On January 14 we were thrilled to welcome Jimmy McGee, President of the Impact Movement, as the keynote speaker for Humanity Through Community. This year’s theme was “The Myth of the Single Story,” and Jimmy offered powerful insights and a bold invitation for us to engage the humanity in each other in a way that acknowledges and affirms the goodness of God’s creation. The full video of his talk is available below.

“Humanity Through Community: the sense that we need each other in our humanity, that we cannot in our abstraction be human without each other’s touch, without each other’s engagement,” said Dr. Derek McNeil, Academic Dean, in his introduction. “We are necessary for each other.”

Jimmy spoke to the reality that the story of the historically oppressed is so often removed from the larger stories that we tell about ourselves as a nation. “You willfully don’t want to know the story. You willfully ignore the story. You willfully stay in this place of entertaining abstract realities that ignore the realities that impact my world. As a believer, as a person of oppressed descent in this country, it’s frustrating to live from day to day knowing that my story is not understood, nor do people want to believe it. That’s where we are right now. That’s the tragedy of the times that we’re living in.”

In contrast, Jimmy points to the “reality of integration” that marked the goodness of God’s creation before it fell into disintegration and brokenness. “When God said ‘let there be black’ and made me, that four-letter word was true: it was good.”

So the single story becomes a fragmented story, full of dead ends.

Jimmy refers to particular texts that have influenced his thoughts, including The Call of Stories by Robert Coles and Punching Holes in the Dark by Robert Benson, and he reads a devastating and vital passage from Carol Anderson’s White Rage. “These stories are the stories that aren’t told. These stories are part of the greater narrative,” he says. Jimmy also discusses the idea of the “looking glass self,” the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the healing, all-encompassing notion of shalom that recognizes the reality of individuality as well as attachment to community.

“Information is something to be stewarded. I want to pray that your ignorance will never be a place of satisfaction for you, that your curiosity to know more means that this institution is more than just preparing people for clergy or preparing people for counseling, means that you want to be change agents, you want to be part of the change instead of talking and writing journals about it.”

Watch the full video of Jimmy’s lecture below, and you can also read more from Jimmy in this interview.