Telling Hard Stories

While driving to and from places in LA I often listen to podcasts, one has to find ways to get through traffic somehow. One of my go to podcasts is called "Stuff You Missed in History Class", where one can get a quick and engaging encounter with some aspect of history (very often things that have been overlooked or not highlighted). Issues of injustice and power came up in four of the episodes I listened to this week in my cross town travels. All four episodes dealt with incidents where the American government, and Americans involved in different industries, had used their power and privilege in ways that harmed, abused, and devalued other humans. (Episodes "Executive order 9066 and the Japanese Internment parts 1 & 2", "John Kidwell and the Founding of Hawaii's Pineapple Industry",  & "The Tuskegee Syphilis Study")  These are histories and stories that we as a culture so deeply need to hear and yet they are the very same histories that many do not want to know about. They are stories that make us uncomfortable, because they remind us that we all hold the capacity for good and evil, or both, in our actions. We are invited through these stories in history to offer grace and forgiveness, as well as accountability and awareness, in our current time, as well as to those who have gone before us.. In many ways these histories make the cross viscerally present. 

Christ dies on a cross unjustly, having committed no crime, and in this he stands with those who have been executed or abused by the state unjustly. "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?"(Revelation 6:10 RSV), or the modern version by U2 "How long, how long must we sing this song? 'Cause tonight we can be as one, tonight, tonight, Sunday Bloody Sunday" (Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2). Yet the cross is also the place of divine grace and restoration, where all things are brought together through Christ. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17 ESV) It is the place where the thief next to Christ encounters the offer of divine grace given for all "Truly, I say to you, today you, today you shall be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43 NASB) 

In spite of what some people claim, Christian history, at it's most faithful, invites us into the uncomfortable stories and histories. It challenges our assumptions, cultural exceptionalism, theologies, and views. The more we choose to dig deeper into the complicated, but fruitful history and stories of our communities (spiritual, cultural, and national), seeking to tell the most holistic and faithful versions of these stories that we can, the more we move closer into connecting to our journey and life with Christ. 


~ Jessi Knippel

Image by James Douglas via