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Friday, April 9, 2010

Why It Is Important

How is it that the IRS and P&G are more integrated than God's house is? We may be able to legislate behavior and actions (important to do!), but issues of the heart are beyond the reach of governmental or corporate regulation. This is why we need the Church. The Church cannot ignore issues of race and racism; it hurts our witness to the world and obscures the cross.

The issues of race and the white Church have historically converged into one of the most fundamental and egregious errors in American Christian history. For Sunday morning to STILL be the most segregated hour is a travesty.

Is it just a matter of comfort? Just preference for one's own worship style? Is it really such a big deal and surely it's not really a matter of racism?!

Consider what Spencer Perkins says in his co-authored book  More Than Equals :
 "white christians' decisions to choose comfort of their own race over the Christian ideals of brotherhood and oneness that our gospel so boldly preaches have undoubtedly weakened their witness to the African-American community. Because blacks have not been able to distinguish between white Christians and white non-Christians when it comes to racial issues and separation, major issues...become confused" (p. 32)
It's a convicting statement, and a view echoed by James Baldwin (video here). When it comes to white Christians, the image of an allied seeker of racial justice and reconciliation simply does not jump to the minds of our sisters and brothers of color. In fact, the white Church has a depressing history of being sluggish and neophobic in nature when it comes to race (for some telling research studies and statistics along these lines, check out Divided by Faith. No punches pulled there).

Perhaps it's time for the majority to become a little more uncomfortable. It's a reflection of white folks' privileged to be able to avoid situations in which we are the only ones in a house of worship of our own race. And after a moment when we do experience the awkward self-awareness that such an experience can bring, we can easily and quickly retreat to an all-white world without enduring much sacrifice.

How can we be so timid to experience the discomfort to which many of our sisters and brothers in Christ have had to grow accustomed on a daily basis in the workplace, in schools, and in the church? Because we have these privileges, I believe it is white folks’ responsibility to intentionally act to ease the burdens of racism by actively educating ourselves and working for change, particularly in the church where our claim is Holy love.

It is for a similar reasons that I feel it is important for me, a white person, to be talking about race. White people don't tend to talk about race at all--positively or negatively. We have been trained by too many hushed words and too many winks and nods that it is a taboo topic. You are apt to say something stupid and get yelled at or....well...that's pretty much the only outcome, so we think. But silence breeds ignorance.

Conversely, many POC have heard too many stupid comments from white people about race. They shouldn't have to bare the constant responsibility of educating ignorant people like me. But what a predicament for a white person to find herself in!

We need redeemed white people to step up and take on some of the burden. Those of us that have been blessed with patient POC sisters and brothers must share what we know with our white counterparts. What is more, having experienced the privileged majority status, we recognize and remember the allure of flawed logic and misinformation. Therefore, we can offer an understanding ear when a white sister says "Oh, I just don't see race. I'm colorblind" and then proudly declare the beauty of the colors that God has allowed us to experience, renouncing our colorblindness, helping her to do the same. We can hear the venomous words of prejudice and know that we can educate, perhaps preventing those words from ever reaching others' ears.


  1. I recieved the following comment from 
    Jen Marshall Duncan, but for some reason Disqus is being weird and wouldn't publish it. Anyway here is what she said:

    "You followed me on Twitter and I decided to check out this blog so that I could decide whether or not to follow back. I was really hesitant because I am not at all religious, but this blog and I are both very passionate about the same issues. So I followed back on twitter and have now come to this post...which has me really deeply reflecting about why I am not religious. This post perfectly describes why I am uncomfortable in churches. My children do not feel comfortable or welcome in a place where no one else looks like them. I am so glad to read about your mission to change that. Thank you for the work you do and for finding me on twitter!"

    Jen, you are welcome to try again so you can be a part fo the thread or we can leave as it. 

  2. Thanks for visiting despite misgivings! I definitely understand your hesitancy. The Church has really messed up on a lot of fronts, and race ranks right up there. smh. Slowly but slowly we work for change...


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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