About a year ago, I heard a Korean-American, female pastor challenge white, male, North American pastors to stop reading white, male theologians for the next year. Her point was, we need to broaden our theologies and perspectives by adding new voices into our learning. And, I think, her point was, white men reading white men was a bit like reading in an echo chamber – just hearing the same voices repeated over and over and over, reinforcing firmly-established belief-systems.
I didn’t obey her challenge perfectly. I’ve still read a few white, male authors. But, I respectfully took her point, and have expanded my reading by intentionally selecting a broader range of authors, than I have in the past. And, I’m so glad that I did!
Over the last year, or so, my reading has included, in no particular order…
- Desmund Tutu – male, South-African
- Pope Francis – male, Argentinian
- Dorothy Day – female, Anglo-American
- Makoto Fujimura – male, Japanese-American
- Renita Weems – female, African-American
- Ta-nehisi Coates – male, African-American
- Martin Luther King, Jr. – male, African-American
- Deidra Riggs – female, African-American
- Lisa Sharon Harper – female, African-American
- Elizabeth Gilbert – female, Anglo-American
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – female, Nigerian
- Bryan Stevenson – male, African-American
- Oscar Romero – male, El Salvadoran
This is a challenge I’m glad I accepted, and intend to continue. The truth is, my shelves are covered with books authored by white men. While many of them are brilliant and deeply spiritual, they do tend to speak from a vernacular of common life, education, and experience.
By adding new and varied influences, my perspective is being broadened and deepened. I’m increasingly, painfully aware of the inherent advantages I have as a white, Southern, college-educated, man – advantages I’ve taken for granted, perhaps even assuming I have “earned.” I’m increasingly aware of the disadvantages others have, simply because of their gender, skin-color, ethnicity, or country-of-origin. I’m increasingly aware of injustice and unfairness, ways that I’m complicit, and ways that I’m called to live and lead differently. I’m increasingly aware of my wrong assumptions, attitudes, and biases.
My eyes, and my mind are being opened. And, while that’s not always easy, I am thankful.
While white, male authors are not permanently banned from my bookshelves, I plan to continue reading an increasingly diverse group of authors. I plan to continue being challenged, stretched, and deepened. I encourage you to do the same.
I wonder, any non-white, male authors you might suggest I read next?