By Tim Hunt
Being brave to speak up in these challenging timesUploaded: Dec 1, 2020
Brenda Salter McNeil, a black professor, pastor and author, has changed her view on what’s necessary to achieve racial justice in America.
In a conversation with her friend, Pleasanton businessman Roy Goble, she shared about her new book, “Becoming Brave, Finding the courage to pursue racial justice now.” She’s been teaching and preaching on this for 30 years.
Saying her background growing up in a Pentecostal church that was led by God, she noted that reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process with God intervening in human affairs.
“I was writing about leadership and that the next generation of leaders would be like Esther (the book of Esther in the Bible). A lot of things happened, but the global, cultural, social and political climate changed around me and it made me grapple with it. You can’t write about things rationally and intellectually, you’ve got to live it. I realized I was being transformed and more was being asked of me,” she told Goble.
“The book wasn’t called “Being Brave” when I started it. By the time I got to page 128 . It was clear that I was going to have to swallow hard because I was saying things now that I've never quite said like this before.”
“When I'm preaching I'm not entertaining people… I'm doing that for a reason. And I'm doing that with everything I've got because I believe in the church. I believe that we have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. And then when I see us do the polar opposite to what it is we declare the Bible says, yes, it breaks my heart. It is a dream deferred.”
She went on to say she’s been working on the issues for 30 years and it has not produced the reconciliation. Her study of Esther called her out of the comfort place and forced her to be brave in these days. Esther, one of the king’s wives, learned of a plot to kill all of the Jewish people and was called to bring it to his attention. That took courage because no wife could approach the king unless he summoned her. The penalty was death, but she did it anyway and saved the Jewish people.
“The solution is that reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness repentance and justice that transforms broken relationships and systems to reflect God's original attention for all creation to flourish,” she said.
“I believe that's what we're going after. And I realized now that my playing it safe was kind of trying to say to almost like a person who is sick and goes to a doctor and says Hey Doc, I'm really not well I need your help…Please help me know what to do and the doctor, makes a diagnosis right and the person then says to the doctor now I don't think I want to do that. I have to give it to you straight, You're going to have to make these changes, if you want to get better. I am not being a mean person to be an honest and truthful person to say, I care so much about you that I will not give you a diluted message,” she said.
Her plan forward: tell the truth and care enough to break the silence. That takes being well informed and calling people out when they say things like the “China virus.”
That certainly means being brave in today’s politically polarized America.
Their conversation took place during a virtual get-together for Pathlight International, the ministry working to provide a quality education for children in Belize. It was founded by Goble and his wife, D’Aun. Pathlight.