When I say the word racism the first thing you want to say is, we love all God’s children. Then you refuse to shake my husband’s hand. When you stand on the pulpit and preach LOVE but laugh in the church basement breakfast line at a racist joke told by a Deacon, I don’t believe your words. When you tell me you welcome our family and then your wife misquotes the Bible by telling me I’m “unequally yoked” by being married to a black man, I do not feel welcomed. When you say you foster a community of faith but then uninvite my family to a small group when you find out my husband is black, I do not feel your faith in action. When you shake my hand on Sunday and tell me you love my family and then I see you share a racist meme on Facebook I do not feel that Christian embrace.
So many White Christians deny that racism exists in their church and yet my husband and I have spent the last 6 years searching for a church where we felt at home, where we felt welcomed. We have finally found a church home that we can comfortably worship in, but imagine the agony of 6 years of searching before we found a place that we could truly feel at home. Our experiences as an interracial family have shown that some of the most racist interactions we’ve had have been with members of the church. Why is that? Well first, men are flawed. Humans have sin and humans harbor hate. Racism can sometimes be so ingrained in a person or even a church that they don’t even realize they harbor these bias. Thankfully, We do not base our faith or our walk with Christ on the flaws of other Christians and if anything these struggles have allowed us to dig deeper in our own personal Faith. BUT as a Christian I am so disheartened that it took us so long to find a church that allowed both my husband and I to worship alongside each other without feeling uncomfortable. The church as a whole has a responsibility to speak out against these sometimes antiquated and ingrained racisms. But where do you start if you don’t even realize you have them?
First, look at your membership, are you a primarily white church? If so, why? What can you do to diversify? Are you welcoming to all races? Are you making members feel “othered” or are you making them feel comfortable. Are you allowing biases and derogatory statements to go unchecked? Are there any people of color on your boards or sitting in places of power within your church? The biggest roadblock to progress is ignorance. We need to start learning about each other and you can’t learn if you don’t surround yourself with people to learn from. That means having people of color in positions of authority within the church so they can add a voice to the conversation. Representation matters.
The goal of the church should be to love and spread God’s word to all people but that can’t happen if members of your congregation feel marginalized. As an organization the church needs to be very vocally anti-racist. It’s not enough to just say “Love One Another” and then turn a blind eye to the prejudices of your members. As a church we can not stay silent when we see our brothers and sisters hurting. We can not just take the easy road and say “I don’t see color”. My husband will adamantly disagree with you on that point. He wants you to see color. Being black is a part of him, it’s part of who he is and it’s part of his story and it’s part of what has made him the man he is today. You can’t take that away. And let’s be real, everyone sees color. If one of you turned purple Sunday morning it’s not like we wouldn’t notice and wonder about the Violet girl in the front pew. Instead of saying “I don’t see color,” it would be better is to say, I see your color, I see all of you, and I love you, I welcome you, I embrace you, I do not judge you. And try to honor that and check yourself when those unknown biases start to show up. Check yourself and check others when you hear these biases. We all have them and we’ve all heard them. “You’re so articulate for a black man”, or my personal favorite “you’re so nice for a black man” which implies that black men are not particularly smart, well spoken or nice. All of these are false. And Sure that’s not what you meant but you’ve unearthed a hidden bias in yourself when you make a statement like that. It’s time to confront those in ourselves and in others. We need to Shine a light on what’s happening. As a Church we should leave NO ROOM for Racism within our walls. God has taught us over and over again that Light drives out the darkness. As Christians that should be our goal. Shining our light and our love of Jesus and driving away these sins that divide us. My hope is that we won’t fear away from talking about the hard topics. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend like these things aren’t happening. If something happens to my brother it happens to me. There are no such things as other people’s problems. We are all God’s children and if my brothers or sisters are hurting as a Christian I am here to help them, I am commanded to help them.
So then the question becomes
How? Well a lot of people smarter than me have asked how we end this great divide, and the problem still isn’t solved but I know one thing for sure, we need to talk about it. We need to all share our experiences, we need to open up and really get to know each other’s struggles. Not blame, not yell, not be quick to anger, not drag politics in to it, just TALK to one another. Get to know your neighbors, get to know my husband, get to know the black man or woman of color in the pew a few rows up. Reach out. Human connection is a POWERFUL thing. It’s why God sent his son in human form to us, Human connection is everything. When you connect and you really get to know people you realize the fear of the unknown was just wasted energy. At the end of the day we are all the same in Christ. Jesus is the great Uniter, but Jesus works through men and it’s time for us to all start following his commands. And Of all of HIS commands the Greatest is Love.