- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue Between Christians
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #1
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation Dialogue: Dennae #1
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #2a
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #2b
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae 2a
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae #2b
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3a
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3b
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3c
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Scott #3d
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae 3a
- Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation: A Dialogue, Dennae 3b
What’s driving today’s polarization around race? And what’s the answer?
Two narratives are unfolding. One emphasizes systemic injustice and institutional racism. It views the problems black people face as sourced outside their community and attributes these problems to historic slavery and pervasive, systemic white oppression.
The other narrative emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility; evil is rooted in human hearts. Yes, white racism persists, but much bigger challenges confront the black community, challenges that can be overcome by the actions and decisions of black people in ways that are not ultimately dependent on the actions of white people.
Here’s the next in our current series, A Dialogue on Racism and Christian Racial Reconciliation.
Dear Andrew and Dennae,
Thank you so much for this opportunity to engage with you both in a Christian dialogue on issues of racial injustice. This discussion is being prompted by the emails sent out by you, Dennae, and the Surge Network you direct, on June 13 and 17 announcing the formation of a new initiative called “Arizona Churches Stand Together for Black Lives.” As you wrote, your goal for this network is to take steps towards “peacemaking, racial reconciliation, and repair among our Black and Brown communities.”
I deeply appreciate your heart for racial reconciliation and peacemaking, and praise God for the leadership and hard work you are putting into this effort.
I share your heart. The Disciple Nations Alliance, where I serve as president, is a biblical worldview discipleship ministry that focuses on the power of biblical truth to transform broken, impoverished communities. Biblical teaching on ethnic unity and reconciliation are central to our training. I’ve personally been involved in racial reconciliation efforts both in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide, and in South Sudan in the years following its separation from the north.
One human race
As you well-know, the Bible has incredibly powerful teaching that leads to racial equality and unity and undercuts racism. For example:
- There is only one race—the human race—with Adam and Eve as our common ancestors.
- All people, regardless of their ethnicity or skin color, are made in God’s image, with God-given dignity, worth, and rights to life and liberty.
- All people, regardless of ethnicity or skin color are fallen rebels. In the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the line between good and evil doesn’t run between racial groups, or between males and females, or classes, or political parties, or any other group. It runs “through every human heart.”
- We are all in need of grace and forgiveness, which God extends to all who believe—equally—no matter our class, sex, ethnicity, or skin color.
- “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28, italics added).
Where these incredible powerful truths take root in a culture, transformation happens, slavery is abolished, racism is undercut, and racial reconciliation is possible.
I have no doubt that both of you share my passion for these powerful truths.
I should also say that I’m a big supporter of the Surge Network, and have been greatly blessed by many of its leaders, in particular Tyler Johnson, Josh Prather, Michael Goheen, and Chris Gonzales. We share a passion for the local church, and a wholistic approach to ministry that encompasses gospel proclamation and social and cultural transformation.
A new definition of racism
Turning now to the issue of racism in America today, I’ve observed fairly substantial changes in the broader culture on this issue going back to at least 2012 and the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, the rise of the Black Lives Matter organization and movement around 2013, and the race riots in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown one year later. Here are a few of my observations:
- The definition of racism is now contested in a way that it wasn’t 20 years ago. The same applies to words like “equality” and even “justice.”
- There is a new emphasis on structural or systemic racism (and, more broadly, systemic injustice). The police and the criminal justice systems are regularly identified as prime examples of systemic racism.
- There is a relatively new lexicon of words and phrases that were almost unheard of twenty years ago. These include “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white fragility” and of course, the colloquial expression “woke.”
- The history of the United States is contested today as never before. It is increasingly common for people to portray the U.S. as a fundamentally racist nation founded and established in ways that would ensure racial inequality (the basic message of the New York Time’s 1619 Project).
In your two emails, I noted places where these themes were reflected.
- You quoted my friend Linda Morris, who said, “Racism is in the soil over every inch of our country and every seed of sin planted in it bears fruit.” You then emphasized this by implying that racism is “interconnected to every system within America.”
- You spoke about how “the sin and consequences of systemic racism are exposed for all to see.” In your second email, you wrote, “If you are serious about change, understand it must be structural, systemic and organizational.”
- You spotlighted one resource in particular that churches should use to begin their journey of racial reconciliation, Be The Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison. As you know, Ms. Morrison has a course called “Whiteness 101” where she teaches white evangelicals to develop their white identity, acknowledge their white privilege, overcome their white fragility, and recognize white supremacy.
- You implied that all white Christians are complicit in the sin of racism. You wrote: “don’t concern yourself with being ‘not guilty.’ Jesus loves the church too much to offer simple solutions to appease guilt … embrace feelings of guilt and shame, and be curious about it. Don’t be concerned with hearing what you need to do in order to be ‘not guilty.’”
- You suggested action items that people should take, including joining “peaceful demonstrations seeking to address police brutality,” and encouraged Christians to prioritize voting for candidates who seek to “demilitarize the police.” Yet I was puzzled that prioritizing candidates with pro-life voting records didn’t make your list, notwithstanding the horrific number of innocent lives (and particularly black lives) aborted in the United States each year.
What is systemic racism?
Given how contested these issues are in the broader culture, I would love to dialogue with you in ways that bring clarity. Here are some questions that I would appreciate exploring with you.
- How do you define racism?
- How do you define systemic or structural racism?
- Do you consider all white people to be complicit in racism in ways that they should feel a sense of moral guilt about?
- Latasha Morrison in her Be The Bridge curricula uses the words and phrases “white privilege,” “whiteness,” “whitesplaining” and “white fragility.” How do you understand these words/phrases, and their importance in furthering racial reconciliation?
- Can you clarify what you mean when you say racism covers “every inch of our soil” and is “interconnected to every system?”
Again, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to engage with you both on these important topics we care so deeply about.
May God bless you and sustain you as you seek to do His work.