Because I dropped the “R” word in my last post I feel obligated to open a door to further discuss racism and Christian organizations. What is a racist? Who is a racist? What is racism? We would all agree the people who rode horses and burned crosses while wearing bed sheets and pointy hats and mask are racist. We would all agree that people who, (because of race) lynch others, deny students access to schools and are full of hate – are racist. But can racism exist in other forms that are not so visible or violent? This is an issue that is not limited to just the situation some are addressing in the local context, I want to delve into this because of its far-reaching implications.
First of all, allow me to revisit what I said. I addressed what I see as a biblical precedent of demonstrating doctrinal tolerance in regards to “non-essential” issues. Scripture seems to show Christ and the disciples were very aware and sensitive to culture. Specifically we had looked at (1) the roles of women in the church and (2) the concern with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Then I wrote:
- “The “Friends” rejection of this biblical practice (allowing diverse doctrinal opinions) is part of the reason some see them as racist. By rejecting diverse – yet scriptural – beliefs and practices they de facto embrace and perpetrate white privilege through their power and theology.”
I didn’t call them racist. I just pointed out the fact that some believe they are. I acknowledge this is a broad and sweeping generalization, and that some who are part of the belief system the “friends” embrace, may have been shocked to hear this. If by saying this I offended and falsely accused, please forgive me. I apologize. But please listen and engage me in this discussion.
My comment was not intended as an epitaph (ie. “you dirty racist….”) but as an adjective. Just as you may say someone is a New Yorker, (if you live in New York) or carefree (if you demonstrate that characteristic). Some see the “friends” as racist because their teachings and their practice demonstrate racism. That is not an accusation – but a statement of some people’s opinion. Should the evidence support the opinions, then perhaps it is a fact that needs to be faced – not fled.
The question then, is not: is it “nice” or not? – the question we should seek to answer is “is there any evidence to support this opinion”?
So what is racism? Racism has been defined in many ways – but generally it is seen as the belief that one race is superior to another. Some use the definition “prejudice plus power”. This definition recognizes that racism is not just acting on your racial prejudices but combining that prejudice with the power to enforce your beliefs on others.
I would like to challenge us to see that racism is like any sin, and the only way to begin to be free of it is to confess it. It should not be a “feared epitaph” we run from, but a serious issue that we seek to weed-out wherever it is found. I have been guilty of racism. I seek to live without it. But because it is subtle and dynamic I can fall back into racist thoughts and actions without awareness, accountability, and discipline.
Racism ruins individuals, relationships, organizations, and weakens the church by making some (in most cases people of color) feel intimidated, fearful, inferior or even just unwelcome. Often the dominate culture/race is unaware they are doing this, and often they do it by doing “nothing” at all. This demonstrates that while racism can be active, it can also be passive. By NOT doing something – you become a passive accomplice in the perpetuation of racist acts or systems. Racist systems often do “good things”, but their very policies and structure exclude and alienate many, while those of the dominant race and culture may not even be aware of this inequality.
This is why I also wrote “By rejecting diverse – yet scriptural – beliefs and practices they de facto embrace and perpetrate white privilege through their power and theology.” I do not think this is from a conscious desire to “hurt” or be “mean”. The teachings and practices of so many (not just at this institution) continue to reinforce the idea that if it isn’t white – it’s not quite right. This passive acceptance of unbiblical prejudice continues to make my sisters and brothers from other races and cultures believe they are excluded from the “mainstream”, believe they are not acceptable unless they deny their identity and accommodate to the white-cultural standards. Those euro-centric standards are not always more biblical, but many institutions they are more socially valued.
So is their any evidence to support the belief that some of the “friends” – (and countless others in the American church) are racist?
Is there evidence their actions and beliefs help to maintain racial divisions? Is their evidence their beliefs work to maintain white power and privilege – rather than opening up the door of the church where all come equally to the foot of the cross?
Consider these concerns:
Why have many of them fought colleges and churches in their efforts to become more diverse and welcoming for the last 20 plus years? Why is it that while they charge “the lack of biblical basis” for intentionally working to make a more racially/culturally diverse community – they have not listened to the clear biblical teaching that has been given?
Why is it that some of them have belittled the concerns of students of color in the classroom and these students have often left institutions prematurely and bitter? Why is it that they are seeking to return colleges to an era when the numbers of students of color were extremely low and the graduation rates were even lower?
Why have they (NWC & KTIS) intentionally removed all most all voices of color from their radio stations ? Is it because they were more concerned with how “Linda” (the composite listener – “a 40 something – white – soccer mom”) feels than that they were with offending and betraying the Latino, Asian, and African-Americans in the community?
Why is it so many traditionalists dismiss the voices who try to speak out in love, and yet with urgency, as being extremists?
In the Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he talks about the church as a body. He says that when one part rejoices the whole should rejoice, and when one part is in pain, the whole should feel the pain.
How can we feel another’s joy or pain if we are not even connected? And can we ever listen to brothers or sisters when we are we too busy trying to defend “our” brand of truth?