More commonly asked questions on racism. If you haven’t done so already, check out part I.
- Has the American church really been complicit in racism?
- How come I cannot just focus on “sharing the gospel?”
- As a Christian, am I obligated to speak up against racism?
- Why can’t Black people and people of color just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps?”
- How can I help?
1. Has the American church been complicit in racism?
Sunday to Saturday: Absolutely. Read or watch The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby for a thorough exploration of how the majority of American churches have been complicit with racism both explicitly and implicitly.
“Rather than challenge the institutions that buttressed the subjugation of African Americans over time, which is what we should have done as Christians because race-based slavery is unbiblical, sinful and un-Godly, we succumbed to it. We submitted to it because people around us made tremendous profits off of the labor of enslaved Africans.” Otis Pickett, “Race and the American Church – Part V.” Reformation21, 9 July 2015. https://www.reformation21.org/articles/race-and-the-american-church-part-v.php
“The failure of many Christians in the South and across the nation to decisively oppose the racism in their families, communities, and even in their own churches provided fertile soil for the seeds of hatred to grow. The refusal to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. Indifference to oppression perpetuates oppression.” Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 14-15.
2. How come I cannot just focus on “sharing the gospel?”
Sunday to Saturday: This is similar to the colorblind question. Without acknowledging our neighbor’s needs, whether that is hunger, discrimination, etc., simply sharing the gospel is meaningless. The Bible is explicit that we are to love people with our words and actions (1 John 3:16-18).
“What a lot of people want to do is carve out this compartment in another person called the soul, pull it from the individual, recite to it the four spiritual laws while having nothing to do with the person whose soul it came out of. Give them the gospel so that the soul can now go to Heaven, take the soul that is now saved, put it back in the person, (and) have nothing to do with the person – but at least I gave them the gospel. But Jesus flipped the script. He says before I give you the gospel I am going to drink from your cup (John 4). I am going to gain the right to share the good news by letting you know I am not skipping your person to this invisible part of you called your soul.” Tony Evans, “Oneness Embraced: Racial Reconciliation, the Kingdom and Justice.” ERLC Podcast, 2 May 2017, https://www.stitcher.com/show/erlc-podcast/episode/oneness-embraced-racial-reconciliation-the-kingdom-and-justice-74968338
3. As a Christian, am I obligated to speak up about racism?
Sunday to Saturday: Yes. We are called time and time again to speak up for those that are oppressed in the Bible, but we must do it with respect.
“Much of the talk about racial reconciliation really ends up with a racial toleration as a result of exhaustion. We become exhausted and fatigued about talking about it. But it is America’s original sin. I love America, but when you love something that does not mean you ignore its imperfections. Where do you do that at? If you love your marriage you do everything that you can to improve it. If you love your church you do everything that you can to improve it If you love your children you do everything you can to cause them to thrive and flourish. And sometimes that means addressing things that they do not want to address. And saying things that may be hard to hear.” Dr. Eric Mason. “S1, E4: Dr. Eric Mason.” The Dharius Daniels Podcast, 2 June 2020, https://open.spotify.com/episode/34kyRydF6mTGQRnoSmznFI
“The church should be leading. There is clearly a problem here and we can’t fix it ourselves. We have sinned before God and we need to bring that into part of our spiritual disciplines not only for the individual but for the church…We have got the language that should actually lead our communities into actual repentance because we have been granted a rightness because we have sought forgiveness.” Soong-Chan Rah, “Prophetic Lament: The Answer to Injustice – Soong Chan Rah” YouTube, uploaded by VergeNetwork, 22August, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyMzrjfRTGo
“The ‘pray and let God take care of it’ cop-out concerning racism is problematic from a biblical perspective. When your child cuts her knee and is bleeding profusely, you don’t just pray and wait. You urgently clean and bandage the wound because God has given you the means to address it. Accordingly, why would one only pray and wait when our brothers and sisters are being terrorized by racial injustice? God uses his servants to do his work, and majority Christians have the social and political capital to dismantle racism in all its forms.” Justin Giboney, “The Absence of Injustice is Not Justice.” Christianity Today, 11 September 2020, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/september-web-only/absence-of-injustice-is-not-justice.html
4. Why can’t Black people and people of color just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps?”
Sunday to Saturday: This is a myth. We all have had help in life. Phil Vischer wrote a fantastic article that peels back the layers of his life to show how he has benefited from other people’s work.
“This bootstrap theory is one of the most damnable lies being preached in America today. There is no such thing as pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Nobody pulls himself up by the bootstraps. Any of us who are anything at all are there because somebody opened some doors, somebody gave us some breaks, somebody provided some opportunities. In the case of black people, it is difficult to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when somebody keeps cutting the straps.” Tom Skinner, “Tom Skinner Urbana 1970” YouTube, uploaded by Urbana Missions, 29 January 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvKQx4ycTmA
5. How can I help
Sunday to Saturday: Educate yourself. Lament. Pray. This is what Sunday to Saturday is attempting to facilitate. See our framework for a pathway to engagement and our guided learning paths to dig deeper.
“You must first educate yourself so you know exactly what you are standing for and why you’re standing because the only way we can solve this issue is through exposure, through education, through compassion, and through empathy.” Emmanuel Acho, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” YouTube, uploaded by Emmanuel Acho, 3 June 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8jUA7JBkF4
“Processing and engaging with matters relating to racial and socioeconomic inequality takes time. You may be compelled to try and to take action or use your influence to fix an issue. However, you may do more harm than good if you do not take the time to listen, learn, and grow in your own heart first. Tension is accompanied by discomfort. Discomfort leads to prayer, repentance, and growth. Engage discomfort. Embrace it and learn from it. It has a lot to teach you.” David Docusen, Neighborliness: Finding the Beauty of God Across Dividing Lines, (Austin, TX: Fedd Books, 2020) 60.
“Take the posture of a learner. Some, but not all, majority folk want to go ‘help’ these poor minorities and help them see the light. You want to get rid of the white saviorism mentality and not view yourself as a savior to help these poor people, but rather take the posture of the learner, put yourself in spaces where there are people from different ethnic groups…listen to their stories of injustice. Listen to the stories about how they have experienced racism. Listen to the narrative where they have come from.” Jarvis Williams. “Tips for Ongoing Racial Learning and Growing – Dr. Jarvis Williams” YouTube, uploaded by VergeNetwork, 2 August 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdxn7rGl8p4
“For churches today to engage in racial justice and reconciliation, intentional efforts must be made at the leadership and organizational levels. Structural change must be a priority in personnel and policy decisions and in the regular preaching schedule, as it is in many black churches.” Walter Kim, “The Long Obedience of Racial Justice.” Christianity Today, 10, July 2020, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-web-only/long-obedience-of-racial-justice.html
More curated resources on racism:
BOOK: Jesus and the Disinherited
When a major cultural event, such as George Floyd’s murder, shifts the focus of a country, it is easy to assume that critiques of the American church and racism are a recent phenomenon. Oftentimes we are simply unaware of prophetic voices from the the past such as Howard Thurman and his quintessential Jesus and the…Read more
BOOK: Reading While Black
White men have had a monopoly on Biblical interpretation in the West and the United States for hundreds of years, and many voices of women and minorities have not been allowed to bring their valuable insight into Biblical analysis. Dr. Esau McCaulley’s Reading While Black is his attempt to add to the canon of black…Read more
PODCAST: Is Critical Race Theory compatible with Christianity? Neil Shenvi & Rasool Berry
Christian apologist Neil Shenvi and pastor of The Bridge Church (Brooklyn, NY) Rasool Berry debate the many definitions of critical race theory – what it is, what it isn’t, the nuances, and the sticking points. Shenvi and Berry role model what is it like to have a conversation with a fellow Christian, but disagree about…Read more