Dear White Christians (An invitation to take on five commitments for racial justice)

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A majority of white Christians supported President Trump during the campaign, voted for him, and are in favor of many of his actions thus far, including his thwarted ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Unfortunately, that support sends a harsh message. The majority white Christian support for President Trump and his policies tells non-white Christian brothers and sisters and many others that we don’t hear them nor care about their dignity and safety. Hundreds of disparaging statements and actions directed towards them since the election left them feeling hurt and vulnerable.

White Christians confirmed for many of our black, brown, and Asian neighbors that many of us are willing to support someone who perpetuates white supremacy; who believes that men have the right to insult and abuse women; who routinely bullies and insults his critics; who glorifies wealth and success.

Many of our Christian brothers and sisters of color are praying that we white Christians will stop, examine our conscience, face where we have failed God and our neighbors, and experience a true change of heart.

In the midst of Lent, a Christian season of repentance and repair, we invite white Christians, and their communities of faith, to pledge themselves to take on five commitments designed to help us in this work of repentance and repair in relationship to our sisters and brothers of color.

1. Let’s “do our homework” and learn about our nation’s history in relation to racism.

Let’s learn the difference between conscious personal racism and systemic racial injustice. Let’s listen to the needs and experiences of people of color in the United States.

2. Let’s break out of “white self-segregation” once and for all.

As Robert P. Jones explains, white people’s social networks are typically made up of over 90% white people, so we are isolated from and ignorant of the lived experience of people who we need to know and understand.

3. When we enter into relationships with people who aren’t from our white Christian background, let’s not put the burden on them to educate us.

Instead, let’s accept the responsibility of educating ourselves. We could start with resources like these voices to help us better understand the hopes, fears, desires, and thoughts of people of color living in the United States today.

4. Let’s have honest conversations in our families, neighborhoods, congregations, and other social circles who are white.

Let’s not let them get away with racially unfair or hurtful statements. Let’s share what we’re learning from our friends of color and from our own reading and study. That way, more and more white people can learn the truth about racial injustice and how to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Let’s challenge other white people to refuse to move backward into our racially unjust past. Instead, let’s move forward together into the kind of future that God desires, where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, whatever their race, religion, gender, or national origin.

5. Let’s prepare ourselves for action. Let’s stop hiding the ugly and racist dimensions of our past.

Instead, we can tell the truth about it openly, with repentance and humility. Let’s get ready to protect vulnerable people who are threatened by hate and injustice. Let’s take to the streets in protest whenever necessary. If people are being harmed or threatened, we should have the courage to stand with them. As followers of Jesus, we are called to public witness to the gospel in all its fullness, even if we are reviled and persecuted. That’s how Jesus promised it would be for all who truly follow the way of the cross.

With deep concern,

J.C. Austin
Diana Butler Bass
Rachel Held Evans
Jennifer Harvey
Brian McLaren
Gina Messina
Christian Scharen
Miroslav Volf
Todd Whitmore

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