In 1988 my husband and I began attending Al-Anon meetings. Every meeting began with introductions, with each person saying, “My name is …, and I am codependent.” Codependency is an imbalanced relationship in which one person enables another person’s self-destructive behaviors. I hated the word, and I hated identifying myself as being codependent. It attacked my ego, my sense of who I am.
I learned at the meetings and in reading codependent literature that one cannot solve a problem if one does not admit the problem exists. Acknowledging my problem was key to begin making the changes I needed to make, but educating myself about the root causes of the problem had to come first. I could not address my problem or make changes until I took an honest look at myself and educated myself with the support of others. This was painful. I didn’t want to know or acknowledge this truth. However, it was necessary.
Some Americans do not want to acknowledge the truth of American history. It is painful truth. They do not want to acknowledge that our nation was founded on the assumption that white people should hold the power and the wealth in America. They do not want to acknowledge that the systems that were designed from the founding of America and still operate today are an attempt to keep white people in power. They do not want their children to learn this truth either. (Note: As an American, I can only speak to what I see in the U.S. I don’t know if Canadians might notice similar trends in their country.)
Biblical justice, in contrast to American history, requires us to see every person as made in the image of God and worthy of equal rights. Civil rights lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson says there can be no reconciliation or restoration between racially diverse people without knowing and acknowledging the truth of the history behind those relationships. In an effort to move beyond ignoring or denying the truth of the history against people of color, our churches could encourage members to commit to meeting regularly and starting each meeting with “My name is …, and I want to walk the talk for biblical justice.”
This commitment should include learning about the experiences of Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, people representing Jewish culture, and African Americans. It should include dialogue and listening that moves members to acknowledge the truth of our history with the support of others. Together we could become a denomination known for embracing biblical justice and giving tangible and visible evidence of working toward it, giving integrity to the gospel we preach.
About the Author
Barbara Van Enk is a member of Los Angeles Community Christian Reformed Church and a retired elementary teacher. Her 23 family members represent 9 ethnicities.