My sister-in-Christ, Gaye Clark, offered a reflection on what it was like for her to be surprised when her daughter courted and later married a Black man. Clark’s piece is not the first of its kind, even at The Gospel Coalition. Trip Lee wrote about his marriage to a white sister in the Lord. And it’s no secretive conversation among African Americans, as this piece by Phillip Holmes indicates. The promise and peril of inter-ethnic dating and marriage has been a long-standing conversation in African-American communities, once because it was dangerous and illegal, then because it was socially frowned upon, and now because we’re slowly crawling toward some vision of ethnic conciliation.
But many people felt that Clark’s piece gave evidence to a massive blind spot—her failing to fully confess what appears to be deeper racial prejudice and her depiction of her son-in-law in a way that suggested he became “less Black” to her as she grew to love and accept him. Add to that the rather “teach-y” tone of the piece and many felt it was condescending as well as blind. The requisite internet furor resulted. Clark received the withering criticism so easily thrown at people online, but proved herself better than most of her detractors by listening, replying kindly, and eventually removing the piece.
I have asked TGC to remove my article from their website. I am profoundly grieved over the hurt and harm it has caused. Would covet prayers.
— Gaye Clark (@ClarkGaye) August 10, 2016
When I learned she’d decided to remove the piece (a move I respect but wish hadn’t happened), I decided someone should say something in praise of this woman and what happened. Having never met or spoken with her, here’s my feeble attempt. I hope it encourages her, her family, and the Church as we work through these things.
Taking the Risk
First, I want to express appreciation for Mrs. Clark for even writing the post. Let’s all be honest. There’s not much upside to writing something like this and there’s a whole lot of pitfalls along the way. Mrs. Clark stepped into one of those pitfalls, but her effort was commendable. In an age when so many African Americans rightly call on white brothers and sisters to enter the fray, Clark took the risk. She should be appreciated for doing so.
The other thing to note is her spirit in the post. Yes, it was “teach-y” in a problematic way. But that’s only at one or two points in the piece. The overwhelming bulk of the post sought to be God-centered, redemptive, and even helpful to those who might face the same challenge. Now, we could ask, “But why should it be a challenge in the first place?” In God’s kingdom it won’t be. But on earth, in the Church, among the fallen, it is. And Clark sought to be redemptive amidst all the ugliness we know still exists on this issue. I praise God for her.
Third, Clark didn’t have to write a post that excavated her own life. She could have written a post that took the detached, “objective,” professorial approach. She could have simply exegeted a few texts and “remained above the fray.” So, I think it’s important to note that she actually laid bare a part of her own soul and life that no one is likely to give her any credit for. Who gets points for describing their latent or active prejudice? We tend to act as if no one should ever have believed those things ever, as if we’re not all works in progress. So when someone unearths the ugly of their lives for public consumption, it is not only courageous; it’s deeply honest. And while some of us would have loved a deeper reflection and confession, we all have to start somewhere. Clark started with her heart and in the process modeled for us why we should start with ours too. I thank her for that.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition