think. We know we have something to add. So, I’m not saying that we don’t have anything to add, certainly we do. Certainly information is not wisdom. We have a role to play. We have to let these folks try some things out. And I think that the Churches that do that, are going to be making young people welcome in a way that they are not welcome everywhere and they are going to be giving them a glimpse of what leadership can look like. They may take that up down the road. For me, it’s always this notion of how do you pass the baton? How do you encourage? How do you develop this next generation?
Melissa: I love that. All right, so this generation still has a tremendous amount of things stacked up against them. You know, their college debt will preclude many, if not most, from ever owning a home. Because debt to income ratio is a thing. And they need to worry about the climate, and what global warming will mean for their own children if they choose to have them, and yet, they champion hope and love like a battle cry. I wonder– It’s incredible isn’t it.
Rob: Yeah, it is amazing, isn’t it?
Melissa: So, I wonder if you have any ideas about what our older generations might learn from these wise ones?
Rob: Well, you know, what can we learn? I think, we can maybe appreciate and get alongside them, because we were young and optimistic once as well. And I think maybe one of the things we ought to take up as a spiritual discipline is not to sort of pour, you know, a jug of cold water on their youthful ignorance and an optimism, right? I think. So, that’s our spiritual discipline for those of us who are a little older, which is equip them as much as we can, but realize they’ve got to learn. And how you learn, as you get out there you try, and you stumble. So, that’s one thing. So, I want to be in the business of doing that. It’s giving kids more and more opportunities to try some stuff out. I think this is how it happens.
But I am encouraged by them as a general matter. I mean, think about how hard it is to be hopeful. When you’re bombarded in a 24-hour news cycle with the stuff that we’re bombarded with. How do they do that? How do they do that? See, TikTok, see the worst of us, right? And Instagram. How do they see the worst of us again, again, and again? How do they see the news? How do they see these sort of warring political parties, the Republican and Democratic Party? How do they see this? How do they see the corruption, the lies, and all that? And at the same time, want to make the world better? I mean, we would almost give them a pass if they just wanted to stay home and give up. But yet more and more as I’m listening to these kids, they want to give it a try. They want to give it a try.
I was with a young group, you asked what we do in the Diocese of Atlanta, we started something called Steps to Lead, which was to get the conversation about leadership to a younger and younger group of kids. So, we’ve taken the Harvard Kennedy School level curriculum, and put it and pitched it to, you know, high school graduates, 11th graders, 10th graders, even in some cases. And get those ideas and those concepts to them as soon as we can, so that they can begin to sort of live that out at home, at school, at camp, wherever they find themselves. So, I’m always impressed.
One kid we asked to it we joined he joined this group called Steps to Lead. And he was talking to me about, he was going off to college and the college that he was going off to was in a small town in Georgia that had a really a pretty robust Ku Klux Klan sort of group in this college. And this kid happened to be a white kid. But he had a number of friends who were not white. And he could not stand the division. And so, his conversation to me it was about, how do I exert leadership in that context? Because he himself out of his own gut, knows and knew that, you know, this thing about Jesus is to be bridge, right? To recognize that we are all siblings. And so, I was so impressed that this guy got the message from this training, that he ought to go out and really try to run that experiment, you know, in the real world. And with some degree of risk that he would be that kid, that has black friends, and also has folks that he knows that are involved in the Klan and those hateful messages, and he was going to be sort of the bridge piece there. It’s just amazing when you think about it.
Melissa: Yeah, for sure. How long ago was this, Bishop?
Rob: This is an example from a couple of years ago. But I mean, but there are updated versions of that. We’ve got other kids who are, who were shamed, for instance, because of learning difference. And now, you know, based on the training and some of the conversations, they’re now going back to, you know, some hostile climates in their schools for kids who have learning differences, and trying to be those kids who create some space for some other kids who don’t have their voice just yet.
And what’s been amazing is that some of those very same kids, after sort of working with us, talking with us, now are pretty clear, are pretty clear now that they want to be teachers. So, they want to go right back into sort of the crucible that has given them, you know, pain and suffering and feelings of isolation. They want to go back now because they want to help somebody else.
You know, there’s a club in Carrollton, for instance, one of our congregations out there, where there’s a gay/straight alliance, where our young people are trying to do this kind of bridge building work. And so, this is really just amazing. They have looked at the news, they looked all around them, they realized where they don’t want to go, and who they don’t want to be. They find some inspiration in Jesus and the people who talk about Jesus. And they want to try to take this stuff on. This is the only way the world is going to get better. Is that Jesus said, I send you out like sheep among wolves to some degree and that is what is exactly is happening right now. These young people are saying, I see the odds, I see the danger, I have some sense of the risk. But I gotta try.
Melissa: Well, I have a bit of a skeptical question though, I’m sure–
Rob: You should.
Melissa: I do. Well, it’s really more about forming. It’s really more about, like if I were to hear Miss Brown’s Sermon, as the Sermons I had for our three youth who are graduating from our own Parish not too long ago preached, all of them preached fire. And you know what, not a single one of them could tell you what the Ten Commandments are. I mean, they could give you an idea of what they are, but it’s not like they’ve been formed in Sunday School classroom their entire life and had parents, you know. And so, I’m wondering then, how might we try to go about duplicating that, rather than getting caught up in all the minutia that actually doesn’t really matter, has mattered in the past?
Rob: Well, you know, you’re asking a really, an important question. What does formation look like for these young people going forward who are going to try to lead with love, right? And is this biblical literacy the same thing as adequate forming to do the work going forward?
Rob: I think the answer is, maybe, you know. I’m not sure that a young person has to have a command of Deuteronomy to go out and try to love neighbor. I mean, this is why– What did Jesus say? I mean, he repeated the law, right? He’s like, all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two things, right? Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and neighbor itself. Hell, I think if we could just get that down into all of us, I mean, the world would automatically be, you know, measurably better. You know, with all due respect to Deuteronomy and Leviticus and all those other things, which can be certainly, you know, strengthening and they have been in my own personal life.
So, you know, I think that if we could really get Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John down into us, you know, the actual travels and words and teachings and example of Jesus, I think we’d all be a lot better off. I think if kids want to go forward and be teachers of the faith, I think there’s some prerequisites that have to happen. But, you know, I would love if they just–
I mean, think about the survey that was just taken recently, where, you know, some 80 some odd percent of people recognize Jesus to be some sort of persuasive, enigmatic, compassionate leader. Someone of moral authority, someone’s still to be reckoned with. Right? That’s who they know Jesus to be. And so, if we can just amplify that. I think we measurably change things, you know. Jesus, interestingly enough, is not really quoting scripture and beating people over the head with it as he makes his movement is he? I mean, he’s really interested in Isaiah. I mean, jeez, that’s his sort of go to, that’s on his top of his playlist. But he’s not beating people over the head with this stuff. You know, he’s lifting up the dignity of people. You know, he’s talking about who God is and that God is love and what that looks like, concretely, day to day with people. I mean, if we can just do that, and our young people get that, then we’ve done something, right.
Melissa: Amen. You know, our youth aren’t going to Church like the generation’s past. But let me tell you the spirit is alive and well in this generation.
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Well, maybe the last thing we should say around this, too, is that let us not underestimate how much music is getting into their heads and hearts. Now, there’s all kinds of music out there, yeah, I get that. But, you know, when I engage some of these young people, you know, there’s the crazy messages, we get it, there’s girls and drugs and cars and money and all that it’s always been around in one form or the other. But then, you know, you hear a lot of these kids who are actually thinking also about these other messages, right? About what is life? What does it mean to be generous? What’s a good life? What is love? You know, do I belong? All these really important sort of– And so that ends up being also an aspect of their spiritual formation. You know, you know, as I’ve said, you know, in other places, you know, Bano lead singer of YouTube said, that people give themselves to lyrics of songs like nothing before. And so, even as I listen to my own kids, quote back some stuff to me, I mean, in one instance, my daughter was quoting me something that a singer had said that was actually scripture. And, and she wasn’t exactly aware. And I was very tempted to tell her that it was, but I just left it alone. Because if she got the kernel of the truth of that thing, then that was good enough.
Melissa: I love that, Bishop. Thanks so much for sharing and listeners thank you to listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.