#RacialRec: Bloodlines ~ Are We Partial to Our Own Tribes?

Part Two/Section One: The Accomplishment of the Gospel

Natasha to Trillia: Dr. Piper makes a profound statement in Chapter Nine about the Doctrine (or teaching) of Racial Harmony. He writes that we desperately need a conviction “that all human beings, including me and you, are corrupt, depraved, guilty, and condemned. We are all under the just sentence of hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And the racial diversity of hell will be as great as it is in heaven, but there will be no harmony there (135).” When I read that statement, I thought, “When observing the divisions between people based on race and ethnicity, we get a very small glimpse of hell.” On the other hand, with Christ, the pursuit of Heaven is within our view. What would it mean if Christians did not place value on people based on their race or ethnicity, but rather approached people with the purpose of being agents of harmony? What would that look like?

First, regardless of where a person stands before the Lord (Christian or non-Christian), I believe we should view all people as made in the image of God (Genesis 1: 27). If we view people as made in God’s image, it automatically places value on that person. It would not matter what their race or ethnicity is, what would matter is the fact that they are created by God, bear His image, and are therefore valuable in our sights.

Secondly, I am convinced that we should not view people as merely wandering souls but souls on a destination to either Heaven or Hell. Jesus warns us that     we should not “fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).” That’s pretty strong. Jesus is kind to give us this warning. Hell is real. So when I see someone, I don’t want to be overly concerned with their race but rather I want to lovingly share the Gospel, if the Lord enables me to.

Ethnicity is important as far as learning about a person, connecting, understanding how to serve individuals and enjoying the goodness of God’s creation. But, how we view people should not be based on ethnicity or race. There is a much greater eternal circumstance at stake. Christians ought to have an evangelistic mindset when thinking of others. This would change much of the way we view people and would most definitely change our interactions.

True harmony starts with peace with God. We can have worldly harmony and peace, but true harmony begins with a right relationship with God. A renewed heart can view another renewed heart with the eyes of God. God views believers as clothed with Christ’s righteousness. He isn’t categorizing us like we categorize each other. In order for Christians to view other Christians with the eyes of God, we will need a major dose of humility and grace.

I’d have to say that in order for harmony and peace to be achieved some may need to repent of pride and humbly view others as more important than themselves. This is across the board. It is hard to do, but God in His great mercy can help us to view people with the right eyes.

Natasha, I answer this with the awareness that I must grow in viewing people with the right eyes. Oh, how this would affect every aspect of our relationships.

Bloodlines book coverTrillia to Natasha: In Chapter 10, Dr. Piper writes: “We are constantly in danger of feeling (even when we are not thinking this way) that God is partial to our tribe–that he has a special liking for our ethnicity and cultural norms.” Do you believe this to be true? If so, how have you seen it manifested in American churches? What about our American culture?

We are all in danger of loving ourselves more than we love others. From the perspective of ethnicity, however, I do not believe this statement is completely true. As you know, I have transitioned my research to include the “neglected voices of the church.” As a result, I have begun interviewing Indian, Hispanic, Asian, and African Americans and they are all Christians. In my research, a few things are becoming abundantly clear. Because I am an African American female, I am more aware of the stereotypes and injustices against Black people. Connecting with the realities of Indian, Hispanic, and Asian American histories and cultures has revealed to me, however, that our sisters and brothers from those ethnicities feel they are under the same microscope of inferiority. They too share mistreatments and an oppressed history in this country. They too are viewing themselves from the perspective that white people have placed on them. The question these minorities seem to ask themselves is not simply, “Am I good enough?” The primary question seems to be, “Am I American enough?” I may elaborate more on this topic in a separate post after I share more of the interviews.

But in response to your question of partially, the real question among minorities seems to be, “Am I good enough to have the white tribe’s approval?” So, it is not that these minorities feel as if God is partial to their tribe. On the contrary, they subconsciously believe that God is partial to white people who in many cases are still the “gatekeepers” in society and the church, so to get anywhere on this side of Heaven means gaining the approval of the white tribe.

I know this process of “tribe partiality” begins early with minority children in school systems. (Dr. Piper references this fact in some of his research summaries.) I have seen this play out in promising minority college students who are trying to prove that they are just as good if not better than their white counterparts. Somewhere along the journey towards maturity, we hope to grow out of this brainwashing that white is better. I’ll share a personal testimony of how this manifests itself.

I thought that I was over this whole idea that “white is right” awhile ago, that is until Dr. John Piper read one of our blogs. Not only did he read it, but he also shared the blog post through social media which led to record breaking blog hits that week. For approximately two or three days, I was excited! I figured this was a small win in the life of someone like me who believes part of the ministry God has placed before me includes writing. Then I got discouraged when the pike flat-lined and the hits were so small that it looked like no one was reading or had ever read my blog before or after that day. I got angry with myself for obsessing over the numbers.

The truth is: I don’t pay much attention to my blog stats. I write about the personal convictions that God places on my heart and I hope those reflections help people on their spiritual journey. I blog consistently to cultivate the discipline of writing. The truth is: Many people who I do not know read my blog and are blessed on a regular basis. I know this because I have had the rare opportunity of meeting a few of them. Others I may never meet. The truth is: people consistently read my blog from various countries that I have never visited. I know that because my husband takes care of all the technical stuff and he is actually the one who pays attention to the stats. The truth is: I write in obedience. And on one day, I lost sight of that obedience because I was too busy rejoicing that one of the tribal leaders had given me approval and somehow having the approval of the “white tribe” was supposed to validate the ministry of my writing.

The truth is: I was convicted for placing too much stock into the wrong thing. I could not wait until that particular day’s stats moved on from my blog calendar. I could not wait to return to sharing with those who actually read my blog because they care about the things I care about, and not just because John Piper said it was important enough to read. My writing and ministry was important before that day and it is still important afterward, whether Dr. Piper and his followers (though I appreciate them) recognize it or not. From my research and understanding, “the tribe of partiality” seems to still be the “white tribe,” and I for one am ashamed that I still sometimes subtly by in to that without even knowing it.

So what are your thoughts about it? Are you partial to your tribe? Do you really, truly value other ethnic tribes? How do we seek true harmony is light of these revelations?

We are discussing Chapters 11-13 next week.

© Trillia Newbell and Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012 #RacialRec

8 thoughts on “#RacialRec: Bloodlines ~ Are We Partial to Our Own Tribes?

  1. That is interesting. I don’t think that tribalism is limited to “the white tribe” as you have suggested. I wonder if we can all be tribal. Did I misunderstand you? I think we can all fall into the sin of partiality (James 2:1-9). Also I recently read a book Embracing Obscurity that really helped me understand my own desire for wanting significance that I didn’t even realize was there. It’s so good to remember that our true significance is found in Christ! That is where we can rest. Thanks for this discussion, Natasha! -Trillia

      1. Again, interesting. I read a piece recently that suggested the same thing…except it was in relation to how black women viewed themselves (beauty). Do you think we find our worth in man (as in white man) rather than in God? That is what I think I’m hearing. That’s too bad. I wonder if this would only be in certain areas or fields. I think this alone would be an interesting topic. May God grant us the grace to find our worth in Him alone!

  2. Yes, Trillia. I think we find our worth in man and God. May God grant us the grace indeed to find our worth in Him alone. The reality is also that He has created us for relationship/companionship. It is not good for man to be alone. So our relationship with others, how we view them/how they view us, whether or not we love well, etc is important. God’s design is for our relationship with Him and our relationships with others to complement each other. This is the highest commandment (singular), which means we cannot love God well if we do not also love our neighbors well. So the breakdown we see here, is not so much whether we find our worth in man rather than in God, but relationally whether or not we are loving others and being loved by others well. Unfortunately, we are not. May God help us indeed.

    1. This is a great conversation. Yes, I agree. That is one reason I am convinced that God intends Christians to be a part of a church. I do though believe that if we find our worth in anything other than God we need to examine our own hearts. I know I need to. We can look at society and psychology but at the end of the day God’s Spirit has to do a work so that we know our worth and value and significance is important not because of who we are but because we have been bought with a price. Thanks for the convo!

  3. There are so many good thoughts here! Thank you for raising the issue of seeing people as eternal beings. An analogy in a C.S. Lewis book once brought deep conviction for me, in whether or not I viewed others as they truly are, or just as they temporarily appear. God’s point for me was concerning a mentally-disabled neighbor girl who was friendly but belligerent. But it is very important when dealing with people of different race and culture. And I think that’s related to the second question about tribalism. It’s so natural, with our sinful nature, that we favor those who seem ‘closer’ whether family, tribe, race or country. And as believers in Jesus, we have to fight that like any other sinful tendency of our natures. Only supernatural power can cause us to truly love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Thank you, Natasha, for speaking so openly about your own roller-coaster on the blog-view role. It’s a common feeling for all of us, to want such positive feedback, but hard to admit! Your conclusion that there is a measuring-stick of success among a white audience is sobering, but not surprising. You are probably more aware of the studies of children of all races who at an early age define beauty and ‘rightness’ according to white characteristics. I can see that there is ‘tribalism’ within all races, and yet there also exists the desire to ‘make it’ according to the dominant culture’s definition.

    May God have mercy on each of us to truly love Him and our neighbor!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Kara. I believe we are all taking some critical steps here by admitting our failures, acknowledging that we need God’s grace and mercy to consistently move in the right direction, and noting that regardless of how spiritual we are, we do care what other people think. Another important step is happening through this dialog as well..we are intentionally opening our eyes to see others as God sees them. That’s what I try to do. That’s what you are acknowledging with your neighbor. This is a good thing.

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