Challenging white Christian complacency
Most White Christians do not actively hate black people. But do we really demonstrate love and compassion?
Some Christians assume racism as a problem has almost gone away, at least in the Church. Let us be honest, racism does not directly affect a white person unless they actually care about a friend or family member who is experiencing it. And perhaps your friend does not feel comfortable enough to honestly explain just how much racism affects their daily life. Our lack of concern and action about this issue proves that racism still has a home, however subtle, in every heart.
Sadly many white people, including Christians, instinctively tend to empathise with and defend the police, even when they are acting brutally, and criticise protesters even when they are acting peacefully. This alone reveals our biases.
A few weeks back I read a thought-provoking, but concerning, article by Grayson Gilbert here on Patheos. I felt compelled to write a short comment which grew into this longer personal reflection. I am at risk of causing some disruption (who knows this might even create a blog storm). Perhaps I will be cancelled on every side. It has been a long time since I have been this troubled by reading a blog article. But that concern hasn’t gone away and hence this post.
The early promise of blogging offered to help us understand each other by interacting not with straw men but flesh and blood people who answer back. Now increasingly herded like sheep by the online shepherds of Facebook and Google into our little pens, we do not bleat any more. It is not just the fear of cancel culture. It is the fact that increasingly we do not even –see– viewpoints that differ even subtly from our own. We each live in our personal echo chamber. And by not encountering different viewpoints I believe this entrenches racism and other dangerous ideas.
I hope this article will shine some light on the clear differences between my perception of what Grayson wrote, and my own thoughts on racism. There is an immediate irony that here’s are two white privileged males discussing white privilege. I will shortly share an extract from his article which I hope fairly captures its drive, which is straightforward, but capable of misinterpretation and I hope I have not been guilty of that.
What happened to George Floyd was racism. Racism is not a minor issue or a political issue – it is an injustice and unrighteousness issue and we need to speak up. If we are silent we are complicit. https://t.co/eZD6oZ6dtN
— Tope Koleoso (@TopeKoleoso) June 1, 2020
The issue at stake is the concept that every white person is guilty of implicit racism. Grayson argues that sin must be specific, and it is wrong to say we are all in general biased and that we all need to repent of racism because we have received help from it. Respectfully it seems to me that Grayson’s article didn’t fully reflect the gravity of the situation black people and other minorities find themselves in.
I believe we DO need to show repentance for implicit racism and for the sins of our society. To say otherwise would be a bit like an ordinary peace-loving German citizen at the end of World War 2 saying that because they were not an active Nazi they had no need to take any actions to right the wrongs of that terrible period of human history. Too often racism is not a concern to white people because they are not personally harmed by it. The article claimed that implicit racism if it exists does not require specific repentance. Since repentance is not merely words but actions, I would argue there absolutely are things we can all be doing to demonstrate our repentance from the group sins we personally benefit from.
Grayson didn’t explicitly mention the slogan “black lives matter” or the political movement of the same name. But many white people do take issue with both saying, “all lives matter”. I think that again misses the point. It is black lives that are under threat, and until they matter to white police and to our society, then all human life is still devalued.
If you will excuse a second Nazi reference, then those who were liberating Auschwitz at the end of World War 2 I am sure would have said they were there to save the Jews. They were also saving other vulnerable groups, but the main issue at the time was the Jewish holocaust. Therefore, I do believe we can use the slogan “black lives matter” and even take a knee in protest without fully endorsing every line of the political manifesto of the organisation by the same name.
Ultimately of course more important than slogans are actions. And more important than demonstration is change. More important than all of that and leading to real change is showing love.
Attitudes can be sinful. And lack of actions can be sinful. And that there is much that we can do to repent of our racist attitudes and the benefit we have gained as white people from this evil system. As the English prayer book says,
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.”
Our attitudes HAVE been sinful. Our lack of action in the face of blatant injustice provokes the wrath of God. And yet we are angrier with those campaigning for justice and dramatic societal change than we are with a racist system that, at its worst, still allows police to murder black people at will. And that same system of oppression metaphorically chokes the neck of every minority person to at least some degree. We who are white have all benefited directly from 300 years of robbing from and enslaving the poor, the vast majority of whom are not white. It is far from enough to say that slavery is now illegal and that it is at least theoretically possible for anyone to succeed in our modern society.
Even if we were to accept that the rules of the game are now fair, which they clearly are not, the monopoly illustration clearly demonstrates that you cannot give one group of people a 300 year head start and claim everything is not rigged against them. Racism infects the West and taints every aspect of our society.
Even COVID19 is discriminating against black people in the USA because many cannot afford healthcare, and are in the kinds of jobs where they are more exposed to the disease, live in areas where the hospitals are sub-standard and have insufficient ITU beds, and poverty has led to many more co-morbid conditions in the average black person. And so more black people are dying of viral pneumonia.
No wonder the cry of so many is “I cannot breathe”. And the truth is that for 300 years the knee of the white man has been on the neck of the black man.
But before I get to Grayson’s quote and my reply, I want to offer first some words direct from the mouth of God which I fear may perhaps apply rather too directly to our situation for my comfort.
Many white Christians respond angrily towards those who are criticising Society for being racist. We should rather be listening to the current outpouring of criticism and standing up for justice rather than closing our ears to the angry reproof (which means criticism or rebuke) of the protestors.
It turns out from the book of Amos that God is very much on the side of the oppressed. And very much against those who respond to criticism angrily and defensively. I will share a lot from this book because it has shaken me and sets the tone for what follows.
Much of this could be interpreted as a prophetic reflection of what is happening right now. It is no accident that at a time of international crisis the problems of minorities have come to the surface. Injustice is even more plain as COVID19 races around the World leaving death and destruction in biblical proportions in its wake.
I ask you to read these words carefully and ask yourself is this what God might be saying right now to the Western Church, so secure in its place in God’s heart, so confident we have got everything right and lined up theologically, yet so deaf to the cries of the poor, many of whom are Black, Hispanic or Asian. We are so unconcerned at their plight. And not provoked enough to DO something whilst many black people lie gasping for breath in hospitals. Is their plight so vastly different from that of George Floyd?
These following words are shocking as they talk about God actively silencing the singing of God’s people. Is this what has happened in our day?
The prophecy talks about those who criticise those who accuse God’s people of injustice, that is happening in our day. It talks about those who say, “we will be safe”, that is also happening in our day.
No worse example of the sinful complicity of the western church accompanied by complacency is opening churches against medical and government advice so putting poor at even more risk. This stems from a wilful refusal to accept certain truths about COVID-19. And as a result, a refusal to act in any considerate way such as wearing a mask that might help protect those who are vulnerable. I have recently written at some length about the way many are spreading lies:
These prophecies from Amos I am about to quote explain meeting God is not always a good thing. They even say that God may not always intend good things towards his people. That God is sometimes active against them to lead them towards the real repentance that some of us seem unable to grasp needs to happen. These words should shake our complacency and stir up our fear of the Lord.
Is this God’s word to a complacent church which is complicit in the oppression of the poor?
Extracts from Amos 4 – 9
“Hear this word, you . . . who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
2 The Lord God has sworn by his holiness
that, behold, the days are coming upon you,
when they shall take you away with hooks,
even the last of you with fishhooks . . .
6 “I gave you . . . lack of bread in all your places,
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord . . .
10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
I killed your young men . . . yet you did not return to me,”
declares the Lord . . .
12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
6 . . . Seek the Lord and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
7 O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!
. . . They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11 Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them . . .
12 For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time . . .
16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
“In all the squares there shall be wailing,
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
18 . . . Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light,
19 as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies . . .
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria . . .
4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6 who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
. . . you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood[b] . . .
“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’
17 Therefore thus says the Lord . . .
4 Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
5 saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale . . .
10 I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.
11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it. . .
9 “For behold, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’
Talking about oppression, justice, etc doesn't make one a Marxist. It makes one a student of the Bible.
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) August 20, 2020
Having read and pondered these words I offer you the following quotes from Grayson’s article followed by my own tentative response to all this.
Is Implicit racism a false trap that can’t lead to repentance?
Quote from Grayson Gilbert’s original article
“In recent months, I have had more race-related conversations than I thought was possible in such a short amount of time . . . The way many speak on issues of race in the church today is as if it is single-handedly the sin which the majority of people, particularly white Evangelicals, are guilty of committing.
Rather than giving concrete examples of particular, explicit forms of racism that need to be repented of, many cite the implicit racism in place in various systems and people groups . . . the basic premise is that despite your best intentions, you hold stereotypes and assumptions about people groups, which informs every aspect of your life . . . and . . . how you interact with people of color . . . Which simply means that “what’s on the inside” comes out in ways that continue to favor whites instead of minority people groups—even if unintentional.
When this happens on a larger, national scale, you get the doctrine of systemic racism . . . If you are a straight, white male, you are at the top of the power matrix and invariably relate to all other groups with some sort of implicit bias. You can’t help it, nor even necessarily become aware of it, because your subconscious drives these impulses—that’s the whole point. You are de facto guilty of implicit racism simply by virtue of who you are as the dominate people group. It is part of your make-up as a person in the existing power structure you find yourself in. While other people groups are said to hold some implicit bias, it shows up in larger measure in whites.
The problem with this entire line of thinking is that it assumes from the start that this is the case—a tactic I find is emblematic of social justice proponents . . . My honest assessment of the movement as it currently stands is that it is designed to be an emotionally manipulative tool in order to perpetuate guilt through racial animus . . .
For the Christian, the notion of implicit racism poses some rather obvious contradictions with what the Scriptures state on the nature and duration of hidden sin, yet simultaneously, the ability one has to repent. If implicit racism is a genuine issue, meaning it is genuinely sin, it demands genuine repentance. If, however, it is not easily identified, known, or defined, we have some very real problems squaring those two things together. Thus, we’re forced to choose between two competing principles at play: 1.) the necessity of repentance, and 2.) the validity of implicit racism.” (emphasis added)
What repentance for implicit racism looks like
Honestly, having read the words from Amos none of what follows feels even remotely sufficient. But I do hope it outlines some baby steps that we can take to at least try and live a less racist life.
Repentance is not mere words but includes action.
I share below a few illustrations of how over the years in my faltering way I have tried to follow the call to repentance for the implicit and explicit racism shown by the dominant group I am a part of. Here are some things we can do to demonstrate our repentance.
1. Intentionally meet and befriend people different to yourself
I am sympathetic to the level of discomfort we all feel on this issue of racism. I also do not believe everything that is said about implicit racism is 100% correct. But I do remember a much younger Adrian, as a young teenager, who had some sense that God wanted me in some way involved in some sort of mission to diverse types of people. I lived at that time as a child in a very white county in a very white country. England at the time had few black or Asian people outside the cities and that trend is still true in substantial portions of our nation.
Somehow, I instinctively knew that if I didn’t know any friends from minority groups that I couldn’t share their perspectives, and that I would find it impossible to become what I felt at the time God was calling me to be. So, the kid who had that sense of call to cross-cultural mission prayed a simple prayer “God I need you to give me some non-white friends”.
2. Try to understand and enter the experience of rejection many feel
God heard my prayer and answered by uprooting me from the amazing church I was in and everything familiar to me that felt so right and normal as my parents moved our family to another part of the country.
For the whole time I was there I felt dislocated. Mainly because as a comprehensive boy (i.e. state nonselective school) I was somehow by the grace of God parachuted mid-way through into a selective Grammar school. I didn’t really belong as I hadn’t taken the exam which they had all taken. I had gotten there through a favour because my headmaster knew the school’s headmaster and suggested they should take me. I felt like I stuck out, that they all had their cliques of friends and I struggled to fit in.
I suppose I felt something of what many black people feel when they join a white church or go to a mostly white Christian conference or Bible school. I felt rejected by some of those boys, and I learnt a bit then about being the victim of implicit bias
I remember that one of my few friends at that school was also my first black friend. And so for me that prayer, and the situation God led me into, and the experience of being received warmly by someone from a group I was no doubt ignorant of and biased towards was part of the repentance that God had for me for my part in the group sin of racism. It was a baby small step. But I am thankful to God it that teenage boy later took some others.
3. Find a wise tutor from a different racial group to yourself
At age 18 I felt led to go to medical school in a part of London filled with Asian people. Not for me “white flight” unless you meant running towards the place where I would be in the minority on a day to day basis walking the streets. Again, that felt like a revelation. But before I moved to London that summer, I attended a Christian conference where I heard a talk on cross-cultural communication and bridge building. I felt that inner nudge.
I spoke to the speaker about my plans for that September and sense of call. They invited me to meet a multicultural team they were a part of, and I met as a result one of my longest standing friends a wise Asian Christian.
As an 18-year-old I allowed this man to teach me. It wasn’t easy as he showed me how thousands of little assumptions together form your culture. I thought so many things were just the right way of doing things and so would easily judge someone who was different to me. A simple thing like how directly someone spoke about their feelings or opinions might lead me to judge them as pushy, arrogant or angry when perhaps they had just been raised with a different approach to what is considered acceptable to say and how to communicate.
Some of the lessons were simple, humorous even, but they all served to help me understand that I can’t trust my initial impressions of other people from diverse groups to myself.
I remember for example sitting on the floor of their lounge eating rice and curry with my fingers trying hard not to think that this was a dirty almost sinful thing to be doing!
Then being surprised when having finished my plate as any good English kid would to be polite, my host added a huge pile of rice and meat onto the plate without asking. This might have even happened a couple of times before my tutor told me “In our culture if you finish the food on your plate it means that you are still hungry and tells us we have failed you as a host. So, we must add more food to your plate until you cannot finish, or we will feel ashamed and embarrassed. It is actually considered rude not to leave a bit of food on your plate, so the host knows they have fed you with enough to make you feel satisfied!”
And so, I learnt what culture is. Humbly learning from a different background to you is another way of repenting of this hidden implicit sin that we find so hard to identify in ourselves and root out.
4. Forge deep life-long friendships that allow real honesty and openness
During my time at medical school, I was blessed to meet two black Africans who had immigrated to London and became my dear friends – Julio and Nick.
Nick became my best man – after all he introduced me to my wife, so that is the very least that I could have done. And both are still my very close friends today. Both have felt able to share with me just how hard an experience racism has been for them. And yes, both have felt on the receiving end of discrimination from White Christians.
If someone white who is reading this has a black friend who has never felt able to open up their wounds to you, then perhaps there is something you can do to help them feel they are safe to do so. If so, again, that could be part of the repentance we are called to.
5. Build multicultural churches lead by multicultural teams
When I joined a tiny white church with my new bride as a young doctor, I hardly noticed that there were only a handful of black people there. Most of them were from one family. After a few years the white pastor moved on and our only black leader team was asked to pastor us into the next stage of our journey.
The small leadership team that I was a part of were not conscious at the time that by accepting his leadership joyfully we were in a sense repenting for our dominant group’s racism. We followed him not because he was black nor as a tokenistic act, but because we recognised God’s anointing of leadership on this man. We each made long term commitments to serve alongside him and all of that initial leadership team are still part of the church today.
Imagine how this felt for that young black pastor in what was then a mostly white part of London (which by the providence of God would become a lot more diverse in the following years). As the Church grew none of that small leadership group entertained simply going off and forming their own church even during the peak of the wave of church planting that would ensure in the coming years, we have been together for decades.
Again, we did not do any of this to make a point or to be “woke”. We did it because it was for us the right thing to do since we felt that call from God to be in this place and build under the leadership of this man. And to this day that church which is now a thriving large multicultural church with over 50 nationalities represented is led by Tope Koleoso and a mixed team including many strong white leaders delighted to serve with him.
Imagine the impact on black Christians in Africa when the London preacher who had been invited to preach at a conference in Africa was accompanied by a very tall white elder, another friend of mine, who was carrying his bag and there to set up all the filming and audio equipment and take care of things so that he could focus on the task of preaching.
It has been a real blessing to me to watch my friend Tope emerge as a leading Christian voice respected and honored by Christians of all backgrounds. A few decades ago, you have to wonder whether big largely white ministries would have welcomed Tope with open arms. One of my happiest moments of attending conferences was quietly sitting in a huge meeting hall filled with white American pastors (I could only see a few black faces in the room) watching them eagerly listen to Tope preach passionately.
There is often so much more openness now. We are speaking more about these issues than during my youth. A lot of little steps like those I have outlined will be needed from us all in the coming years. Alongside real commitment to standing up for real justice in our societies. Real change is needed urgently. This is all part of the repentance that required from us for the systemic racism of our group.
6. Learn everything you can from leaders from different church groups to your own. Refuse to remain in your echo chamber
Recently I had another moment of realisation as to how far we have already come, and yet how much further we must still go. I wrote a review article linking to lots of personal testimonies and eulogies of the life of J.I.Packer
As I was polishing it off, I realised that I didn’t have a single link to an article written by a non-white person commenting on his death. And in an instant, I realised that I do still live in a bubble in some contexts. And so, I went around a few places online actively looking for such an article to link to. Eventually I gave up and realised that for the bulk of Packer’s ministry we simply were not where we are now.
It is not a huge surprise that if you are looking for prominent Christian leaders to write on the personal impact of this great man’s ministry on their younger selves, that most of the pool of potential authors were white. Or at least they are unless you were to consciously find leaders from many other countries who I am sure that Packer who did travel would have had significant impact on. And Google’s algorithms are perhaps themselves a bit racist and simply failed to show me any comments from black people when I was searching for blog articles about Packer’s death.
One of my still intact biases is that the Christian leaders I tend to follow almost exclusively come from the UK or the US. And, of those who are black tend to be younger than those most changed by the one-to-one ministry of Packer. This is not in any way meant as a criticism of Packer. But it is a small reflection of the fact that for most of my lifetime (I am 50 next year) in the USA and UK white and black Christians have lived in separate bubbles that did not overlap that much.
Thank God that is changing and has been changing for a while. Thank God for the pioneers who cross cultural boundaries to join churches where they are in the minority. Thank God for growing multicultural churches. Thank God for black ministers who are coming to prominence, and that many white Christians now listen to them. Such things make a difference and are part of our repentance.
7. Actively campaign for societal justice and take steps to lead real change
The earlier actions I have outlined will begin to undo in the church at least 300 years of racism. But we must also consider society where one group has enslaved the other to the point that the image of taking a knee is now indelibly associated with the image of a white man choking the life out of a black man who he has treated in such an inhumane way as to kneel on his neck. And both the active perpetrator of such heinous crimes and the passive observers were both deaf to his cries “I can’t breathe”.
One way we know implicit racism exists is that every single black friend I have spoken to about this echoes my pastor’s early comment that he couldn’t help but see his own face under that white policeman’s knee.
And yet to a man and woman I suspect most white people, myself included, find it hard to position our own face as necessarily existing in that video in one of three places, the one who choked out the life in a way so reminiscent of the way white people have choked black people for hundreds of years, or the faces of the other policemen who were participating in the action by their own inaction and who may therefore also be held directly to blame, or the onlookers who may have mumbled a protest, or even filmed what went on, but felt powerless or unprompted to attempt to intervene to stop it.
That it should take this death and the ensuing protests to finally cause some police units to agree that it is never ok to kneel on someone’s neck is a sign of just how engrained this devaluing of human life has been in our culture. And lest you think it is not racism, we had a lovely illustration of how a white suspect in a similar position would be much more likely to be treated when they were not choked but offered something to drink just days later.
For decades, by our silence, we have given implicit approval if not to the brutal acts but to the lack of a serious plan to prevent them. And shamefully, many white people seem to have no concern whatsoever that gangs of federal officers have been roaming some cities in unmarked cars, not wearing any uniform that marks them out as officers of the law and pulling off the streets protesters that local police were happy to leave in place.
And for shame, we know that the real reason that is being done is because it is understood that “tough on crime” plays well in certain electoral swing states, and in particular may favourably influence the voting intentions of white Evangelicals who somehow see Trump as their champion who is trying to take America back to a time when it was once “great”. Well it has never been great for black people. So that slogan is itself part of the problem.
I fear for the USA currently, and I am praying as I write this. You fight two brutal pandemics, both deadly, both requiring radical action, both affecting the whole world, but to be honest from an outsiders perspective both affecting the “land of the free” perhaps worse than any other nation on earth at the moment.
The remedies to both unfortunately are severely impaired from being enacted by the very lifeblood of the American cry for freedom without responsibility, for individual rights without compassion towards others, for being self-made without taking proper care of others, for unrestrained capitalism without the necessary social safety net being properly in place.
Right now, black people are dying disproportionately from Covid19 because they cannot afford health insurance that will cover their underlying conditions and there are insufficient intensive care beds in black areas. Meanwhile many white Christians applaud steps to reverse Obama’s very minor attempts towards becoming a civilised society which ensures proper healthcare for ALL it’s citizens.
As one article put it,
“Of the 3.1 million Americans who still cannot afford health insurance in states where Medicaid has not been expanded, more than half are people of color, and 30 percent are Black. This is no accident. In the decades after the Civil War, the white leaders of former slave states deliberately withheld health care from Black Americans, apportioning medicine more according to the logic of Jim Crow than Hippocrates. They built hospitals away from Black communities, segregated Black patients into separate wings, and blocked Black students from medical school. In the 20th century, they helped construct America’s system of private, employer-based insurance, which has kept many Black people from receiving adequate medical treatment. They fought every attempt to improve Black people’s access to health care, from the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the ’60s to the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
A number of former slave states also have among the lowest investments in public health, the lowest quality of medical care, the highest proportions of Black citizens, and the greatest racial divides in health outcomes. As the COVID 19 pandemic wore on, they were among the quickest to lift social-distancing restrictions and reexpose their citizens to the coronavirus. The harms of these moves were unduly foisted upon the poor and the Black.
As of early July, one in every 1,450 Black Americans had died from COVID 19—a rate more than twice that of white Americans. That figure is both tragic and wholly expected given the mountain of medical disadvantages that Black people face.
Why aren’t the white Churches taking steps ahead of the government within the current framework to open huge mutual plans, targeted and advertised to ensure people will be able to be a part of these schemes from every background? Such schemes should be run fairly, generously endowed, and become the modern equivalent of the hospitals themselves so many of which were originally founded by the Church in previous centuries. Surely this is also a call to repentance.
Isn’t it time that white Christians were as concerned that you are the only “developed” country to have not developed the idea that nobody should like gasping for breath, begging for help that never comes, whether the knee on their neck is either a literal one from a police officer, or a metaphorical one, as their lungs are destroyed by a virus.
Meanwhile the system forces many to spend their dying moments frightened that if they attend hospital will deny their loved ones the ability to buy food due to an astronomical bill.
For the first time in my life as I watched the video of Floyd’s death which has sparked this conversation, and heard my pastors comments on it, I feel like I finally “got” this problem, although not as much as I could ever do if I wasn’t white of course.
I couldn’t breathe either.
Here is a response from a pastor to my article
Someone asked some questions privately. I thought I’d share my answers here.
1. How have we benefited from racism?
Basically the Whole system has been biased in favour of white people for generations. Such that it’s been easier for a white person to get to a good school (due to where they live) get good health care get to university and get ahead in work. There’s a lot of evidence that black people are unfairly targeted by police and experience direct and indirect discrimination routinely. Our countries became rich in the back of the slave trade and other exploitation of non whites at home and abroad.
2. What can we do to challenge racism and repent?
I speak about some of the things we can do to challenge it in our churches and hearts in the post. A huge thing is to intentionally befriend Non whites and listen to them and ask them what they think needs to be done. Listen to enough and there’ll be ideas that come up.
3. How would listening to a black preacher help us root out the biases in our own hearts and who could we listen to?
The biases in our own hearts can be very hard to to root out. If we associate spiritual authority with whiteness then clearly we are limiting the sources of our blessing.
I’m tempted not to give any names and of course it depends on your church background as to the type of preacher you might want to listen to. But here’s a few names that spring to mind. There may be theological disagreements some readers might have wirh some of these names but actually listening to someone you disagree wirh can be very beneficial anyway. I’ll start with my own pastor-
Tim Keller’s Racism and Justice Series
Coming in September 2020, “Justice in the Bible.”
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