White Church, Black Church, and Me

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, February 4, 2020 7 comments

by Chad Koons

So here it is: I’ve been guilty for continuing racism, and I’m taking responsibility for it. Don’t look so holy; you are responsible for it, too.

Some say that racism is worse now than it has been in recent decades. We’ve carried it into the church. I see just as much racism inside the church as I do outside of it. We continue to recognize the problem of racism, yet we remain largely unmotivated to change it. Who is to blame for this?

It’s not Donald Trump. Racism existed within the church long before Trump, and it will probably be around long after he is gone. This isn’t about Trump. This is about us.

Who is to blame? We are - the Christians, the “light of the world.” No one made us accept racism, and nobody else is responsible for our apathy, attitudes, and actions but us. Anyone telling us differently is selling us something. If there is a villain in all of this, it’s the one staring back at us in the mirror. If racism lives or dies, it only does so through us. This is our house, church of God, and I need to do my part in cleaning it up.

The Learned Behavior
“Give me a child until he’s seven and I’ll show you the man.” -St. Francis Xavier

I am a product of early examples in my life. In turn, my children are going to emulate what I model. To be blunt, my kids will call it what I call it. Here are some heart-hitting questions to consider:

  • Do I harbor suspicion or defensiveness when a person of another race approaches me?
  • When I speak with a person of another race, am I initially awkward, unsure, and therefore unnatural in how I interact with them, simply because of their race?
  • Do I make little derogatory comments about other races?
  • Do I model racial distrust by who I will and will not associate with, who I do business with, or by the things that I have chosen to fill my life with?

Our children will recognize these behaviors and learn from them. With small children of my own, I recognize that the racism cycle is up to me. I need to recognize these behaviors and correct them within myself before I curse my children with them. My children will live as I train them to live!

Segregation Assembly
"It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Imagine your ideal church for a moment, a place where you feel absolutely at home and motivated. Imagine the people within that church. What do they look like? Here’s an uncomfortable realization: are the people within your ideal church the same race as you are? I would wager that most of us see our own race in that picture. We harbor this unholy expectation, perhaps innocently, that our ideal church is to be comprised of people from the same race as we are.

Black church. Hispanic Church. White church. Asian church. Do we really think that God separates us like that? Dear God, what are we doing? Isn’t there only ONE Church? EVERY tribe, language, people, and nation are redeemed and made into ONE CHURCH! Can I find identity and honest community within a mixed group of people? I believe that our churches should reflect the demographic in which we live, whatever that happens to be. If change needs to happen, then we need to help facilitate that change. When will we begin seeing one another as individuals instead of as different races or cultures?

Racial Identity
“It’s no longer Black, White, Asian, and Latino. There is a new ethnicity in the earth… called ‘Spirit Led.’” -Pastor Philip Thornton (my pastor)

At the risk of offending someone, this last point needs addressing. Our racial definitions have failed us, and they are actually causing further divide amongst us. Do we really need to see how White you are, how Black you are, how Latino you are, how Asian you are, or how Native you are, Child of God? We see you! You don’t need to force your race or nationality to become your identity. If we live by racial identity, we will be limited by racial identity. How about we show the world who we are in Christ? Make that who we are; this is what the world really needs to see. Let’s put all eyes on Jesus instead of on us.

Now What?
Christians, I’m not asking us to do something against racism. I’m asking us to BE something against racism. There’s so much to say about this and I am not about to tell you how to change, that’s between you and the Lord. We are all created in the image of God, so can we intentionally realize this and begin there? Racism lives or dies through us. What will you do? Right now, I’ve got my hands full just studying myself. I’m figuring out what I’m doing and how I may be the example for my own family and corner of the world. I beg you to do the same.

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Debby Hiester said...

As always, you leave us with a mirror for self-reflection, and this time is no different. I have to admit, your subject made me really uncomfortable, because I think of myself as a very open-minded person: open to people of all faiths, backgrounds, races. But am I? Can I do better? I kept thinking about God creating ALL of us in His image and after His likeness -- and that made me question who I think I am that I would be better at all?!

Thank you for your not-so-subtle prodding in your well-executed post. We needed it!

Lisa Adams said...

Bravo Chad. I grew up with a racist father and I often butted heads with him on the issue of race equality. I never understood how people can hate based on appearances or social classes. I am married to my prince charming who by a category defined by the government is of "mixed race" and has dealt with racism first hand. We see it quite a bit. I can honestly say that we don't look at someone differently based on their outward appearance. However, I refuse to do business or associate with those who segregate based on race. We as a body need to see each other with spirit led eyes and not the blurred vision of racism.

Unknown said...

Excellent points all of them. Really makes me think. Hard. And re-examine unintentional mixed signals I may have been sending. Thanks for this.

Kim said...

Thank you Chad for the blog. I did not grow up in a raism home. It was the world that taught me that. The church has become so worldy and we bring our hurts, feelings and judgements we learn from the world into the church. God made one race the human race. We all bleed,eat, sleep ,go to bathroom , dress the same way. It is our selfishness that has caused us to hate each other. Once we learn as Christ believers that we should have His God kind of love and we are not of this world we can renew our minds on how we should love each other. As Christians we think we are living His word but God commands us to love each other as we love Him. Is the entire chruch teaching us really how to love? I mean really love each other? God is not Democrat or Republican. He is not white or black we must first get ride of our selfishness to move forward. The one you think you hate just might be the one who lives next door to you in heaven. Lol. Good job Chad. Thank you for sharing

Jason said...

Most of the Churches I went to growing up were not diverse at all. I am so thankful for Legacy Faith Church! It is the most diverse Church I have ever been to and is full of people who don't see race but rather see people in the image and likeness of God! The enemy always wants to cause division, separation, and isolation. He has used race as a tool to do this. We have to wake up to who we are in Christ and define ourselves by sonship instead of color. Do people forget that we all came from Adam and Eve?

kw said...

this is a great read, we all need to take conscious, intentional action against racism- whether it be blatant racists statements or microagrressions. and not just look at ourselves and our own households, but also at others in the public square, on the bus, in target, giant, church, etc. however i do take issue with one point! the “colorblind” approach is not as progressive as a lot of people think. by being “color blind” and “not seeing race” you are stripping a part of someone’s identity away. being black is a crucial and important part of my identity, and by not seeing that, you don’t see me. seeing race is an important part in doing your part in dismantling racist ideologies and feelings in and outside of the church!

Anonymous said...

I had a run-in at a young age in Middle School where an African American student kept smashing me in the face with the ball on purpose. I shouted knock it the F off. His friends who were also African American went and told him that I called him the n-word I didn't even know what that word. Was at the time. When I was in the locker room. He started punching me and shoving my head into a locker and smashing My head into it. Over and over I tried to tell the school had never heard that word before but they didn't believe me. I didn't even know what it meant even after that. The later when I was in high school my senior year. I had a disagreement with another African American student. And I ended up blurting out that word even though I still didn't know what it meant. But I remembered how much it had upset the other kid. I never tried to be racist in any form. I even had an African-American friend in elementary school. Does this make me racist? I don't know. But I really get along with people in our church. No matter their background or ethnicity.