There have been a myriad of acts of racial wrongdoing historically led by White Church leaders and congregations in America. These documented wrongs not only caused violence against the Black community, but are very present in systems causing harm and a lack of trust in the Body of Christ today. The context of the Bible in many cases operates under a collective acknowledging and repenting of wrongs, which opened the way for restoration of favor and change to take place. Examples of this is seen in the Book of Nehemiah, Ezra, and Daniel to name a few. In contemporary times, examples of this collective repentance is seen when a restaurant chain, corporation or institution repents of wrong-doing and outlines a better way forward. Relationally, anytime someone repents (Change of heart, mind, direction), it opens the door for renewed trust and a healthier relationship. As the white church in America the invitation is to repent of not just acts of wrongdoing perpetrated historically against our brothers and sisters of color. But also for standing on the sidelines, silently watching them be hurt by actions, policies and systems that we were either ignorant of or choosing not to address because we felt it didn’t harm us. During the Day of Repentance and Solidarity, we will provide a list of things the church is repenting of.
Our country was founded as a slaveholding nation, which allowed white people to own Black people. This system was set up on the notion of “racial difference” that justified slavery in the minds of slave owners. Slavery was only abolished 155 years ago. Many in our country believe slavery didn’t end, it just continues to evolve. Some of that evolution of slavery includes Jim Crow laws, racial segregation, Black laws, convict leasing, lynching and other racial violence, redlining, all the way to mass incarceration. There are attitudes, laws and practices that continue many of the same evils of slavery up to this day. We as the white church need to come to grips not just of our past but of the things we continue to ignore that are present wrongs. Standing on the sidelines doing nothing hurts everyone. Consider reading Ibram Kendi’s, “Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”. It’s an ongoing process to learn the truth about this issue.
Peggy McIntosh is a researcher who wrote an article in 1989 called “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” where she came up with around 50 questions to help white people understand the privilege they walk around with daily that many are unaware of. If you would like to see this checklist go to https://projecthumanities.asu.edu/content/white-privilege-checklist. It does not make you a bad person to have privilege. Privilege is something you can use to help not just yourself but others as you become aware of it. Privilege along with the proper influence and actions can open doors for people. Privilege in and of itself is not a sin. Not using it sure might be! Jesus said “To whom much is given, MUCH is required!”
There are several different definitions of racism and considering them all together is useful for discussion on racism. Many people rely on a dictionary definition of racism that almost always involves hatred or intolerance of another. Or that describes prejudice or discrimination baced on race. Another definition says racism “describes a condition in society in which a dominant racial group benefits from the oppression of others, whether that group wants such benefits or not.” Some have said prejudice plus power is a better definition because without the power to hurt others, it’s simply people not getting along. Ibram Kendi in How to be an Antiracist has some novel definitions that recognize that our days are filled with minute by minute decisions. He suggests these definitions: Racist – One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea. Antiracist – One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea. Based on those definitions he suggests we as fallible people can be racist and antiracist in the same day.
How can I get past the guilt of my country, my church’s past actions and my own inaction and begin to make a difference in my culture?
There is every reason as a believer to understand his or her sin and ponder it deeply and not move too quickly to action that is based on the reality of Black folks lived experiences. There is so much we don’t understand. However, many people in the Bible are good examples of people who lamented and wept over their sin and did not gloss over it in any way. We each need to find ways to move forward after repentance and acceptance of responsibility for our part. It is easy to rely on our Black brothers and sisters to “tell us what to do to be a good antiracist” but Black folks having to do more emotional labor to take care of White people happens far too often. Black folks are exhausted having to deal with daily racism in their lives. They don’t need to be educating us when we can educate ourselves!
I knew our US history included racism. However, I thought we’d dealt with this in the 1950-60s with the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and several Supreme Court decisions most notable Brown vs Topeka Board of Education.
It’s true that the U.S. took important legal steps to end discrimination through the courts and legislation through the 1950-60s.These efforts have resulted in some genuine victories. The city of Montgomery, AL now has a black mayor and the state of South Carolina has a black U.S. senator. Something that would have been too wild for fiction in the 1960s. On the other hand, the supreme court ruling, Brown vs Board of Education was handed down in 1954. It was not until 2016 that a federal court ordered the desegregation of the schools of Cleveland, MS.
In our own city of Milwaukee informal legal segregation has taken place in the schools. In 1975 the Milwaukee School district was 60% white, 34% black, and 6% Latino. In 2019 it was 19% white, 54% black, 27% Latino and 7% other minorities. The cause? Whites moving to the suburbs.
Likewise, in employment informal discrimination apparently takes place. In one study identical resumes were sent out. The difference being some had black sounding names. Those resumes with the black sounding names, had a 50% lower call back rate than the ones with the white sounding names, 50%. Now if you could prove a company was doing this as policy it would be illegal. On the other hand, this could happen because the HR manager is acting on their internal biases, that they are not even aware of. Plus, if you confronted them, they might honestly deny it not realizing they were practicing discrimination.
These are just a few examples to make the point that yes, we made progress in the 1950-60-70s but the journey is not finished.
One of the main avenues for middle class families to build wealth is through home ownership. This path was denied to many black families through redlining, Jim Crow laws, and covenant restrictions. Add to that lack of access to standard middle class jobs that offer retirement programs such as 401(K)s. It has made it very difficult for black families to build wealth.
No. However, the group that holds the power, Whites gets to exercise their prejudices more readily. Racism is usually defined as prejudice plus power and so most often applied to White people as the main power holders in our society. Racial prejudice is often the more widely applied term to describe the sin all humanity is subject to it.
God is very clear that all lives matter in the Bible but saying that as a response to black lives matter can be hurtful and uncaring. All lives should matter and right now Black americans are often treated like they don’t matter so that issue needs to be highlighted and turned around. Saying all lives matter can make especially Black people feel invisible and uncared for. If someone’s house is burning and needs help putting it out, it seems pretty silly to say ‘Well, what about my house?’ While your house does matter, right now one house is currently on fire and needs help. We can also look at the parable of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the lost sheep not because the ninety-nine don’t matter, but because the lost sheep is the one in need at that time.
Using those words no, because racism wasn’t a term yet, but the Bible talks about ethnicity and unity between different groups of people. One example is in Galatians 3:26-29 Paul says “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The fact that Paul had to point out that we should not see ourselves other than in Christ indicates that some must have been making a distinction such as Jew and Gentile. In Revelation 7:9 the picture of heaven is one of an ethnically diverse body worshipping God, showing God’s heart for cross-cultural unity and the beauty of diversity.
God also speaks frequently about how we are to treat those who are different from us and how we are to operate as one body even with all our differences. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, John 17:20-23)
God also frequently commands his people to stand for justice and stand against oppression, especially when that oppression affects foreigners, the poor, the widow, and the orphan. (See Isaiah 58:6-10, Zechariah 7:9-10, Micah 6:8)
No. This question is often a distraction from the real issues and makes it easy for people to not listen any further. Many in the Black Community have believed and spoken this phrase long before it became a branded organization. In the 50s and 60s, the phrase repeated by Black people, “I AM A MAN” was an earlier example to get people to see that their lives mattered. While politics is an element of the discussion especially as we talk about reforms, the issues of racism predate our current political structure and as a sin of hating others who are different than us, it has existed even before America as a country existed. If it helps to set aside politics for a little bit so we can get to the heart of the issue that’s okay. It’s helpful instead to see how racism is a sin and talk about what God says about it (see question 10). Knowing what God commands about justice and hate defines how we should act socially and politically and usually doesn’t fit neatly with any one party or movement. As Christians we need to be able to operate through politics to go above and beyond politics as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, to be in this world but not of it.
How can I support Black Lives Matter when they also stand for things that go against God and the Bible?
The official organization Black Lives Matter does state in their values several things that some believe go against God and the Bible, mostly pertaining to family structure and sexuality. The members of this coalition are not of one mind on all topics, but we agree that the phrase “black lives matter” has been a way of showing support for all black people before there was an organization as they struggle to end racism and proclaim that they deserve fair treatment in society as human beings. We do not have to agree on all matters in order to be united in our commitment to end systemic racism.
The ones who do kill and brutalize rarely face true consequences because the system is broken. When someone says “there are no good cops” it doesn’t mean no good person has ever become a cop. What it does mean is that American policing is set up as a system that doesn’t allow for what we’d expect a good cop to be. The broken system often makes good cops complicit in racist behavior and letting the worst of them get away with horrible things. The problem isn’t “a few bad apples” but rather “the whole tree”
Why are black people rioting and ruining their own neighborhoods? Don’t the riots and looting show that the protests aren’t legitimate?
Riots are like a fever when you are sick. They are a symptom and point to the fact that there is something wrong. We are created to be angry when we or others are being treated unfairly. The Black community has been feeling this anger for generations and they often do not have a way to change the injustice that is happening to them and their loved ones and so their anger can be explosive at times. There are also many documented cases of individuals who take advantage of chaos or difficult times to benefit themselves and harm to others. This shouldn’t distract us from listening to what the peaceful protestors are calling for. Peaceful protestors don’t want riots to break out either and even make great efforts to stop them.
Yes. Human beings are tremendously alike. Our DNA is 99.9% the same. While God did create us to differ in appearance, those differences are not linked genetically to any other significant differences. In other words, “races” do not exist genetically or biologically. We were all equally made in the image of God as humans.
“Race” is a social/historical/cultural construct – a set of ideas and relations – that did not exist through most of human history. While “races” don’t exist genetically, the social construct of “race” exists, has tremendous power, and in the United States affects everyone. It plays a huge role in the distribution of wealth and power, and results in racially discriminatory effects in health care, employment, education, criminal justice, etc. As humans we are all one race or species, and we need to pay attention to the social/cultural construction that is race, so we can dismantle both race and racism.