To some extent, it's not an either/or; as we become more aware, we take action and as we take action, we become more aware. But too often we are stuck in the awareness phase, growing in our understanding without taking the critical steps to implement what we've learned. But all the awareness in the word won't change the systems and structures that are in place.
The Church has long been an agent of change. From its founding, the Church uprooted that status quo and disturbed authorities. The Gospel gives us a spiritual understanding of our social issues that should put feet on our faith. As Christians, we can publicly cast a vision for what our world could be.
As the world asks tough questions about race and injustice, the Church must be ready with answers, both in our words and our actions. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said "If you’re going to be compassionate, be prepared for action." So what can the Church do?
The following are some of my ideas for first steps, next steps, and big steps. Some steps we can take as individuals, some as congregations, some as the broader Body of Christ. Some steps are easy, some require more risky. Some may be appropriate for where you are in your journey, others may be good steps to suggest to someone you are helping along the way. But we each must take action no matter where we are on the path.
First Steps: Changing Beliefs
These for folks just starting out. It's all news. The concepts are foreign. The terrain a bit scary. The
other sections build from here, but it never hurts to circle back to these foundations.
- This, of course, is foundational to everything we do as Christians. We must "pray without ceasing" and as God to mold us into God's likeness, conforming our hearts to God's will and vision for this world. As a first step, try this prayer:
“Triune God, help us be ever faithful to your example: affirming of our unique identities, while remaining unified as one body in You. Help us seek out the voices that are missing, and empower the marginalized. Let our witness of repentance, justice, and reconciliation bring glory to You, O Lord”
- As we pray to conform our hearts to God's will, we must fill in the gaps of our own education, the many things that have been left out because of cultural bias along the way. This includes reading scripture with cross-cultural eyes, and learning from theologians that are not from the dominant culture. It means seeking out books, movies, music, blogs, and speeches from cultures and histories that are different than your own. It can even mean learning about the history of your own neighborhood or church as a window into how race has shaped the world around you today.
- Healthy relationships can only be formed on the basis of the previous two. They all go hand-in-hand. It requires those typically in the majority to humble themselves and to be lead and taught in authentic relationship by those around them from different cultures. It cannot be be done in a tokenizing manner and it cannot be rushed. There is no substitute for honest, holy, trusting relationships.