Monday, August 21, 2017

Black and White

Black and white. Black or white. This seems to be the line of demarcation, particularly where we live. There's an unspoken narrative around these colors that goes something like this:
Black - bad; criminal; fighting for equal rights; less than; minority; a problem; burdensome.
White - good; controls all the power structures including the church; responsible for slavery but won't accept the scars from this pain; always assumed to be well-meaning and good.
These associations have crept into every facet of our society including the church. In the 60s we had overt racism and now we have covert racism - where it's systemic and impacts the very fabric of all of our lives.

The very origins of America's racial history are closely tied to the America's church history. Missions were used as a way to rationalize the genocide of the native population and later on justify recruiting them into abusive boarding schools. Missions were used in theology to rationalize the slave trade as some European Christians argued that Cain's curse was a justification to steal humans from West Africa and enslave them in the new world though there is no actual proof of this. The American founding fathers wrote the Constitution within a culturally Christian identity yet most of them, Thomas Jefferson included, dehumanized their African brothers and sisters through enslavement. Looking at the origins of this country it's hard to say that covert racism crept in like a thief in the night. In the Constitution, the founding fathers proclaimed everyone equal under the law, an idea which was quickly contradicted by protecting slavery under the law. The cognitive dissonance it takes to say you love God and yet destroy people made in God's image because you found yourself superior is significant and must be acknowledged as such. It is important to take a critical look at how people can incongruently identify as Christian culturally and yet relationally have distance between the God they claim to serve. 

America said one thing and lived out another and now is wondering why they cannot recognize their own reflection. These associations we have with people groups have a deep history to them and are supported by living institutions. These associations go against how we should treat each other as Christians, believers in Christ, yet culturally this is our normal. We are called to have a different standard, a paradigm shift, since so many cling to these entrenched views and are unaware until something like Charlottesville happens.

In church, we see what we thought was hidden seep out in our interaction with others, in particular, those not like us. We see our churches become homogeneous. There's a danger in sameness - we think everyone thinks the way we do and therefore there's no fear our shame in expressing those thoughts. The fact that so many "ethnic" churches exist is heartbreaking. Therefore, it becomes something to be celebrated when we truly see a multi-ethnic, diverse, united church - because this is not the norm.  

This phenomenon exhibited by churches and others is something called in-group bias: "It's a well-known principle in social psychology that people define themselves in terms of social groupings and are quick to denigrate others who don't fit into those groups. Others who share our particular qualities are our "in-group," and those who do not are our "out-group.""(Source: psychologytoday.com)

In light of the current climate, I am challenged to be known by my fruit: to live differently think differently and act differently. To let my heart and my actions line up. To let my biases not define my life but to love and accept all because like me they are made in God's image. The thing about racism is that it feels the worse when it shows up in churches - where God's love should be evident. If you've suffered racism at work, in a road rage incident, DWB (driving while Black), being followed in a store, or just the gnawing feeling that something isn't right with a particular interaction which you know stems from the skin you're in, then sometimes you expect a safe place where you can just be and when it seems that no safe place exists, it creates a widening gap.

I posit that that safe space is the church, at least it's supposed to be. The church can accept all while at the same time speak out on societal ills. The church can be a place where healing begins. But it requires the hard work of love, faith, and forgiveness in action. I don't turn a blind eye to racism in my personal life and as such I'd like to see the church become more vocal on addressing the ills of racism - not the Black Church or the Evangelical Church or the White Church - just the Church - one body fighting against injustice. Jesus wouldn't have it any other way.



This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 

1 John 3:11-15

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation, he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 
Acts 10:34-36


Racism and its implications are no longer the elephants in the room; instead, these elephants are roaring demanding attention. "The church needs less lip service and more love accompanied with action. Until we are willing to confront and discipline our brothers and sisters who are knee-deep in this type of sin, and others, we will be villages in valleys, rather than cities on a hill." (Source: desiringgod.org)





10 comments:

  1. Great insights! And I definitely agree that the church should be a safe place for all to be welcomed, experience love, and for healing to begin in the USA and around the world.

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  2. I agree - it's always worst when in the church - the place where it shouldn't exist at all. Great post!

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  3. Powerful words of truth that so saddens me. I just wrote a post this week ... "Harmony" expressing my feelings towards the way we are today. The way God created us to be instead revels in the beauty that is Christ. Oh that we could see clearly just whose we are.
    I taught much of my life. I had a co-teacher who is Black. I am not. L came to visit me after she had moved away. I introduced her to my first graders. One of them asked if she was my sister. L and I smiled at one another and told this child that we were. L and I have never forgotten this as she wore the innocence-of-a-child-colored-glasses!

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  4. Love covers over a multitude of sins - I keep reminding myself that love is the answer to all of this. Love covers over my sins and the sins of others. And the pain of so many makes me just so sad.

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  5. "...I'd like to see the church become more vocal on addressing the ills of racism - not the Black Church or the Evangelical Church or the White Church - just the Church - one body fighting against injustice." Yes! Thank you for sharing your insights on this. Every human being is created in God's image and no one is better than another. Jesus wants us to love and I pray that He will help us as we show love to our brothers and sisters.

    Blessings to you! I'm your neighbor at #HeartEncouragement.

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  6. It's all so unfortunate. Makes you long for heaven, the place where all are enough because of His righteousness and grace--nothing of ourselves, our race, our gender. -- I like your take on it--to be known by our fruit. ((hug))

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  7. Amen, amen, and amen. It's natural to want to be with others who are "like us." What's ironic is that EVERY person is like us--created in God's image. When Christians don't recognize this fact, it's not just a shame: it's sin. It requires repentance. It requires confession. And then it requires a firm dedication to walk forward in newness of life, depending on God to give us the strength. Oh, church, let us be devoted to doing God's will.

    Thank you for the beautiful lead you're taking here!

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  8. It's my daily prayer that we might do a better job of loving one another - in the church and beyond. Thanks for this!

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