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Who Am I Supposed to Believe?

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A Google search for any significant topic turns up a cacophony of conflicting opinions. This hopelessly murky situation is our new reality, and it is here to stay. But we believe it is important for Kingdom people to hold to the existence of objective facts, and to take responsibility, to the best of one’s ability, to discern what these facts are—especially in matters of Kingdom significance.

It is good to engage with a variety of voices, but do remember that no one person can speak for or represent the experience of an entire group of people. People of color are not a monolith; each person is navigating the difficulties of the system differently. But if you specifically look for black voices to support what you already feel or are inclined to believe, check your motives to see if this is really a reflection of a desire to learn and listen. To rely on a handful of people who contradict the larger narrative but support your pre-existing ideas more likely indicates an unwillingness to be challenged.

In a similar way, we all need to be aware of our “confirmation bias.” That is, we tend to seek out statistics that support our existing views while ignoring contrary evidence. As you engage in learning, be open to correction and be willing to change your mind, or even admit you were wrong! The most important thing to remember is that behind all the numbers are individual people with unique stories and specific hurts. So, while we try to look for accurate information, we believe our time is best spent listening to and believing the lived experiences of people. Learning from the experiences of others requires humility and must be done in the context of actual relationships, so prioritize the voices of those who are your neighbors, your co-workers or your fellow believers.

And in the midst of uncertainty, here is one objective fact: God calls his people to be a community that welcomes, blesses and serves all the families and ethnicities of the earth. [1] And so the contemporary church—especially the white church—is called to become aware of, and work to dismantle, any and all lingering manifestations of systemic racism within the church and society (see our list of resources).

In this murky cultural situation of competing voices, we believe that it is only the light of the Gospel that can lead us forward in a godly and helpful way. Practically speaking, here at Woodland Hills this means that we are seeking to learn from the leadership of black and brown spokespeople who share our basic understanding of the Gospel and of American history, especially those who we actually know and are in relationship with.

[1] Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6; Ezekiel 47:22; Luke 10:25-37; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 3:11; Revelation 5:9-10

3 thoughts on “Who Am I Supposed to Believe?

  1. Jesse says:

    Interesting. I thought for a moment you were going to discuss what is leading you to the voices you trust but you made it all about us, the readers and community.

    “But if you specifically look for black voices to support what you already feel or are inclined to believe, check your motives to see if this is really a reflection of a desire to learn and listen.”

    — And what black voices are you specifically looking for? What are your motives? I haven’t heard you bring up and give space to anyone who might contradict your narrative. I think it’s a fair question.

    “In a similar way, we all need to be aware of our “confirmation bias.” That is, we tend to seek out statistics that support our existing views while ignoring contrary evidence. As you engage in learning, be open to correction and be willing to change your mind, or even admit you were wrong! The most important thing to remember is that behind all the numbers are individual people with unique stories and specific hurts.”

    — I agree 100% So how have you demonstrated this in your approach? What space in your messages and resources have you given to those black leaders who have a different narrative than yours?

    “Practically speaking, here at Woodland Hills this means that we are seeking to learn from the leadership of black and brown spokespeople who share our basic understanding of the Gospel and of American history, especially those who we actually know and are in relationship with.”

    — So in other words, you’re only seeking to learn from those black and brown people who believe and think just like you after spending the entire post encouraging us to reach out to a variety of voices including those with differing opinions and convictions. Do you not see the problem with that? I mean, really?

    1. Emily says:

      Hi Jesse,
      In Woodland’s first year, we sensed that racial reconciliation was supposed to be a front burner issue for us. Of course we had no idea what that would entail, but we did know that because Jesus died to create “one new humanity,” racial reconciliation in the church is non-negotiable. Over the years as we’ve worked through how this plays out at Woodland, we’ve made a lot of mistakes! But we’ve also received a lot of input and help. Our hope is to pass along a few of the principles we’ve learned in our own years of stumbling as readers seek discernment and sift through the wealth of information. We also want to emphasize that the number one way we have grown in this area is not from pundits or commentators, but through listening to and learning from the real life, personal relationships we have with sisters and brothers of color in our church family.
      —Emily from the Communications Team

  2. 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.

Comments are closed.

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