I’ve debated over and over again whether or not to write this post because problems that lie just beneath the surface are difficult issues to address. Some people will think I’m stirring up unnecessary strife by sharing examples of racism I’ve seen. “Why do you have to bring this stuff up?” they will ask. Many believe the best way for us to deal with these problems is simply to ignore them, but I believe that is like allowing a wound to fester. It will only get worse until we apply the Gospel remedy.
Progress, but Not Perfection
I am so incredibly thankful to live in a country that has made so much progress in this area. We have come so far since the days of slavery and segregation. Every generation seems to have more and more love for their neighbor and appreciation for various cultures.
Fifty or sixty years ago it would have been hard to deny racism was a problem in America. It was obvious. It was blatant. It was undisguised. Today, where it exists, it is much more subtle. And in many places, it is virtually non-existent.
But because we’ve made so much progress in this area, I’m afraid it has made many people dismissive of the remaining issues. Some have never personally experienced racism, so they dismiss others’ claims of racism. They assume their neighbors are living in a perpetual state of victimhood, seeking attention, or playing the “race card” in order to gain an advantage.
So many people feel like the solution is, “Just stop talking about it.” I’m here to say that I have personally experienced far too much racism to think it isn’t a problem.
Some of My Personal Experiences with Racism
I know that if I (a 35-year-old white man who grew up in Kansas) have seen racism first-hand, it is still an ugly problem that needs to be addressed. I give you these examples, not to stir up controversy or to illustrate the fact that I think everyone is secretly racist. I don’t think that at all.
I’m sharing these examples to say, please stop saying racism doesn’t exist. Just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.
- Several years ago, I was having lunch with an elder from the church I attended and a young lady in her 20s, who also attended our congregation. Both of them were white. The issue of interracial marriage came up. The young lady asked me, “Isn’t interracial marriage against our religion?” I was stunned. As I cleared my throat to correct her misunderstanding, the elder spoke up. To my horror, he confirmed her bias and told her interracial marriage was sinful.
- At a different congregation, I was told by a white elder that black people are less civilized than white people because they came from tribes and huts in Africa, but white people came from civilized Europeans.
- This same elder often publicly lamented that it was no longer acceptable to use the “N” word. He honestly thought it was a horrible thing that he couldn’t call people that word, like he had when he was a young man.
- Once, while talking about self-defense with several white Christians, I heard story after story of situations when these people felt they needed to be carrying a gun. None of them were ever attacked or assaulted, they simply felt they were being followed by someone suspicious. Nearly every time, they said something along the lines of, “There was this black guy in the parking lot,” as if the term “black” was supposed to explain why they felt they were in danger.
- The President of the United States was recently accused of saying The United States should give preference to immigrants from countries like Norway and not from “s—-hole countries” (third-world countries). What appalled me was the number of white Christians I saw on social media defending the sentiment (even if they disapproved of the profanity). I saw Christians posting pictures of countries like Haiti, saying the people there are lazy and good for nothing.
- I do not have the time or space to share every racist joke to which I’ve been subject over the years, but suffice it to say I’ve heard the “N” word so many times it makes me sick.
Please don’t get defensive. And again, I’m not accusing everyone of being racist. I’m simply giving you a few real-world examples so you know there is still a problem that needs to be addressed; even if you’ve never personally experienced it.
Being Color-Blind Isn’t the Solution
Many would propose we just be color-blind; that we ignore racial, cultural, and ethnic differences and pretend they don’t exist. I used to think that was the best solution as well. But here are a few things to consider:
Jesus wasn’t “color-blind.” When he talked with the Samaritan woman, he was aware of her ethnicity. He was aware of the animosity and history between his people and her people. He recognized the fact that he was reaching across a cultural barrier. As the narrator, John draws the reader’s attention to the racial tension of the situation by writing, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9).
When the apostle Paul wrote to various churches, he didn’t tell the Christians to be ignorant or apathetic to the cultural differences that existed between Jewish and Gentiles Christians. He told them to be aware of those differences and be sensitive to them (see Romans 14). You cannot be aware and sensitive and be “blind” at the same time.
The Gospel is the Solution
The promise God made to Abraham, which is being fulfilled through Jesus, is the promise of a multi-ethnic family. God is bringing together people of every skin color, nation, tribe, language, and kingdom. He is adopting us into Abraham’s family (see Galatians 3); that’s what the Gospel is all about.
Jesus is creating a brand new multi-racial race, a multi-national nation (1 Peter 2:9). That’s why there is absolutely no room in the kingdom of God for nationalism or racism. The Gospel is directly at odds with the mistaken notion that your group is better than some other group.
And this is why every congregation needs to strive to be as diverse as the community in which it is located, because diversity in the kingdom of God is a direct testimony to the Gospel’s power. We must work hard to break down the dividing walls, bringing different ethnic and cultural groups together. We must stop thinking the Gospel is just about individuals going to heaven when they die; it is so much more than that. The Gospel unites humanity!
There is so much that needs to be said, but what needs to be done is simply this: walk by the Spirit. The Spirit, working in God’s community, will bring us together. When we walk by the Spirit, there will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Embrace the unifying power of the gospel and walk by the Spirit. That is our calling.
I love you and God loves you,