Moody Part 3: Why Don’t We Want to Talk About Race in the Church?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince the “Racial Reconciliation” feature on Moody’s Midday Connection earlier this month, I have been continuing the race conversation with weekly dialog on the blog concerning issues that were raised through the broadcast. Thus far, we have answered the question, “Why Pursue Racial Reconciliation,” and discussed the issue of Race and Politics in the Church.

Today, I want to close the discussion by responding to some of the questions and issues raised through emails received after the broadcast. Of course, I cannot cover all topics here, so I have decided to lump several responses together in an effort to capture the “big picture” of what I believe people were trying to communicate. Additionally, I have selectively chosen to address and present the comments where people seemed sincere in their desire to grow and continue a healthy dialog.

1. Let’s open the discussion with the question, “Why don’t we want to talk about Race in the Church?” That’s one question I would like people to comment on today.

One commenter believes the reason is grounded in fear:

Fear of diversity and communications are at the front of this in my mind. If we were to face the fear of diversity itself as Christians-we would have to look in the mirror and that is scary because Jesus may ask us to do something racially outside our comfort zone and thus the hesitancy to try.  

I agree with this commenter that fear is part of the problem. Not only do we have a fear of diversity, but I believe we that collectively, we have a larger fear—a fear of change. As human beings, we are most comfortable with what we already know. Most of us are not inclined to enter troubled waters without a life jacket. Having a race conversation confronts people, challenges us all to look at ourselves to evaluate our hearts and actions in light of what the Bible teaches, and prompts us to change. So again, the race conversation and the pursuit of racial reconciliation are not ends, but rather the means of getting to the bigger picture of what God wants to do in and through us. Which beckons the question, “Do we really want God to change us?”

2. Check Our Reality at the Door

What I heard while reading several of the comments was, “We are really not that bad.” The problem with this, as I see it, is the comfort that many Christians have concerning the issue of sin (at least their “acceptable” sins). At the heart of this problem is the sin of pride, which is also a lack of humility. God loathes the first character trait, and he encourages the latter. What I have learned in my studies and convictions about humility is this:

a.) Apart from Christ and even in him, I really am worst off than I think. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote:

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:18-25a [NIV])!

In light of this truth, I have read and reread the small segment on brokenness from Peter Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. In it, he suggests we can measure our level of brokenness by determining how “offendable” we are (pg 128). He presents the image of a broken person as one “who is so secure in the love of God that she is unable to be insulted. When criticized, judged, or insulted, she thinks to herself, It is far worse than you think (pg 128)!” Here are other questions to consider: Are we broken over our own sin? Are we willing to consider the areas where God is digging up hard ground and challenging us in “sin” areas that we thought were covered or ok? Or are we more prone to go on attack and ignore the method God has used to bring this particular sin to the forefront?

b.) I do not want to be humbled by God. In my studies, I have noticed a sharp contrast between those who humble themselves before the Lord and those the Lord humbles. I try daily to stay in the former group because the latter is much more painful experience (and normally comes after many rejections of his previous warnings).

3. The problem when well intentioned people say, “I don’t see race or I don’t see color.”

In his book, Bloodlines, John Piper makes a distinction between “race” and “ethnicity” noting that “ethnicity” is a more appropriate term when discussing various people groups and their cultures. The Bible states that “from one man he [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he [God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).” This New Testament passage provides fundamental truths concerning people and their heritages. This is what we learn from it:

a.) From one man, first Adam and then Noah, God has made all people. In this sense, as God’s image bearers (Gen. 1:27), we are all equal and the same in the eyes of God and we should treat each other that way.

b.) Likewise, God determined the set times and places where each of us should live. Being born at a particular time, in a particular place is ordained by God and therefore important for he perfect purposes. The realities of who we are and what communities we are born into is important to God, done with intention by him, and should not be ignored by us. Our ethnic and cultural identities should be embraced, cultivated, and valued among all, particularly within the body of Christian believers.

c.) Why? God has done this so that humankind would seek him and perhaps reach out to him. Therefore, we close this conversation (at least for now) in the same place where we began it a few weeks ago. God values diversity in his body of Christian believers, and we are a healthy body (I Cor. 12) when our differences are not a source of division but rather and means of helping all of us see God more clearly and draw closer to him. Our diverse Christian body is also a means God uses to evangelize people from diverse backgrounds and draw them into his kingdom.

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013

 

7 thoughts on “Moody Part 3: Why Don’t We Want to Talk About Race in the Church?

  1. I think we do talk about race in the church. Unfortunately, the discussion is often with other folks who think and look just like us. We don’t often get the perspective of the lucid other side of the argument. Race is the backdrop of so many cultural issues. Poverty, Education, Immigration, Abortion, Housing …can’t be talked about without talking intelligently about race relations in the USA. Too many folks have chosen to believe that civil rights laws were the be all and cure all. Nope.Mistake.

    I think the church does want to talk about such things. Many pastors feel ill equipped to guide the conversation. I suggested on the show that perhaps churches look to urban ministry partners as a potential resource for facilitation. There’s an interesting set of DVD’s at http://www.urbanentry.org which I have used to great effect in helping have a discussion about race.

  2. Why don’t we talk about it?

    1) Because it’s hard. Most of us try, at some point in our life, and almost always we will be hurt, or hurt someone else, and probably both. Without guidance and a vision for the importance of persevering, we wilt in the face of what we’d really like to do. Looking at the history of intentionally cross-cultural churches and relationships shows us that it is never a painless and easy process!

    2) Our culture is so much a part of us that it’s truly difficult to understand those who are of other cultures. And ethnicity is based in culture as well as skin color. We are by nature selfish, and our experiences tell us ‘what the world is really like.’ It takes intentional effort, and humility, to understand that others of different skin color, language or culture experience the world in a truly different way.

    I agree with what you write, as well, about fear. But I would add that I have a fear of doing the wrong thing and offending someone. When I want to bring up race or culture issues among my friends of different ethnicities, I am scared I’m going to say something wrong. What you wrote about brokenness is good for me to hear. When I ask a question, I may reveal how ignorant and prejudiced I am, but that is a good thing among grace-filled friends who will call me on it. May I truly have the courage, based in humility, to risk seeing the condition of my own heart!

    1. Hi Kara, I love what you communicate here about the importance of “grace-filled friends.” In other words, we need safe communities in which to have these important conversations and courageous people to act as a result of what they have learned. Thanks for making the efforts and putting yourself out there to be vulnerable in choppy waters. Blessings, Natasha

  3. This is the perpetual hot button because race is real in the minds of the privileged and those who are not, simply because we all interact around its effects. In church we are in perplex of a paradox because we are trained to deny the flesh. This attitude often times causes a removed sense of obligation to this area. And this area of disscusion is not a comfortable one therefore many believers tend to deny it also or only gloss it over by a program I.e. Black History Month or Martin Luther King day observance, or a project.

    If one breaks a bone, they may be the most faith filled believer, but they will still go to the doctor. Racial identity, racial bias, racism, privelage, the race card, tribalism, tokenism and and the power dynamic etc. are all very real. These are the very real fractures in the body that ultimately hurts those on all sides of the Cultural Divide. We need to pray but we need to also continue the conversation around its effects. The late Richard Twist said “be human and follow Jesus”.

    Excellent article Natasha!
    Kevin Robinson accord1.wordpress.com

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