Letter from the Editor: Honoring the Disrespected

When Jesus called people to come into the Kingdom, it was an open invitation. All who heard and wanted to come were welcome. The religious of His day didn’t like that much. They had stipulations for involvement that made it difficult for people to come near. Race, gender, status, position, achievement, nationality, education, and ability—all these were assessed and judged. By their standards, the Kingdom was only fit for people like them. At the very least, the less desirable characters needed to stay out of sight, in the shadows.

Jesus would have nothing of it. He regularly sought out the types of people the leaders ignored; He went into the shadows to bring people out by treating them with dignity, giving them hope. By welcoming the marginalized, alienated, and discriminated, He set the model for how the Kingdom functioned.

It would be glorious if the Church were known for this same unexpected welcome of society’s outcasts. But issues of race, gender, status, position, achievement, nationality, education, and ability still cause division and discomfort among us. Being around those who are similar to us is easier; it requires less of us. We know what to expect. We don’t have to work as hard at unity, patience, understanding, and humility.

But easy is not the top priority here. Jesus tore down dividing lines and calls His people to actively work toward a unity among people with great differences.

The Kingdom flourishes when those who have been pushed aside and silenced are brought to the forefront. When we give more honor to those in the Kingdom who have been disrespected, we are living out the Kingdom as Jesus modeled. This issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine highlights how we can build the Kingdom by giving greater honor to the least among us.

Christy Box addresses the way media portrays people who are considered “different” in her feature, titled “Out of the Spotlight: Media Representations of Minorities”:

“If film and television challenged us to think about diverse people and places, no matter what situation a person is in socially, financially, or otherwise, they would have a chance to understand other people, the world, and God’s work better.”

What we watch influences what we think about people who are different and typically relegated to the shadows of society. That’s why Phillip Bryant believes that God’s people can use film to usher in Kingdom thinking in creative and powerful ways. Bryant alerts us to the way film can also be part of the problem in his feature, “Dividing Screen of Hostility: Pursuing Racial Reconciliation through Film”:

“We have built screens, large and small, where we can comfortably watch our own prejudices played back to us, where we can continue to ignore the stories of so many in order to continue the narrative that maintains our privilege.”

We lose much when dividing lines exclude entire groups of people. Sarah Hagan Hudspeth helps us reframe our view of people with ADHD in her feature, “Blessed Are Those with Working Memory, Executive Function, and Attention Deficits.” She points to the short-lived faith of the Israelites and the impulsivity of Peter as examples of how the Kingdom is full of people who today might be diagnosed with an attention disorder.

“Those ADHD traits of bravery, novelty, independence of mind, the need to seek for experience and the emotional reactivity must balance with their negative accompaniments of distractibility, impatience, impulsivity, and the consequences of being difficult with regard to following instructions. But doesn’t that sound very much like the traits we ascribe to the people of God?”

Living out the Kingdom requires that we value others above ourselves and seek to give them a place at the table. We have struggled to do so, both in the Church at large and personally. But we have tools at our access to tell better stories—through film, television, and writing as well as through our everyday work and service. And maybe, as we tell stories with Kingdom values, no one will be left in the shadows.

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out Seth’s graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.