Yoder-Short: Privilege closes our eyes to the real story

Jun 4, 2018 by

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The community Good Friday service is going as usual. Teenagers are sharing on the last words of Christ. We’re ready for the phrase, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jane Yoder-Short


“A middle class 17-year-old brown boy from an immigrant family” as he described himself, begins speaking. His words lure us into listening. He admits to not knowing “how many silent tears you cry” — not knowing if “they murmur ‘speak English’ while you shop with your family” or “if you have a panic attack every time you see P-O-L-I-C-E.”

We listen as Brandon Jimenez confesses to “thinking your biggest problem is your chapped lips, while I have to find my way through a cruel and closed-minded world.” Our self-deceptions and rationalizations are exposed. My chapped lips are a reminder of my entitlement, my lack of understanding and compassion.

It’s easy to enclose ourselves in a thick layer of like-minded friends, blogs and social media. We fail to see our viewpoints’ limits.

Brandon became the compassionate storyteller with the ability to wake us.

Remember Nathan? His jarring words shattered King David’s reality.

David wraps himself in a thick layer of loyal yes-people who reinforce his ideas and spin the news. Nathan enters David’s story in the middle of a cover-up lined with self-deceptions, rationalizations and denials.

Nathan comes before David with the story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man has many flocks and time to worry about his chapped lips. The poor man has but one ewe lamb. This lamb is like family. The rich man thinks he is entitled to the poor man’s lamb and slaughters it.

David is lured into the story. He declares that this rich man “deserves to die.”

Nathan presses the wakeup button: “You are the man.”

If Nathan had approached David ranting about how faithless he was for killing Uriah, David would have been defensive. If Brandon had ranted about our lack of concern, our ears would have gone shut. Instead, his words flowed as poetry.

David, like us, realizes he has been fooling himself. It is gradual. Little things add up. After all, God gave David his power, and he is entitled to take what he wants. Tearing apart Uriah’s family becomes insignificant. Uriah is an outsider, an immigrant, a Hittite.

Like David, we start thinking we are entitled to what we want. God has blessed us. We fall prey to thinking outsiders have less value. We miss seeing the pain of immigrant families torn apart.

Chief commander Joab, captivated by kingly authority, doesn’t question David’s lethal order to place Uriah unsupported on the frontline. What if Joab had bravely said no? Are we like Joab, captivated by worldly authority and lacking courage to say no?

Gently and lovingly, Brandon’s words sneak into our privileged story, jarring our self-deceptions, rationalizations and denials. Before we know what is happening, we realize we are the ones concerned about chapped lips.

Brandon closes, “So forgive me, Father. Because truly, I don’t know what I’m doing.” This is true for all of us. We stumble along not giving language or police or the silent tears of others much thought. We stumble along worrying about inconsequential things while families are torn apart and prejudices justified.

God, forgive us, we sometimes just don’t see what we are doing.

You can listen to Brandon on YouTube.

Jane Yoder-Short attends West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa.

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