Tag Archives: racism and the Church

Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter

maxresdefaultMore than a chant or a hash tag, it cannot be argued that Black Lives Matter is a movement, putting pressure on social structures that continue to value some lives more than others.  Eerily similar to the declaration “I am a man” made during the Civil Rights Movement, I, along with so many others, cannot believe that it needs to be said today.  Not because we elected our first African American president but because we are so progressive, so liberal, so inclusive, so tolerant.  Birthed out of headline after headline of police- involved shootings of most often unarmed African American men and women, those three words prove necessary.

Said again and again, these words are the source of heated debate and deeper discussions on the meaning of life for those socially defined as black and white.  The discrepancies in perception and resultant treatment by some in law enforcement cannot be denied. The response of some has been that “all lives matter.”  For others, the declaration has had the opposite effect.  Last month, Kevin Wright had this to say in a blog post titled “When Christians Won’t Say #BlackLivesMatter.”  Please share with me your thoughts.

Reconciliation: Are churches the problem?

microphone-nichodemusFebruary is usually thought of as the month of love.  Aisle after aisle was stocked with candy and paper hearts, cuddly stuffed animals, sweet candy and cards even before the King holiday and our community projects were over.  To be sure, it is not about the feeling but the money.  Still, despite their marketing techniques, attitudes about race and the church are not improving.

A recent Barna poll claims that persons believe that churches are at fault and even fuel racial tensions 38 percent of the time.  That is, in one out of three instances where race is involved, the blame is placed on the shoulders of churches.  Apparently, the Church is apart of the problem.

Long associated with judgmental attitudes and wagging fingers, it seems that some persons are now pointing the finger at the Church.  Tasked with the ministry of reconciliation, I wonder how the evaluations are being done.  Who is being held accountable and responsible for this work?

However, it is not a bad assessment or a failing grade as 73 percent believe that the Church plays an important role in the reconciliation of cultures.  Still, the finding reminds us that we are missing quite a few spots.  Last year around this time, Relevant magazine asked, “Why doesn’t the church engage race issues?”

It seems our society will not allow us to remain silent or to feign ignorance. With instance after instance of suspicious death and obvious injustice, we will need to focus on more than Sunday morning attendance.  Rather, we will need to attend to the wounds of our world, spreading the Balm in Gilead on our communities.  This is love and it will need to happen not just in February or other special holidays.  Whether we are feeling the love or not, it our job to show it.  “They will know we are Christian by our love.”

 

 

Dear Body of Christ

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Dear Body of Christ,

We are the Body of Christ, not the race or races of Christ.  We are not colors but the children of God, not stereotypes but the saints of God, not prejudicial guesses but members of a royal priesthood.  I thought that we were called to walk in the spirit not after the flesh, that we had been called to worship in the spirit not according to our flesh, that we had been commanded to love as Christ does not as our culture requires.

We are the Body of Christ, the Church of the living Christ of which he is the chief cornerstone.  But, Christ did not lay the foundation of race.  Racism was not a part of the blueprint for our being.  Prejudice is not an architect of our humanity. None of this was ever a part of God’s plan for us.

We are the Body of Christ, the bride of Christ, married to one groom.  There has been but one joining, one wedding ceremony, one covenant shared, one vow made.  Christ does not have multiple wives: a Black Church, a White Church, a Red Church, a Brown Church, a Yellow Church, a Beige Church. We are called to be one Body, members of one another. It’s impossible to be a body if we are not.

Sincerely,

A concerned member

God’s people

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all of the people’s on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

~ Deuteronomy 7.6, NRSV

The scriptures that accompany this verse have been used for all of the wrong reasons: American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, rules against “interracial” marriage also known as miscegenation or exogamy.  Persons have used it to justify their belief in human superiority and inferiority, separating persons according to the social coloring of skin.  According to race, persons are chosen according to physical characteristics– by other human beings.  Who are we to judge?  We don’t even like everything about ourselves.  How can we possibly talk of perfection as it relates to entire cultural group?  This ridiculous reduction does not begin to compare to what it means to be chosen by God, which is what the passage speaks to.

The nations that the Lord removes so that the children of Israel can occupy the land are described as stronger and more numerous (Deuteronomy 7.1).  They defeat them not because they have a larger army or better equipped soldiers.  They win because the Lord is on their side.  Persons don’t like to talk much about the God of the Old Testament but He is the same God in the New Testament.

Jesus, much like the children of Israel, was chosen to be the Messiah not based on looks or social pedigree.  In fact, he was not the king that the Jews were expecting.  He did not meet their “messianic expectations” so to speak.  But, this did not matter.  God was with him and because of him, God is with us.

Why God chooses us has nothing to do with how we look.  We are made in His image so if this were the standard, then doesn’t that suggest that God would choose everyone?  It does unless you believe in socially colored gods, that there is a god made in our image.  But, there is no god of socially colored white people and god of socially colored black people and god of socially colored red people and god of socially colored yellow people and god of socially colored beige people.  To be such is to live in a racialized reality, to live in the world that race has created.

We are chosen not based upon the fluctuating feelings, doubts and opinions of others.  We are not socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people.  We are not race men and women as we can not be children of race and of God.  We cannot be chosen by race and  by God.  We are either a racial nation or a holy nation.  The two are not synonymous.

As Christians, we are God’s people, holy, a treasured possession, race-less.

Why are the following statements true?

“By and large, the people who have been the racists of the modern world have also been Christians or the heirs of Christian civilization.  Among large numbers of Christians, racism has been the other faith or one of the other faiths” (George D. Kelsey, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man (New York: Scribner’s, 1965), 10.

“Although the Protestant churches stress (1) the dignity and worth of the individual and (2) the brotherhood of man, the racial behavior patterns of most church members have not been substantially affected by these principles” (G. E. Simpson and J. M. Yinger, Racial and Cultural Minorities, An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953), 546.

David R. Williams reports that “there is more racial prejudice in the Christian church than outside of it, that church members are more prejudiced than nonmembers, that churchgoers are more biased than those who do not attend, and that regular attenders are more prejudiced than those who attend less often.  It’s also been shown that persons who hold conservative theological beliefs are more likely to be prejudiced than those who do not” (David R. Williams, “The Right Thing to Do,” Adventist Review, February 20, 1997), 24.