“He came unto his own and his own received him not.” – John 1:11
“Every detail matters.” – Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter, Traci West, p 67
What is the difference that makes the difference? In every new combination of meetings and persons, face-to-face or digitally, there is a difference that rises above the others from our complex identities to make the difference in that particular setting on that particular day.
In Their Own Receive Them Not, Horace L. Griffin writes:
Was Sojourner Truth a lesbian? Did a number of black cult leaders such as Prophet Jones and gospel singers of the early twentieth century find love and fulfillment with the same sex? Why did Carter G. Woodson, historian and initiator of Negro History Week, never marry a woman? When these questions are raised, the heterosexual majority rebuffs the implications that African Americans held high in esteem as moral leaders and Christian people could also be homosexual or even bisexual.
The Rev. Dr. Griffin lifts up that the possible same gender loving nature of these individuals is the difference that makes the difference in his research on African American Gays and Lesbians in Black Churches.
While living in Houston, I was happy to be invited by my friend Kim to attend her church’s anniversary worship celebration. I arrived early. As I waited, people welcomed me and ushered me to Kim and her family’s usual pew. As I sat down, I was asked, “What office are you running for?” The difference that made the difference was that I am white, and therefore must be a politician, in this African American mega church. In other situations for me, the difference that has made a difference is that I am gay, or male, or over 50, or partnered, or monolingual, or a follower of Jesus who reads the Bible and takes biblical scholarship seriously, or clergy, or an executive director. When I’m unaware, trouble begins.
When we are unaware or unable to resonate with a difference making the difference, then we are most likely in a comfortable majority going unchallenged and encouraged to be blind to difference. This is when the question – what is the difference that makes the difference – must be intentionally lifted because the question itself reveals our participation in privilege, power, and supremacy. That as the majority we usually accept without question.
Traci West recounts the horrors of slavery, racism, and sexism in Wounds of the Spirit and crystallizes this truth: “Every detail matters.” When we go deeper, when we refuse to flatten complex identities, when we name our difference and the effects of that difference—yes, every detail matters.
So even as we experienced the last day of Black History Month yesterday, our awareness and discussions continue. Gil Caldwell and I have called one another into a Lenten discipline of addressing when the difference that the difference is race or sexual orientation.
What has been a difference that has made the difference in your life?