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Aren’t we just causing more division by talking about racism?

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Jesus died to tear down the walls of hostility that divide all people groups in order to create in himself “one new humanity” free of division. [1] Jesus died to fulfill God’s original dream for humans to reflect God’s loving character through love for one another. So why do we keep bringing this up? Because it’s a central reason the Son of God became a human and gave his life for us on the cross! It’s part of the doctrine of the atonement! To fail to preach and live out this doctrine is rank heresy—and it’s the heresy that allowed white Christians to establish America by slaughtering and otherwise abusing the indigenous population and by enslaving millions of Africans. This is the original sin of America, and it is proving to be the hardest sin to repent of and eradicate. In our opinion, it cannot be brought up too frequently or too strongly.

Addressing this original sin certainly causes controversy, especially among white Christians. This is not surprising, because white people tend to be deeply socialized into believing in the goodness of the system. But we don’t believe we can refrain from proclaiming this just to “keep the peace.” For this “peace” is not peaceful to our black and brown sisters and brothers, and this “peace” is not the peace that Jesus died to bring to the human race. We can no more refrain from proclaiming that Jesus died to reconcile all people groups together in love, justice and equality than we can refrain from proclaiming that Jesus died to reconcile people to God.

When Paul declared that, “in Christ, there is neither Jew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free,” [2] he wasn’t suggesting that we pretend that people were no longer Jewish or Gentile or male or female. He was saying that our identity in Christ should rob all these sorts of identity markers of their social significance. Within the body of Christ, being Jewish should no longer mean you are privileged over Gentiles (as most Jews of the time assumed) and being male should no longer mean you have more rights than women (as almost everyone at the time assumed). Our differences aren’t meant to be erased, what must be erased is any power hierarchy in the body of Christ. And God’s vision is that one day we will all be brought together. People from every tribe, tongue and nation will stand before God and each other in the full glory of how he has made us. [3]

Yet, we cannot dismantle this power hierarchy unless we first acknowledge it, which is why white Christians need to be in dialogue with their black and brown sisters and brothers about the meaning of being white and black and brown in America. For white Christians to live in love means they care about the ways in which the church as well as the broader culture continues to privilege them at the expense of their black and brown sisters and brothers. So, acknowledging the power hierarchy that privileges whites over black and brown people is not “buying into the race politics of the world”: it is rather obeying the mandate of the Gospel.

As a final word, when we do not acknowledge the suffering that racism causes, we add to the burden that our sisters and brothers of color carry. It is lonely and isolating to experience the pain of racism only to have it ignored by whites. In speaking up about structural racism, we are not creating division, but seeking healing as we care for the whole body. Imagine a family member was murdered and no one stopped or cared enough to check-in or listen or grieve with you. That would only make things worse! When one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it. That’s why we need to talk about it.

[1] Ephesians 2:14-18
[2] Galatians 3:27-28
[3] Revelation 7:9

3 thoughts on “Aren’t we just causing more division by talking about racism?

  1. Shaun says:

    How can we help the people stuck in poverty/lower socioeconomic classes? As an employer I have tried to help by employing people stuck in these situations only to get burned. For example theft and abuse. A lot of people don’t want financial training and spend all there money on all the wrong things. I see this in white people stuck in poverty too so it is not just a race thing but acknowledge that poverty is not wide spread in white people as in our black communities.
    We try to learn from each situation but sometimes the answer seems to come out completely racist, How do we do our part to help?

  2. Stephanie says:

    Reminds me of the argument about whether or not we should be talking to our children about sex and drugs. On the one hand, you feel like you may be ‘encouraging’ behavior by the mere suggestion but then again, what can be done to at least open up the lines of dialogue on tough subjects so that all parties can come together in the spirit of caring and support? I said before that race was a construct; I like pronouncing it con STRUCT as a verb because it’s something that we ‘build’ everyday with our words, actions or most recognizably IN-action. We keep racism alive when we decide we’re ‘better’ off not being in the challenging conversations and spaces than understanding this is precisely the arena that fosters the most growth. No one ever lost a limb for discussing racism (well, not intentionally anyway). And just like those tough conversations with our kids, what is/are the ultimate goals 1)to build trust and a bond that makes even the tough subjects easier to navigate because we’ve agreed that the outcome we seek is for the collective good 2) to not shame or blame for any missteps but to look at what has gone wrong so that we can go forward stronger since we know mistakes happen but we have built support systems around us that make us confident about the decisions that we do/will make in the future and 3) no one has the ‘all the right answers’ to what’s the right way or prescribed way in EVERY situation but agreeing that it IS important enough to be discussed (and the agreed upon urgency ) being the driving force of the conversations can only net positive outcomes.

  3. Emily says:

    Thank you all for your comments and feedback! We believe this conversation is worth continuing, but are closing the comment section for now as we hope to engage individually with those of you who would like to discuss these topics in more detail. If you have further thoughts, please email us at info@whchurch.org.

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