Posted by: worinld | March 1, 2008

10am on sunday morning is the most racially divided time in America

So, in my class that just finished, this statement (swap 10am for whenever your church meets) was posed…. And as I read Ana’s great post, I’ve been battling and mulling over what the implications of this is.

We live in a country that has a race problem. Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with me. Some will say that it’s just problems that you find with all people, and people choose to make it racial. Some people say that it’s a few people who are indeed racist, but most people aren’t. And researching/reading about these people, they live incredibly segregated lives.

And then I look at myself. I live in a poor city, predominantly black, living across a homeless shelter, and in a neighborhood of other folks who are section 8. Yet, somehow… I keep myself so ridiculously segregated. I walk into my house, and the world is outside, and here I am in my bubble. I invite people who are like me into my house. and I keep my neighbors out.

I firmly believe that church is the agent to bring reconciliation to the racial problem in this country. There is nobody else that really has the mission to bring about racial reconciliation…not personally, but socially. A book I was reading quotes Alexis de Tocqueville writing “as long as the American democracy remains at the head of affairs no one will undertake so difficult a task; and it may be foreseen that the freer the white population of the United States becomes, the more isolated will it remain”.

The implications of this is huge. Not only is it a matter of me breaking down barriers between me and my neighbors, but also, breaking down economic barriers (if you’re not living near people of other colors, how can you expect your church to be integrated. and if your community is of one color, why is that?) , Social (for anyone who may say that there’s reverse racism, why/how did it come to even that point?).

I have no answers. All I know is that I recognize a problem. And yes, I start with myself, but even if by God’s miracles, I am changed…. there’s still a huge problem out there. Church is the agent to bring about solution.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. hola. u pose some interesting issues… i’m going to put my two cents in.

    i don’t think it’s the church’s responsibility to bring about racial reconciliation in society… i think personally, if someone has serious racist issues, that guy might need a relationship with jesus. but socially, racial issues are intertwined with economic, cultural and ethnic issues, and to ask how our segregated churches speaks to all of those issues barely gets to the race issue. people who grow up in different contexts are moved by the gospel in different ways… different people, different needs, different churches.

    i think u address this mostly but there’s a dissonance between the title of ur post and the content. and i applaud ur ideals… i just think it’s a better idea to be a good christian wherever you are in life. if you (worldin) are moved to be a better neighbor to those guys across the street, then do it brother! but if you live with ur parents in a gated community (like me), the goal is not to move to a poorer, more dangerous neighborhood to crusade against racial issues.

  2. I think I agree both with the post and the comment. Both are important views, and I obviously have my own, as expressed in my prior post.

    I agree with chris, that not every single Christian’s goal is to move into poorer, more dangerous neighborhoods as the only ethical and Christ-witnessing way of doing so. I think simply being aware of the spiritual nature of the race problem (like every problem in this country, i.e. obsessive materialism, idolatry of capitalism, nationalistic arrogance, the inequalities of the penal system, just to name a few) and believing that there IS some role for every Christian to play in bearing witness to the GOSPEL in that situation, that’s a huge step beyond where we’re at today. And that will certainly not always mean a mass invasion of racial neighborhoods.

    But I think that simply recognizing the problem is the beginning. And where people DO have convictions and feel something stirring to respond to those challenges, we absolutely should encourage action over inaction.

    I’m not sure if I adhere to the thinking that the Church has the solution to everything. But I do like thinking that the Church has a witness to an infinite God to bear in every context, that there is not a single area in life where we can’t be brightly shining Christ-followers. I’m going to write a comment on my own post (how self-promoting of me) with some more thoughts in this vein.

    Good stuff, everyone.

  3. This was actually brought up at a performance I attended Friday night at a predominantly black church. The emcee for the evening followed it up with the point that we go to church where we’re comfortable, which struck me. Sure, I go to a predominantly Asian-American church, and I am not Asian-American, so I tend to unconsciously think of this as “doing my part”. But, in some way, I’ve gotten comfortable at this church.

    I don’t think comfort with people is necessarily a bad thing. But I do recognize that there is a tension between “building community”/being inward-facing–the natural relationship stuff that comes from becoming included and comfortable in a community–and continuing to be “inclusive”/”reach out”/actively love people who are not part of this comfortable community.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yeah, maybe not every Christian is called to move to a poor neighborhood in the name of racial reconciliation, but I do think that we who follow in the way of Christ are called to push boundaries of our own (cultural) comfort, even (especially?) in terms of the way (and with whom) we worship.

    My welcoming committe has a slogan that “awkwardness is overrated as a problem.” When I stop submitting to my own selfishness in terms of minimizing awkwardness, I remember Whom I’m ultimately trying to love. And then I am free to make a fool of myself according to my culture and learn to love people in ways that they understand.

  4. (sorry long reply. i go through a few disjointed thoughts. and please don’t take any of this personally…iron sharpening iron)

    “i think personally, if someone has serious racist issues, that guy might need a relationship with jesus.”
    Jesus doesn’t solve sin. I believe in Jesus, and I’m still pretty daggone sinful. To suggest that a relationship with Jesus solves the race issue, is a bit naive.

    I think we can take on the approach of “be a good christian wherever we are in our life” but that does nothing to help bring a change to the systemic problems that drive racism. If we are going to say, the poor black people in the ghetto just need to be better christians and ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’, I think we’re doing a piss poor job of extending the gospel to them.

    and yeah, church doesn’t have all the solutions. I agree. we have tons of problems ourselves. but imagine if every single church in america started making an effort to change the community that they were in to bring racial equality to where they are, imagine how different this country would look.

    I’ve heard the question… why multi-racial church? it’s so much easier to minister to your own people. to your own kind. you know…sometimes, that may be true. and, yeah, i’m not denying a role of an ethnic church. However, I strongly believe that if we as a church are truly ushering in God’s kingdom, we cannot go about doing church as we do it without seriously addressing the racial issues that surround the church, and the community that it is in. and it should be approached as why should we be of a single ethnicity/race rather than be multi and be able to justify that.
    if part of the justification is, well my whole town is white… I think the church has to seriously ask why is our church only white. where are the minorities, and why aren’t they able to come and live in our town. and how can we as a church address some of those issues, so that our town can be more integrated sooner rather than later.

  5. i just read an article about heterosexism and how the negative view of nonheterosexual behavior/identity/community is formed. the article goes through the cognitive and psychological process of forming these stereotypes/beliefs, behaviors that stem from it, and the consequences. basically, it’s a complicated issue.

    the questions about race that you bring up are extremely complex in the same way. you’re right, relationship with jesus doesn’t solve the whole race issue, but it does start with the individual and his/her personal decision to unwind their negative beliefs and selective perceptions. it’s going to the root of things and the roots of racism is crazy deep. and, reading this article on heterosexism, it seems as though it’s not just about race, but being exclusive towards any group of people in general.

    i guess i dont really understand what you’re suggesting? it seems like you go only so far as to say it’s something that needs to be talked about. and while i agree that dialogue is crucial.. honestly, i personally feel as though i’ve been in conversation for too long.

    i dont think a christ-centered church necessarily puts racial equality at the top of their agenda. maybe the call for all churches to make a move towards racial equality is too broad and too thin. could it start with our individual decision when looking for churches to join, to check out their vision and values, serve the community with the same heart, etc.

    “I think the church has to seriously ask why is our church only white. where are the minorities, and why aren’t they able to come and live in our town. and how can we as a church address some of those issues, so that our town can be more integrated sooner rather than later.”

    i can see how asking these questions are a good start. but to go farther, do you think there are certain policies that hinder the mobility of certain groups of people or encourage segregation? actualy yea.. i’m not really sure where we’d start.. that is, after the dialogue.

  6. i’m not suggesting dialog is the answer at all. it’s only the beginning. I too am frustrated by dialog, and this being such a huge problem, it seems like very few and very small steps have been taken.

    I’m also against the simple answer that ‘it begins with the individual’. if we simply leave it as an individual problem, the systemic issues will never be addressed. There needs to be a bigger solution. something beyond one.
    This sin goes far beyond what each individual person can do to bring reconciliation.

    affirmative action will not solve racism (much like overturning roevwade will not change people to value the life of an unborn baby). There needs to be a deeper rooted change that goes in the hearts of the people. how can that NOT be the church’s responsibility?

  7. I love and appreciate your passion about this, worinld (how DO you pronounce that??), and I was right with you up to the last comment at 3:08, when you said,

    “I’m also against the simple answer that ‘it begins with the individual’. if we simply leave it as an individual problem, the systemic issues will never be addressed. There needs to be a bigger solution. something beyond one.
    This sin goes far beyond what each individual person can do to bring reconciliation.”

    I disagree. What is the church but a community of like-minded individuals bound together by their pursuit of Christ? It HAS to begin with the individual. With you inviting those neighbors inside your walls, with me forming relationships with people I normally avoid. And then for us to resist the urge to get sanctimonius about it, and to just get on with it and help others to become more comfortable with those things as well without jamming it down their throats and trying to pressure them into it or guilt them into it, either.

    Too often we see big problems and lose heart, sit down, and wish that the government would take care of it. Complain, and wish the church would take care of it. Man, if only they’d institute this program or that policy, then this would start getting fixed, and I’d help! But it’s true — affirmative action won’t solve racism and overturning Roe v. Wade won’t change hearts toward abortion. What changes people’s hearts is loving them, each of us, individually, uncomfortably, passionately, determinedly, persistently, unconditionally.

    I guess it all starts with becoming acutely aware of our own failure in all this…like I am now.

  8. Jason: bravo on that comment.

  9. “I disagree. What is the church but a community of like-minded individuals bound together by their pursuit of Christ? It HAS to begin with the individual.”

    bound together…. if we’re truly bound together, can we ever put the community above ourselves? can church ever be more important than individualistic ideals? can we ever say, we as a church are embarking on something large and countercultural that we’re going to impact our communtiy together? (And by that, I don’t mean a program, cuz a program is never going to have that effect.)
    or am i just talking crazy talk, and is something like that immediately considered a cult?

  10. Yeah, I mean of course we can say it. We as a church are embarking on something large and countercultural that we’re going to impact our community together. Except, I think we say it in a descriptive way, when the individuals who make up the church begin to do it. Otherwise, it sounds like more empty words.

    If you mean that we shouldn’t only focus on doing it ourselves, individually, but should instead try to involve others and encourage them to become involved, I think I can see room for that, but I don’t think that works until the first individuals have started and can then encourage others to do the same.

    Is this the same thing with different words?

  11. “can church ever be more important than individualistic ideals? can we ever say, we as a church are embarking on something large and countercultural that we’re going to impact our communtiy together?”

    what you’re describing isn’t a cult, but most likely a modernist church with top-down leadership and vision. i say that because it sounds like what you’re describing is a few individuals who are very convicted by this certain issue leading the charge, with others who may be convicted by other related issues that are addressed different ways. so you’re dragging along people to tackle one aspect of a larger problem who aren’t particularly convicted by that specific issue. that’s not too far off from a pastor saying, “let’s prosthelytize to as many people as possible, because saving souls is the main concern.” while saving souls is important, as is addressing the racial problem or obsessive materialism or nationalic arrogance, we quickly lose sight of the complexity of the issue and it’s interlinkages to our society, along with everyone else’s issues and passions they hope to address. and if/when it doesn’t work out, those who are concerned about racism are left wondering, why doesn’t this church care about the issue i care about? isn’t the church supposed to be a countercultural community?

    thats what i think will happen anyway. but the whole point of beginning with the individual is that a movement ought to be organic, so it has to stem from the convictions and actions of individuals. simply charging the church with an anti-racism mission gives us a focus that might blur the periphery, which to me is the more important systemic depth and history of racism that can’t be undone unless individuals truly want to see it happen.

    this idea of “a bigger solution” sounds familiar to what Bill Easterly refers to as the West’s response to the White Man’s Burden. People see a big problem and want a big solution, and while their intentions are mostly admirable, it’s the people fighting the little battles that are really making a difference. Which is why I say, if you are so moved to resolve racial issues, then by all means do so (and i do mean, by all means). If that requires rallying others to share your conviction, then that’s great. but to say that the church should embark on a big solution is like posing the issue and then skipping all the important and life-changing steps necessary to get to that solution. in other words, the solution is not the church, but the process by which you, the individual, are addressing the issue.

  12. The phrase that comes to my mind is “being reconciled to all in Christ” while fully being aware that the phrase doesn’t solve all problems.

    I don’t know if it’s about us being aware of our failures as much as it is us being aware of the Gospel speaking into more than just our failures. The gospel (and by that I do not mean the 4 spiritual laws) speaks to the larger grace and reconciliation of ALL things in Jesus Christ. That doesn’t start with our failures, but starts from a place of victory. Or am I missing the point?

    Along with something Prisca alluded to, I think Sunday morning is also the most divided in sexuality. Something I’ve struggled with for about a week now is the issue of homosexuality within the Christian tradition. But I won’t get into more except to say that there is way too much segregation happening there.

  13. Chris: your apprehension is important, to avoid moralistic activism arising from ignorance and a fundamental lack of awareness, but I don’t think that we’re advocating a narrow-minded view.

    I too understand and value the importance of maintaining balance in the body of Christ, but I have put off trying to always express the most balanced view, because then I’d constantly be conveying the entire purpose of the entire Church (from my view, qualified and caveated on every angle) with every commentary.

    Yes, everything is nuanced and we need to contemplate deeply our personal stake in every action, and become far more educated in terms of both broad-stroke issues and real practical “solutions”, always with the understanding that no single specific view will ever be universally applicable. But then commentary itself begins to lose meaning, if we must always pre-qualify trends with individual application. For myself, I have certainly been moved to act because of a trend that began not within my own heart, but because of a fire I caught in the body of Christ. Is that not valid?

    Jadanzzy: Is Sunday morning divided in sexuality? Or is it simply exclusive of sexuality? That’s a very different sociological issue, to me, because the issue of race is literally an issue of what people look like, while sexuality is an issue of how people behave. People can’t hide their race in their public persona, or else it isn’t race; but people CAN (and do, I’m sure) hide their sexuality. Some of the reconciliatory ideas can translate over but my thinking is that in most churches, that conversation hasn’t even begun.

    I still maintain a traditional, personal theology regarding homosexuality, but as I’m beginning to do with everything else, I believe that there are distinctions between what is theological and what is ecclesiological. The lines are obviously very blurry and both inform each other, but I think that the way we do church, both with regards to race and sexuality, MUST change (but that doesn’t necessarily pose a “threat” to our reading of Scripture).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: