It's an important time to be a man in the United States. I identify as female, and I don't know what it feels like to be a man right now. However, I can imagine that lately it maybe feels a bit unsettling and uncertain. Maybe it's a confusing time.
It's a pivotal moment for women, people of color, immigrants, and the GLBTQ community, too, but for this column, I'd like to address men, and specifically white, heterosexual, Christian men who were born and raised in this country.
First off, you matter. Your experiences matter. Your voice matters. You have valuable ideas and perspectives. You work hard. I'm not here to blame or shame you for being a white, heterosexual, Christian man. I'm glad you're you; there's no one else who will ever experience reality quite like you. You're important.
In this season of Advent, a time of preparation, I invite you to journey with me deeper into a conversation about power. This is one way we can prepare ourselves for the new story God is writing in our midst.
Have you ever played the board game Monopoly? Everybody starts out with the same amount of cash. But what if some players were to start with extra? It's possible they wouldn't even notice it at first. Maybe they'd have no clue that they even had the advantage. But whether they ever realized it or not, the whole game would be rigged and unfair. The distribution of power wouldn't be equal.
In this life and in this country, we don't start out with the same amount of power, and the system is rigged from the beginning. To fix the rigged game, everyone has to be willing to ask hard questions and look objectively at the system as a whole.
For those of us who are white, we have extra power from the moment we are born just because we're white. It's not fair and it's not right, but it's real. For those who are white and male, you have even more inherent power right from the start. If it were that rigged game of Monopoly, it's like you started the game with a stash of houses, extra $500 bills, and a couple get-out-of-jail-free cards.
For many, this interpretation of reality is a difficult pill to swallow, but please keep walking with me. I believe in your capacity to look at this topic without getting defensive.
Perhaps you have experienced significant tragedy in your life. Maybe you are or have been very poor. It's possible you feel that you have no power. Perhaps you've worked extremely hard your whole life, and you feel you've earned every dime. I hear your frustrations. It's true; not every white man starts out with the same amount of power, and many of you have experienced very real oppression and disadvantages along the way.
But rather than getting stuck in this spot on the trail, shutting down, and dismissing what I'm saying, please just hold my hand and keep walking. You didn't create this rigged game, and it's not your fault. But you can help fix it, and you can boldly support those who have been harmed by it.
As white males, you don't have to be ashamed that you have power. You can use your powerful, important voice for good; you can dismantle the injustices one small step at a time. Power isn't something to be ashamed of; it's something to share and to use as wisely as possible.
There are different ways to respond to the recent uptick in news coverage of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and people in positions of power losing their jobs because of poor decisions.
In conversations I've had with men over the past few weeks, I've noticed a few patterns of response: 1) dismiss it and laugh it off; 2) blame and discredit women; or 3) take an honest look within and admit that the system is broken.
I invite you to consider the third style of response. When you hear your friends and peers defaulting into the first two kinds of responses, I encourage you to use your power to intervene.
I was at lunch with two men last week and one of them said bravely, "As I have been watching the news this week, I've realized that I have been that guy. I've been the one making those inappropriate jokes. I've been the harasser, and I'm embarrassed by that."
I said, "That's a brave and self-aware thing to admit. Thank you for having that kind of courage. Thank you for being willing to change and to help fix the system."
At several points in the Gospels, Jesus invites his followers to "Take courage!" Now is the time for courage. We all need giant, daily injections of courage. Together we journey onward ready to dismantle all that is unjust, ready to be part of the solution, and ready to share power in ways that affirm the value of every person.