Talking About Race is a Christian Imperative
Slavery and segregation have created a chasm between blacks and whites in America that have massive impact on our churches even to this day. For many of us, our communities, schools, personal relationships, and congregations mirror the image of slavery and segregation’s impact on our lives and we seldom even think about it. In short, we still have predominantly white communities and we have predominantly black communities. We’ve even come up with terms like “White Flight” because, for the most part, we’re intentionally keeping it that way. Now, just for clarity, I’m not talking about the anomalies or exceptions where a congregation here or there has intentionally stayed in a declining neighborhood. As much as 87% of churches in America identify with a predominant race.
I was recently “chastised” by an older woman for preaching about race. The sermon encouraged an integrated church to not get complacent with their work, share their work, and seize the opportunity that slavery and segregation has given us to do something magnificent with our sour history. The older woman gloried in the fact that “in 35 years neither race nor politics were preached from the pulpit”. Is that the problem? We’ve chosen to not discuss something that is divisive when Jesus prayed for unity in John 17. We’ve chosen to remain silent on hatred when Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself. More importantly we’ve wasted opportunities to be Christian and peculiar by burying the talent that slavery and segregation have given us by being silent. Like the servant’s one talent in Matthew 25, our zeal to change racism simply doesn’t exist – we’ve buried it. Remember the Master’s response?
Slavery and segregation have afforded the church an opportunity to be as peculiar as we ever could be in America. Blacks united with whites? Many would think it strange to see such a thing. It will never happen if we keep silent about race, historical impact, or current racial state of American Churches. Keeping silent, of necessity, will cause us to bury the opportunity that our Master has given us. Seize the opportunity! Talk about it! Ask questions. Discuss it! Take the opportunity to engage a fellow Christian of another race and plan to achieve the unity for which Jesus prayed.