Thoughts to Consider As We Discuss Racial Tension and Injustice
Thoughts to Consider As We Discuss Racial Tension and Injustice
To check out the first blog in the series on Race and Justice clice here
First and foremost, I would like to take this time to personally thank Gregory Andrus and Eric Loyer for initiating this conversation on how the church can wisely address the racial tension and injustice in our nation. This typically isn’t a topic that your average white evangelical church gets involved with. It is a very intricate topic that many don’t want to get involved with, because they’re confused by the issue, feel that they don’t have anything to add to the issue, or are afraid to even broach the topic out of fear that they might offend someone or be labeled a social justice warrior. The easiest thing to do with a topic such as this is stamp on it, “not a gospel issue”, and move on. Whether or not Gregory or Eric believe this topic to be a gospel issue, they both recognize that people are grieving over the issue, and therefore they grieve.
Just like Eric, I sat here for a very long time pondering what to write. Since the day Eric asked me to speak on the topic of racial tension and injustices in our nation, ideas have been bouncing inside my head like a pinball machine. This is a topic that I engage in daily. I’m either reading on the topic, listening to a podcast on the topic, or engaging someone in conversation about the topic, so I don’t really know why I had great difficulty initiating this writing. Yet, it was hard for me to pinpoint where to start the conversation on racial tension and injustice. In fact, I’m not usually one who has trouble sleeping at night, yet I found myself up several nights this week well before I set my alarm clock wondering what in the world am I going to write about. With all of that said, I thought that I would add my own helpful considerations before we fully dive into this topic.
The primary reason that I detail these considerations is because I want us to remember throughout this discussion that our focus should be winning our brother or sister and not the debate.
1. The issue of racial tension and injustices in our nation is more complex and nuanced than we’d like to think or admit. This is important to note since when it comes to this issue, especially in the social media age, we’re not typically getting our information from a book or a scholarly journal, but instead our favorite news outlet or political pundit. From these sources, limited information is presented in bite sized pieces, which we process and then regurgitate via whatever social media outlet we utilize or with whoever we engage in an actual conversation. We’re essentially taking talking points from someone else and making them our talking points as we interact with others via social media or around the coffee machine in the office on different aspects of this topic that is currently popular in the mainstream media. Sorry, but normally taking someone else’s thoughts or ideas and presenting them as our own is considered plagiarism, but that’s not the biggest issue with this. The bigger issue with this is that these talking points allow us to talk over each other, instead of engage each other in actual fruitful conversation. It’s very hard to listen to someone when while they’re speaking you’re not actively listening, but instead focusing on your next response to what you believe they said. When this is done ideas are being lobbed back and forth, but no one is actual taking the time to chew on what is being said, because they’re not listening in the first place. We must remember, that as we partake in this conversation we must heed the words of James, we must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19).
2. Just because we’re having this conversation, I’m not making assumptions about you, so please don’t make assumptions about me or any other individual who might get involved with this conversation. As different topics and issues within this conversation occur, I’m not assuming you’re a racist, or a right wing conservative, or your typical white evangelical (whatever that is). Since I engage in this topic daily and believe it to be important, please don’t think that I’m a liberal social justice warrior. Eric did very well in his article to explain that us throwing labels at each other isn’t fruitful. Unfortunately, our tendency is to throw labels on each other, and only see the label instead of an actual person that we should be dialoguing with. This is why we probably tend to lob our ideas at one another via social media, instead of truly listening. As different topics surface concerning this issue, I encourage you to engage in the discussion and ask questions. Reflect on what was presented and ask yourself questions. If something presented confused you or you need further explanation, please seek out the author and ask questions. If you totally disagree with what was presented, or need something to be clarified further, please seek out the author privately. Far too often, I’ve witnessed authors on this topic be attacked via social media, because someone misconstrued what they articulated, and instead of confronting them and asking questions, they started a social media mob against the author. Seek the brother or sister out privately, and discuss these things. Remember, the purpose of these discussions is winning our brother or sister, not the debate.
3. This conversation might get uncomfortable for some. Let’s be honest, no one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings, and we as a church (American/Evangelical) and a country have many shortcomings. As different topics within this issue are brought up and dealt with we might learn that some of our family members or heroes partook in some egregious acts, or remained silent when they should have spoken up. We might even discover some hypocrisy in their theology. The important thing to remember here is that no one is attacking their faith or the greatness of this country. We’re not studying and learning these shortcomings to erase history or to put the church or our country down. We’re studying and dialoguing in order to learn from their mistakes so we can love God and our neighbor better.
4. The purpose of tackling these tough issues isn’t to divide us, but to unite us and draw us closer together. One of the common rebuttals from individuals who don’t want to address this issue is, bringing it up is causes division. I don’t know how dealing with this topic when we’re already divided is going to further divide us. As we look at our demographics nationally, and in the church, we are still for the most part segregated. Our neighborhoods and pews remind us of this continually. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted in 1963 that, “The most segregated hour in this nation is Sunday at 11:00 a.m.” Sadly, not much has changed in 54 years. Yes, we have made progress, but we can do much better. In my 42 years of life, I’ve never observed a problem getting resolved by ignoring it. This is why we must continue to address the issue of race and justice. It took us 400 years to get here, so we must realize that change is not going to happen overnight.
5. I don’t believe this issue is best served on social media, but would be better served in the local church. It is here that we can truly dialogue with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and fully address the issue.
I should be able to address one of my brothers or sisters in Christ if I’m grieving over something, and they should feel free to ask questions if they are confused or need a further explanation. Here is where we truly get to bear each others burdens (Galatians 6:2). Plus, the church should be about reconciliation and justice. Yes, the churches primary focus is the preaching of the gospel and making disciples, but we’re also called to seek reconciliation and justice. In Scripture, specifically in Isaiah 1:17 and Luke 11:42 we observe the Lord rebuke the people of Judah and the Pharisees for neglecting justice and refusing to correct oppression. In Ephesians 2:11-22 we observe that God has not only reconciled us to Him, but to one another breaking down the dividing wall of hostility. As we observe or learn about injustice and oppression, whether it be in the church or in our land, it is our duty to confront it. It is another way in which we can love our neighbor.
6. Although we’re engaging in this conversation, I’m a realist and know that we’ll never fully eradicate racism in the church or our country. Although this is true, as the Church, we still must address it. Just like any other sin, we will have to deal with racism until Jesus returns. But just like any other sin, although we acknowledge that it will always be an issue we still deal with it. We must remember that God takes sin seriously. In fact, God takes it so seriously that His wrath was poured out on His Son to have His justice satisfied, so that we would not have to endure Hs justice. If God takes sin seriously, who are we to treat sin lightly.
All in all, I pray these considerations are helpful as we embark on this journey together of dealing with racial tension and injustice. As we wrestle with different topics, may the Lord use this discussion for His glory, grow His church, and conform us more and more to the image of His Son.
Peter La Rosa