Tag Archives: the most segregated hour

Race is not the way

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“Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ way, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.”

| Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “The most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”  We repeat his words as a matter of fact, not as a challenge.  It has been named and noted.  But, rather than shake our heads in agreement, I ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Don’t just change seats; switch churches.  Get up and follow Jesus somewhere outside of your comfort zone, gated community, tradition, perspective, cultural and personal experience, worship style.  Jesus did it and if we are following Jesus, we should too.  Don’t spend your whole life pointing out the problem.  Don’t just shake your heads; put your heads together.  Figure it out.  Solve it.

Because Jesus doesn’t go the same way everyday, talk to the same people all the time or travel in the same neat circles.  There is nothing routine or traditional about his ministry or his message.  Jesus was not the expected Messiah, the predictable Savior.  Persons did not point to him and say, “I knew it was you!”  Just listen to the people who were around him who asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  And hear his own disciples who questioned if they really knew him, “What kind of man is this?”

Because if you meet Jesus and do not walk away from life as you knew it, then you did not meet Jesus.  If you and I can meet Jesus and return to our regularly scheduled programming, then we may have met Jesus but we do not know him.  Life with Jesus does not consist of a mere introduction but a lifelong conversation to include long walks like those with the disciples on their way to Emmaus.  We need to listen to Jesus until our hearts burn (Luke 24.32).

If we can remain hard- hearted when it comes to race, then we need to have more than “a little talk with Jesus.”

Because isn’t it a sad commentary that Christians in America cannot come together one day a week for an hour or two, that though Christ prayed that we might become one, it is hardest to answer and to embody this prayer on Sunday (John 17.21)?   That we have integrated businesses and schools, hospitals and cemeteries, buses and hotels, lunch counters and restrooms but not sanctuaries?  That praying hands still section themselves off to worship the God who “so loved the world”?  That a space marked sacred still has the signs of segregation hanging above its doors, that our churches secretly or unconsciously signal, “For white people only” or “For colored people only”?

If anything, Sunday should be the one day that we can come together.  Or, is the Holy Spirit not at work or unable to overcome the challenges of our flesh?  What do we walk in if not the Spirit and where are we going if we are not walking in the spirit of truth (Galatians 5.16; John 16.13)?  We cannot claim the creative power of God, the resurrection power of Jesus and the fire power of the Holy Spirit but continue on as if powerless to challenge and change the social realities of race.  What of this new identity in Christ?

During this season of Lent, we are called to give up our carnal cravings, our fleshly feelings in order to shorten the distance between us and Jesus.  Friends, I assure you that race is not the way.  We are no closer to Christ than when we first begun if we put anything before or in front of Christian: black Christian, white Christian, Republican Christian, Democratic Christian, female Christian, male Christian.  Christ is all or nothing at all (Galatians 3.28; Colossians 3.11).  Following Christ is a one way street and it leads to Calvary.  We cannot continue to follow the prescriptions of race and claim we want to go all the way with Jesus.  Because it is a death walk; race and our racialized identities simply cannot survive.

Study on diversity in churches reports lingering inequality

CORRECTING spelling of Paulette Dunker-Jenkins: St. Georges usher Laticia Stauffer (cq-left, 34 yrs, of Fishtown) and Mother Bethel AME usher Paulette Dunker-Jenkins (cq-right, 68 yrs, of NE Phila) take up collection during service at St. Georges Methodist Church Oct. 25, 2009, as the congregations of Mother Bethel AME and St. George's united for joint worship for the first time in 240 years. ( Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer ) EDITORS NOTE: PAME26bTG 113061 Sun 10/25/2009 Location: 235 N. Fourth St.Story: PAME26 () / In the 1780s, black people worshiping at St. George's Methodist Church on N. 4th St. were kicked out in the middle of a service. They then formed Mother Bethel AME Church. This Sunday, for the first time in 240 years, the two congregations will unite and pray at 11 a.m., the time Martin Luther King once called "the most segregated hour in America." That's because people generally worship according to race, he said. We will be on hand to write about the historic service. Additional story info: two pastors: Rev. Mark Tyler of Bethel AME and Rev. Fred Day of St. George's. Lubrano, Alfred Reporter's Ext.4969///856-275-1233-cell
( Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer )

This is the finding of a recent study conducted by researchers at Baylor University, the University of Southern California and the University of Chicago. The study , “United by Faith? Race/Ethnicity, Congregational Diversity, and Explanations of Racial Inequality,” was published in the journal Sociology of Religion.  As you can imagine, it has gotten some people talking as the results are regretful.  It seems that the cultural diversity represented in the pews does not suggest that there is diversity in perspective or leadership.  Instead of opportunities for collaboration, the study finds that the attitudes of the cultural majority dominate.

While I respect the research and I cannot argue with the facts, I remain hopeful that our faith communities can change.  For me, this presents a review and evaluation of our efforts to live reconciled with one another.  And less we be disillusioned or confused by the appearance of togetherness, this study proves that there is more hard work to do.

Because it is not enough to sit together or to sing together if we cannot freely talk to each other.  We cannot raise our hands in worship together and not hold hands while walking together.  We must strive to be one people with one voice able to say together, “For God so loved the world…”

If eleven o’ clock remains the most segregated hour, then we are all talk and frankly, time’s up for that.


The Reconciled Church

“Healing the racial divide in the nation will take the Church’s leadership,” says Bishops Harry Jackson and T.D. Jakes who are the leaders of a new attempt to position the church as a source of healing and reconciliation in matters of race.  Their website features a letter to President Barack Obama, “Practical Steps Toward Racial Reconciliation Across America, “Seven Bridges to Peace” and a “Covenant of Reconciliation.”  They recently hosted a two- hour worship service on the Daystar network to promote this effort.  C0- founder of the network, Joni Lamb said during the service, “The world may not be reconciled but we must be reconciled.”

The Most Segregated Hour

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s words are often employed when there is talk of Christ’s Church and its lack of cultural diversity in worship. It is said as a matter of fact and there is no sense that the persons who employ it also find it appalling. No, it is simply repeated, expressed without a challenge to our poor Christian witness and without a plan to change it. That race and its progeny do much to undue our declarations of the unconditional love and acceptance of God is never mentioned. It seems that it remains for “Christian America” a necessary hypocrisy.

I have heard persons say that it is because we worship differently, that it is because of cultural preferences and understandings of what this looks and sounds like.  But, to reduce the reason for the absence of diversity in American churches to worship style is too easy, too simple a conclusion.  And it’s an excuse not a reason.  The manner in which we celebrate God is not what separates us.  God has already told us how we are to worship: “in spirit and in truth” (John 4.24).  It is a posture not a particular practice that God desires and this should determine the manner in which we worship– if God is the focus of the Sunday morning service.

But, most often, this is not the case.  Our time spent with God is determined by our schedules, our social comforts and sinful, self- serving conclusions.  We treat Christ’s Church no differently than our homes, schools and local municipalities.  We know the way that persons are to live and who we want to live with us– even in the house of God.  How we continue to believe that we are worshipping “in spirit and in truth” while maintaining the racialized desires of our heart in God’s holy temple is a question worthy of discussion.

The truth is that eleven o’clock remains the most segregated hour because we don’t want to change the clock.   We are reliving history.  But, we would do much to relieve ourselves of its burdens if the Church in America would honestly and adequately address its complicity in the crimes of race (and this request is not one-sided).  We must confess the sins of race and seek forgiveness from God and our neighbor.  It will remain the most segregated hour so long as we do not see this as a judgment against us, the change as a part of the cost of discipleship and a priority of our faith.

Remove The Beam

“Do not judge so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log (beam, KJV) in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there is a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
~Matthew 7.1-5

Race is the theological beam in the eye of the Church. Unfortunately, throughout history, the Church has attempted to serve as the proclaimer of the vision of the Kingdom of God on earth while using the spectacles of the culture. The Church, the members of Christ’s body, having Jesus’ vision for humanity still endorsed American slavery, were silent during the Jewish Holocaust and South African apartheid, supported Jim Crow segregation and attempted to locate a rationale for its enforcement in the sacred Scriptures and today, practice White Supremacy and Black Nationalism. The Church has the message of Jesus Christ and yet we proclaim another gospel, which excludes others based on the social coloring of their skin, repays evil with evil and hatred with hatred, that does not have to forgive because race says so and that judges with a beam in its eye. This is not Christ’s gospel but our own.

Race is not a gospel of peace but of violence. It is not a gospel of inclusion but exclusivity, of division not reconciliation, of hatred not love. Still, we pronounce the judgements of race and we have done it in the name of God and as the Body of Christ. As a result, the Church is in no position to judge as the most sacred our in our week is also the most segregated. We gather to worship the same God but cannot sit on the same pew. We are all praising the same God but cannot share the same hymnal. We are proclaiming the same message but cannot share the same pulpit.

The theological beam that looms large is the reality of a Black Church and a White Church. Surely, Christ is not the chief cornerstone of this race- driven creation. And I have heard the various reasons as to why there are separate churches, which all amount to “we worship differently.” But, I assure you that these arrangements cannot be maintained in heaven and if the Church, which is to represent the body of Christ, cannot come together, then how will the lost come to know Him in the pardoning of their sins? If we don’t remove the beam of race from our eyes, not only will we continue to have no basis with which to proclaim God’s soon- coming judgment, not only will we continue to lose sight of His plan for humanity but we will fall as a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3.25). Remove the beam or our house will do just that.