sitting at the rickety-card-table-in-the-family-room for thanksgiving dinner

this part of the monthly synchroblog i enjoy being a part of, bloggers writing on the same topic on the same day.  november’s is a topic near & dear to my heart, seeing through the eyes of the marginalized. i encourage you to check out some of the other writers who participated, the link list is at the bottom of this post & i’ll add to it as new ones come in over the course of today.  if you’re a blogger & want to be part of future synchroblogs, you can join on facebook or go to our new synchroblog site and subscribe.

 

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i don’t know how many of you have had the experience of having to sit at the rickety-card-table-that-is-set-up-in-the-family-room-or-some-other-weird-awkward-space for the special holiday meal.  you know those moments where somehow everyone can’t fit at the “nice” table so there’s the second-rate overflow with the kids or the late-comers to the party.  i know some people prefer to sit there, so this metaphor might be a stretch, but when i was thinking about seeing life through the eyes of the marginalized that was one of the first images that came to mind.

to me, when it comes to the marginalized, the card-table-set-up-in-the-family-room during thanksgiving dinner represents getting “the scraps”, a sometimes subtle, sometimes direct message that:

  • “we’re glad you came but there’s really no room for you to sit with us.”
  • ” the power is all at the big, fancy table.”
  • “we’re not really equal.”
  • “we’re not like you.”
  • “we are in control, and don’t forget it.”
  • “we sort of want to listen to you, sort of want you around, but not enough to make room for you at this table.”

in my current life situation, i am not marginalized in many ways.  i am married, white, and have a graduate school education, health insurance & a host of other privileges.  but when it comes to being a female lead pastor from an evangelical-y world,  i know the feeling of sitting at the card-table-in-the-other-room-while-all-the-players-are-at-the-power-table.  it’s a really crappy, lonely, inadequate feeling.  it gives me a pit in my stomach when i even think about it.  and while over the past few years i have come to accept its realities & lean on the wonderful love & acceptance i do have (and now, honestly, i’m having way more fun sitting at the card table) it still feels so sad & weird to me–the unwelcomeness, the division, the segregation, the power differentials, the us & them mentality–especially in the kingdom of God.

so many people i know are used to sitting at the card table.  they’ve never been invited to the big table. ever. they are used to eating scraps and being satisfied with anything they can get.  they do not expect anything.  and actually a lot of friends quit bothering even coming over for dinner.

to me, in the kingdom of God, the table is supposed to be big, and i do mean big. making room for everyone–the fringers, the lonely, the not-so-loud-and-not-so-sure, the poor, the rich, the educated, the uneducated, men, women, gay, straight, black, white, brown, young, old, liberal, conservative, and everything in between.  when there’s not enough room at the current one, we’re supposed to get up and find some leaves and scooch in some more chairs.

or maybe what’s actually supposed to happen is everyone who’s been used to the fancy table needs to get up and go sit around the card table & listen to the conversations there. to eat on a plastic plate for a while & use a paper napkin. or maybe go hungry for a while.  to  listen & learn & find that even though we seem so different, in the end we’re all really longing for the same things.  and over time, maybe what will happen is those two tables–and all the other kinds that seem to segregate and separate us–will somehow be muddled up & combined, chairs shifted around, the china mixed with the plasticware & all the neat-and-tidy-decorations-not-quite-so-neat-and-tidy-anymore.

we have so much to learn about how deep the grooves are in the culture we live in, not just in the world but in the church.  since the beginning of time we have been divided, segregated, and power has been held in the hands of people who have not done well at distributing it.  dignity has been stripped, voices silenced, pain minimized, and poverty perpetuated. the only way out, in my opinion, is through brave and wild steps taken in Jesus’ love–in actions not words–to shift-the-dynamics-of-the-power-table.  amends must be made. humilty practiced. courage-stepped-into.

and this is what i think will give it a chance to happen–leaders from all shapes & sizes coming from the margins, who are used to sitting at some-kind-of-card table, who humbly & bravely model the kingdom of God despite all kinds of obstacles. a living-in-the-margins blog friend  shared this quote with me a while back & it has really lingered and came back to mind as i was writing this post:

“…We need men and women who have previously been on the margins to come forth and lead us. In focusing so exclusively on our cognitive capacities, we have lost our imaginations. We need mystics. We need poets. We need prophets. We need apostles. We need artists. We need a church drawn out of the margins, drawn from the places and filled with people and shaped with competencies formerly thought to be of little account. In fact, perhaps it is from such ‘marginal’ communities as these that influence will begin to spread outward into communities that have been domesticated in a modern world and thus rendered docile. We need a wild vine grafted into the branch. We need alternate takes on reality. We need a different kind of leader – one who can create environments to nurture and release the imagination of God’s person.” – tim keel

so that’s my hope.  big, wild, crazy, beautiful, eclectic tables where there’s room for everyone & the people sitting there are humble, spiritually poor, and ready for some really good food– the kind that only tastes good when it’s shared together.

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Other Bloggers Participating so far (a lot more links are coming over the course of today, we’ve got a great group sharing):

George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt

Arthur Stewart – The Bank

Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate

Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins

Christine Sine – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized

Margaret Boehlman – Just Out of Sight

Liz Dyer – Step Away from the Keyhole

John O’Keefe – Viewing the World in Different Ways

Steve Hayes – Ministry to Refugees–Synchroblog on Marginalised People

Andries Louw – The South African Squatter Problem

Drew Tatusko – Invisible Margins of a White Male Body

K.W. Leslie – Who’s the Man? We Christians Are

Jacob Boelman – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Peter Walker – Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Cobus van Wyngaard – Addressing the Normalized Position

Tom Smith – Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Christen Hansel – Foreigners and Feasts

Annie Bullock – Empty Empathy

Sonja Andrews – On Being Free

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

26 Comments

  • Hey! I choose to sit at the card table. I’d rather sit with my friends, instead of those at the fancy table and listen to all their stories about their latest cruise, condo in Hawaii, new one hundred foot wide television, iphone, jphone, kphone, Lexus, Mexus, Nexus. That’s just nauseating!

    At our table we don’t need to pretend we’re pretty. We’re there to party.

    Reply
  • i am not sure about the loneliness of a woman pastor. i do know the loneliness of a single-mom and that is seldom addressed even today, and my daughters are 24,27, 29 now. my grandmother was a pastor and it seems right when i see a woman speaking, teaching, leading at church. quite frankly there are so many people treated in inadequate way i have a hard time determining who is needs my support. i feel that if God wants me to lead, teach or speak to a group of people He will find a way for that to happen and woe be to those that hinder His way.

    Reply
  • Hmm… this resonates deeply… sitting at the card table. Have done my share of that – literally and figuratively.

    As to pulling leaders out of the margins… yes, it is essential, but as one in the margin who has a “call” to lead, I am wary of offers because they usually come with a lot of conditions that restrain from actually leading in the ways we are wired, from our hearts. It requires squishing into their mold of what leadership is/does/looks like… and I can’t do that again. I tried. I failed. And it was not good (although God pulled good out even that). So, I come back to the trust issue. It is difficult to trust offers from the big table. Maybe if they spend some time at the little table and give us a chance to see they are genuine, that would help.

    Anyway, I’m starting to ramble. 🙂
    Thanks for continuing to post on the issues that make the corporate uncomfortable. Maybe the discomfort will eventually prod them into moving….

    Reply
  • Great post, Kathy! I’d really like to post something to the synchroblog about being a foreigner during the holidays. Is it too late?
    Christen

    Reply
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  • As usual, a 10 out of 10. I hope Christen, who left a comment above, writes a post about being a foreigner the holidays. My first Christmas in Honduras was going fine until… the big holiday meal at church, and everyone sang songs that I didn’t know. It was their holiday tradition, their songs, their shared heritage.

    Reply
  • rachelle – thanks and thanks for reading!

    sam – yep, i am with you on loving the card table. i always think of it kind of like the lower deck of the titanic. that’s where the party really was. the other part that’s always interesting about that metaphor is that those on the lower deck couldn’t go up to the upper deck but those on the upper deck were welcome to join the party below.

    deb – thanks for reading & taking time to comment. i am not a single mom but i sure do know a lot of them & many have felt many of the same feelings of loneliness. yeah, i still can’t think for the life of me how silencing 50% of God’s people is a good idea. peace to you & glad you are here.

    katherine – oh yeah, so much hurt & crazy experiences where leaders tried to make us fit into what they needed or assumed all we could do or ?? all the same stuff related to power & control. because we are humans, of course leaders from the margins can end up with the same issues, but my experience so far has been its far less likely–IF the entire structures/systems/whatever-sort-of-binds-it-together is dedicated to a diffusion of power, equality, and a fanning into flame of each person’s individual gifts & voice & need-for-their-contribution-and-place-at-the-table-period.

    christen
    – so glad you posted! loved your thoughts.

    tom – thanks for reading & being part, too

    kfsullivan – i am glad you liked that part. it is most definitely my dream, too!

    heysonnie – i need to go check it out. and yep, that’s ketchup, ha ha. thanks for participating in this synchroblog. i really loved all the contributions.

    laurie
    – oh yeah, i am sure you have so many amazing stories to tell. go read christen’s post, i think you’ll really dig it. peace to you.

    Reply
  • Hi Kathy,

    Enjoyed your post and totally relate to the feeling of being at the card table with evangelical types. Perhaps if the women at the card table banded together and combined our voices we could make the card table the place to be. Thanks for sharing that element of your own marginalization. It helps me not feel so all alone in my own experience.

    I also relate to Katherine’s insights about having to become something we are not in order to be invited to the big table. I am with her…I don’t want to sell out.

    Great death to these insights.

    Reply
    • thanks, wendy. i so agree. the more we can come together & be united in love & hope, the better. i hope we can stay in touch & i definitely am interested in what you guys are doing out there….

      Reply

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