Racism {Part 2}

Editor's note: In the following days, we will be posting a multiple part series on the subject of racism that Pastor Bryon addressed on Sunday (click here to view his message). Check back Saturday (6/6) at noon for a new post. The conversation will continue in this Sunday's message 6/7 and blog post to follow that message. 

In my first post I shared of the pre-eminent necessity of first seeking the God of justice when we seek to pursue justice in the world. What else should we do during this period of praying and waiting on God to use our time well? In 2 Peter 1:5 we are told to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge.” So here is my challenge to everyone as a first step to understanding racism in America, especially to anyone who has a background similar to mine which was not ethnically diverse: read. A lot. And I don't mean Facebook or from a news feed, though you may occasionally find some good content there. Read books. Read from people who have a different perspective. Meet in small groups and talk them over and work out the ideas in them for what to do next. Do so with people who come from different backgrounds who you might not know well yet.

There’s a reason I think this self-education on race is so important. I went to a small, midwestern, conservative Christian college for my Bachelor’s Degree where we had an hour long chapel service every day and everyone graduated with at least a minor in Bible. I do not recall a single chapel service that was devoted to the issue of racism in the world or in the church. It never in came up in my course on church history and was never part of any required reading assignments. I also don’t recall a sermon on it outside of school. I was woefully uninformed and unaware of the realities of daily life for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are people of color. I have found doing the work of reading and studying has made a profound difference in how I view the world around me and the pervasive impact of racism.

While I still have much to learn, it was through the process of consuming literally thousands of pages worth of excellent books on this that my understanding and opinions began to change. My own conviction is that the Church cannot lead the world on a path of racial reconciliation and restoration, until we first repent and do the hard work of humbly understanding both our past and current upholding of systems of white supremacy and white privilege. While the church can look back in appreciation and respect to the work of leading abolitionists and the example set by groups such as the Quakers, it should also reflect on the tortured division of the church in this area.  If that sounds exaggerated, consider this writing from Frederick Douglass in 1845:
“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference – so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity . . . He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me . . . The warm defender of the sacredness of family is the same that scatters whole families, - sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers . . . we have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles . . .”

To add to this, consider the strength of the KKK in the first half of the 20th century through desegregation. As Jemar Tisby notes in The Color of Compromise, “It’s estimated that 40,000 ministers were members of the Klan, and these people were sermonizing regularly, explicitly urging people to join the Klan. The KKK’s dedication to race and nation rose to the level of religious devotion because of its overt appeal to Christianity and the Bible.” Read that first part again. 40,000 ministers were members of the Klan. The idea that if people just come to know Jesus and take part in regular church service, racism will naturally fade away on its own is naïve. We cannot turn a blind eye to the reality that the Church in America has not been a consistent or unified force for racial freedom and equality. A deep humility forged from sincere repentance should be the indelible fingerprints marking our empathy towards and engagement with our brothers and sisters who are people of color in the face of current expressions of racial hatred.

In bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8), I believe the Church in general and our church in particular could have a uniquely constructive role in improving the relationship between the police and minority communities and address the specific flashpoints of the current crisis. According to a research article published in August 2019 in the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, “Over the life course, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police . . . Black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the life course than are white men. Black women are about 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than are white women” (click here for source). (This report reveals as well that American Indian men and women and Latino men are more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts.) Let’s take advantage of the openness of police departments to address this issue.  For example, on the Cherry Hill Police Department Facebook page today, June 5th, Police Chief William Monaghan stated:
We are aware of a scheduled protest this evening that will end here at our Police Station. Please let us assist you in voicing the need for change. All are invited to remain at the police station after the protest is over to meet and speak with our Officers. Weather permitting, Cherry Hill Police Officers will grill food and serve water for anyone that wants to stay after the protest and meet with us. Change happens one positive contact at a time. Let tonight be a positive contact so we can start to effectuate the change that is drastically needed in our Country.

Let’s pray together, study together and work together for constructive change. Let us, continually assisted by the grace of God, be salt and light by working to reform and renew the systems of this world to be more aligned with the Way of Christ, to make them increasingly fair, compassionate and just. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

For more on how law enforcement and the faith community can work together:  https://www.nlc.org/article/how-law-enforcement-and-the-faith-community-can-work-together-for-cities

by Steve Lamp
Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.