Take a good look around you, at the people in your community, the leaders, the ministers, the people in positions of authority or power, and pay attention to what you see? Do they look like you, think like you, and generally believe the same things you believe?
On reflection, and if I'm being really honest about it, that's what I've experienced most of my life. For the most part, I could easily fit in anywhere, especially if I kept my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself. As long as I behaved and didn't push the boundaries of the status quo then the unseen hand was generally welcoming.
When we're not personally running into boundaries it's easy to think that everything is alright in the world for everyone, especially when our focus is dialed in on our own needs. What about everyone else outside that narrow tunnel, the people in our communities that don't see themselves represented in the positions of power or authority, those who can't easily slide on the rails of the system by simply playing along?
For whatever the reason— religion, race, financial status, sexuality—we have human brothers and sisters that aren't invited to the table of privilege. Further, many in privileged positions have been curating the systems to keep it that way by perpetuating outdated secular norms. This is the precise territory that Reverend Shannon Fleck operates, and it's why I asked her to visit with me on Find the Good News.
Reverend Fleck is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, a coalition of faith communities, Christian denominations, interfaith organizations, and secular nonprofits that work to connect society to faith-based communities.
This mission and this conversation are personal for Shannon. She holds, as do I, that people are informed by what they see, and when they do not see themselves properly represented they are actually being held back from the fullness of humanity, effectively stunting their growth into their full potential, neutering communities from the enrichment that diversity and variety brings.
Reverend Fleck is a Christian faith leader that is publicly addressing the very real and present issues that many Churches are not addressing. While she isn't a fan of the particularly partisan marriage of religion-and-politics, she does lean her Christian faith directly into restorative justice, as well as the avoidance of umbrella terms that simply placate and maintain old social norms.
Shannon wraps her arms around a grace that is inviting, a grace of inclusion, and refuses to sacrifice people against the threshing stone of theology. Reverend Shannon Fleck and the coalition she represents are very concerned with how to represent people, ensuring that they can see themselves sitting at the table.
Now, it's time to check our privilege, get informed, consider some personal actions and changes, then tune your attention to this Good News Beacon, and press play on a little good news.