Cultural Grace

I arrived at Bissell Elementary School this morning to vote at 6AM. The line was wrapped around the modestly sized school. Never before had the election officials seen such a crowd for a general election. I must admit, that for 6AM, the place was buzzing.

There was a weird type of tension present. It was probably a microcosm of what was happening all over the United States. Twinsburg is a suburb of Cleveland, OH and is an up and coming "place to live". The school system received the highest possible rating (which is the title needed to be consided as "the place to live"). It is racially diverse, with about 25% of the school system being African-American and another 10% being Asian-Americans. We go to school together, have neighborhood parties togethers, shuttle our children to soccer/basketball/baseball/softball/track practice together. However, on this day, we seemed to stand apart.

There was an unusual quietness. People made a little small talk, but it was interesting that most people even evaded eye contact. There was a palpable tension. It had everything to do with race and culture and our unwillingness to give each other cultural grace. Cultural grace is that hospitality that you offer to another, who is different than you with the understanding that in order for there to be meaning exchange, your cultural rules, sensitivities, and paradigms will be shattered. Cultural judgement demands that we immediately point out when someone else has broken one of our cultural rules. How many times has a white person said "You people" and all the non-whites decide to point out that the person has insulted them. Although truth must go along with grace, we must extend enough grace towards others to enable them to understand your cultural paradigms. As an African-American, I would love to have more engaging conversations about culture, politics, faith, etc, with those who are culturally different, but it ends before it begins because we have been so judgmental. I do not mean just with African-Americans, but also with the majority. For example, if I say something positive about candidate Obama, it is dismissed in many circles because I am Black and He is Black. They have judged my opinions based upon ethnicity, but not on merit, truthfullness, clarity, or insightfulness. So because I am not heard, I judge them as callous, stereotypical, and prejudicial. And it goes on....

Today, after a while, a gentleman in front of me whispered to his wife, "I sure hope he is what they think he is, but he scares me". "he" referred to candidate Obama. She responded "Do most of these people even live in Twinsburg". The cultural judgement in me wanted to interrupt and say "What do you mean "these people"". However the cultural grace wanted to deeply understand what scares this couple. Is it Obama's politics, his blackness, his newness, his popularity, or his faith? I wanted them to know what scares so many African-American people. I prayed that I could learn so that they could learn. I wanted to come together and develop a new cultural where no one is invisible, but voices are heard, and understanding is sought, and true neighborliness begins. I desparately wanted to see this couple as deeply human and the ideal of cultural grace insists upon this. I believe that Jesus described this as the "Kingdom of God".

I challenge you to offer cultural grace instead of judgment when someone is seeking insight and understanding. I pray that during this season that the Kingdom of God would be seen, experienced, and promoted like never before.


May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor