Racial Reconciliation is for the ENTIRE body of Christ so I’m Redefining What It Means

12 08 2015

I’m in a place of psychological shift. The way I think is being altered, and I’m happy for it. I hope that as I get older, I get wiser and I learn how to constructively question things I have believed in order to enter into new and truer forms of belief. I don’t want to believe blindly, but I want to build belief based on how I build and live my life.

For me, I believe in racial reconciliation in the church. It is something that entered my mind ten years ago and has never left. It is something that has entered my mission six years ago and has revealed itself as a true demonstration of church.

But I may be a rare being. I am a black woman highly aware of racial, gender, sexual and class dynamics. I spent a portion of my childhood, teens and early twenties in black churches (which I am sure holds its own degrees and rankings of how “black church” I am). But that has been my experience. Have I always fit into said black churches? I would argue that I never have. As a Nigerian, it is hard not to remain an outlier or to become the link back to Africa so many are desperate for they don’t realize they’re limiting what my connection with them could be because of it. So I have always been either outsider or a means to the inside, back to Africa. Neither way have I been particularly useful to or connected to the history of the black church in the United States.

But my story took an odd turn in my mid-twenties. I joined a white church in hopes to be part of the nearly impossible mission of the church to be reconciled to one another. And the area I am most interested in doing so is through race and ethnicity.

Ephesians 2:12-16 is a key text in reconciling work, but many miss its great power. It demonstrates the power of God to bend time – many overlook this and skip to Jew-Gentile relations (we’ll leave that conversation for another post). This movement is too quick if it overlooks what time is doing and meaning for the church.

Eph. 2 talks about the reconciling work that Christ has already done that we are living into in the present – though it has already been done. We are currently trying to live into the past and future in the present. We are thus trying to figure out how to live into the reality Christ has already set before us – we are trying to make what has been will be. Reconciliation is about transcending time, moving beyond the past while requiring it, living into the future all the while not knowing it that well. We need a more complex understanding of racial reconciliation – at the bare minimum to honor how time is working in our conceptualizing of it. But we stick with our simple strategies of what some (mainly white) people have guessed it should be. The emphasis on what time means to reconciliation should place our attention of what the “we” means as well.

We (majority and minority churches alike) often fail to understand how we’ve constrained racial reconciliation to moments of white solution-creating if we think (or buy into the notion, yes, even through rejecting it, that) racial reconciliation means minorities entering into white church spaces. It seems a bit offensive to reduce Christ’s redemptive work to the project of white churches assuaging its guilt of having no intention of not remaining white churches.

So this brings me to my question: If racial reconciliation is not neo-missions or neo-colonial in it being created by, conducted within and made for white churches, what is it? If all churches minority and majority became involved in constructing the articulation of its being (as it constitutes what being church even means), can racial reconciliation look different than what white churches have believed it to be which has forced many minority churches to avoid it? What if racial reconciliation is not based on a relationality of “white to everyone” else, but of “everyone else to everyone else” (Gentile to Gentile)?

Shouldn’t racial reconciliation then be steeped in the social, religious and political? If we follow a religious Lord whose purpose was to exist in a political world and overcome it and a social Lord whose purpose was to exist in a religious world and overcome it and a political Lord whose purpose was to exist in a social world and overcome it – how should we be?

Redefining Racial Reconciliation

Shouldn’t racial reconciliation, in its true form, in its only form declare, “Black Lives Matter”? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches make living wage and economic equality its top agenda? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches have at its forefront the issues of its women – as we are all one body? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches take into account that political, social life and religious institutions can create balance or imbalance between races and ethnicities (in its denominationalism, polities, and practices) – and move to dismantle the oppressive mechanics of this? Racial reconciliation in church should influence voting, social causes, our relationship to wealth and security. Shouldn’t it challenge all of us to our cores? Shouldn’t it be a means of discipleship?

I am advocating that the notion of racial reconciliation be stripped from white churches as their project and be claimed by all churches as church mission and make up. Racial reconciliation should look more like the Civil Rights Movement (which the earliest black advocates and creators of the focus of Racial Reconciliation in churches were pushing for) rather than “Unity Day” at church. Racial reconciliation in church is precisely that force of good that lives primarily outside of liturgy and spills into the street, into the education system, into court rooms, into businesses and political offices. It engages any and everything that affects race – and friends, everything affects race. Thus, I want to submit my own definition of racial reconciliation.

Racial reconciliation is a movement of justice, love and community generated within but not limited to the Christian church seeking to really live into the redemptive work of Christ on social, political, economic, gendered, sexual and ethnic and racial levels (as racial includes notions of marginality). It aims to live into the new creation on earth that the work of Christ has already established, by attending to these areas that need catching up, in tangible ways towards equal and loving relationship with each other. Some could designate it as movement towards the reality of living into the Kingdom of God. In its most basic form, it is the work of beholding others in awe and majesty as the Lord does us.

Thus, to be clear: all churches should be engaging in racial reconciliation or reconciliation in general as it is discipleship. This means that some already are; but they are not the church bodies who claim it in their words. They claim it in their living. May white churches let go of their desire to have the power to name and may the entire body of Christ open its eyes to the parts of its body who have spent their lives learning how to master the art of life abundantly.

If we all don’t have a hand in what racial reconciliation means in the church, we are not the church.

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Why Reconciliation Isn’t Working: Ramblings on the Church’s Unwillingness to Leave the Jim Crow Era

22 07 2015

 

Black Live Matter

Amuse my wonderings.

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We are in a dangerous place if one of the first questions in our theological process isn’t: What is this for? Variations of this question are acceptable: Who is this for? What am I doing this for? Towards what am I believing?

These questions are important to consider because oftentimes theory and praxis in the church are more distant than many of us want to admit. Our churches are behind – not necessarily the progress of the world (I’ll try to locate the article I read some time ago naming how churches were decades behind “the world.”), but the progress of communities in particular time periods.

The church is not behind the world. Today, the world is quite murderous and muting towards minorities, people of color, and women (class is interwoven here too). The church isn’t too far off from this. Thus, my concerns for the church’s anachronistic existence. The church of today seems more like a newly postcolonial entity (not in terms of progressivism, but in terms of existing directly after the “end” of colonialism). A colonial mentality is quite affirming, once we think about it:

“I’m here to show you how to do Christianity like me!” –  Read: I can bring my entire self into your religious world, and fully exist there, something I will not allow you to do if you choose to enter into my own.

“Of course you are allowed to keep your traditions! They are so culturally rich and beautiful!” – Read: Your traditions, your cultural and literal languages will be tolerated for how I perceive how beautiful and unique they are. Never mind that your first language will have to be English and mainline or evangelical churchisms. Your music, your church language, your church mannerisms will be tolerated but cannot be your primary language in my religious space, my religious space that you are laying down a lot to be a part of in order to fully be present in my space that refuses such silliness.

But what happens when a church does not reject an oppressive postcolonial existence is…nothing. Or rather, progressive nothing. Majority churches today are too afraid to name that they might still be Jim Crow-ish. Integration was never minority initiated. Many minority churches are its offspring. Many majority churches are its mother.

For a (hoping to be) postcolonial and non-racist society and its church, this is terrifying. No one wants their church to be of the Jim Crow era. But this is precisely what syphoning how much attention, if any, to attend to the scary reality of being black or a person of color today means consistently and constantly (Shout out to those who will also get physically ill when they see a police cruiser!).

I guess the question for me is, which is stronger? Being more scared of being labeled as currently living into a racist legacy or being terrified that your Christianity tiptoes the line of progressivist idolatry? Are you scared that your faith might get a bad rap or that it might not be faith at all?

For me reconciliation asks and wonders communally: What does it mean to bring your full self to church, to be your full self in church? How is that facilitated? Who should facilitate such a lofty miracle? To be scared of these questions of the persons asking these questions is to worship the terror of being wrong. Jesus wanted liberation. For all. Who gets to determine what our liberations look like?

Bradley Wright’s study on church welcomeness based on race was eye-opening for me. His work brought up questions for me around a question that I am not sure churches doing racial reconciliation are willing to ask or even aware to ask: Is our church interested in being fully integrated?

This is a difficult question to hold because it seems terribly antiquated: it is a question of the Civil Rights era, and no church today wants their purpose, mission and practice to ask fifty year old questions. But they should be, because they are tending to a problem that has lived much longer than that. The church is stuck in a pre-Civil Rights era; this is a problematic ontology, because it illumines how non-church the church is, how the church is in fact not being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

What is racial reconciliation then? And further, if Christ has done the reconciling work, what are churches actually doing? I wrote a paper last year that argued that from an evangelical standpoint racial reconciliation is more a spiritual mandate than tangible desire (Emerson and Smith’s Divided by Faith was helpful). It is practiced for spiritual well-being instead of true love-work. In this then, minorities become the platform on which the majority can perform their fantasies and secure their salvation.

I wonder what the anti-integration character of churches aiming to do reconciliation means today. In many ways our faith is for us, for our salvation, monuments to support our good beliefs, this is the complex truth. But if faith does not explore how much it should be for us, it remains about us. Can something that we enter into with our well-being in mind turn our hearts, eyes, ears, minds, words and actions towards others? Only time will tell. Until then, I challenge you (yes, you who is reading) to ask if your church has left the Jim Crow era. Is it fully integrated? If not, why? If you are in a church of the majority and this is the case, wonder aloud and often, is this the Gospel? (Please, let me know if you have a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote for this line of questioning…)

If churches trying to do reconciling work of the racial sort are afraid of their vocal minorities and the heart-wrenching questions and challenges that the Gospel they (minorities) know encourages and brings to the forefront, I’m not sure if they know the Gospel. If churches not doing it but interested in it are afraid of Latin@ prophets and American native truth-tellers, black accountability, and Asian calls to repentance – do it anyway. Do it afraid, do it terrified, do it hurt, pained, pushed, and ultimately allow yourself to be changed. Do the Gospel anyway.

The Gospel is revolutionary, radical, and averse to power. Lay down your obsession with power, your loyalty to comfort, your fear of addressing white fragility, your tears that shut down minority questioning and opposition, your “but” arguments, your “I’m tired of this” mentality and join in. The weary work of wellness is upon you. In fear, exhaustion and pain – embrace it.





10 Things Churches Need to Do Racial Reconciliation

16 07 2015

  10 Things Racial Reconciliation

I’m laying everything that I (think I) know out there because deep down in my soul, I think there’s something to this racial reconciliation thing in churches. I believe in it as one expression of the work Christ has already done for us (there’s also gender, sexual, economic, etc. forms that fit under the notion of “reconciliation” as a whole as well). I really, deep down believe it.

What the church should be asking concerning racial reconciliation is not “How can we reconcile to one another?” but “Do we even know that we are reconciled?” In other words, when we pause to think about it, we are working backwards. Reconciliation has already happened; we are merely trying to catch up to it in real time. We are trying to catch up to the reality that Christ has already set before us. Our reconciliation attempts are outdated moments where we hope to stumble upon a way of being that propels us into the truth of Christ’s redeeming work.

So we mess it up, because none of us have the answers. The best we have is the difficult opportunity to learn what it is literally as we go. We learn about its complications church bombings and shootings, we learn about it staunch history in denominational splits. We allow death, pain, suffering and loss to be the lamentable good of our reconciliatory consciousnesses. They are lamentable teachers.

So, no, I do not have a template for you. But I have thoughts, ideas, inklings, the best that I can do that I hope will do the work of drawing us away from death. And maybe that is how we should think about what it is we are engaging in in the risky calling of racial reconciliation. It is the dangerous work that we do together on and with each other drawing us all away from death, thus it will require the most intense focus on those closest to or living in death. It is hard for white people and minorities at different levels, for different reasons, requiring different amounts of commitment and sacrifice. It is work that feels like death in order to draw each other away from death – death that can look like racial injustice or white privilege, economic disadvantage or false perceptions of boot strap mentalities, death that can look like “I am worthless because society has told me so” or “I am worthwhile because the society those like me built still tells me so.”

So without further ado, here is a painful and honest list that churches need to do racial reconciliation:

1. A serious desire to do it

This means that white churches cannot set the example for what reconciliation looks like, because they’ve never done it before. But neither can minorities. What is crucial to hold near is that minorities should take the lead – not because we know anything more, but because we know what being reconciled to someone does not look like, and it does not look like white power in ecclesial form. Those who have the most experience on the underside is…well, experienced about the underside. If racial reconciliation aims to level out what life means and can offer to all, it must be a student of the underside.

2. A majority minority congregation (or at least half minority congregation)

Minorities remaining minorities does not make any sense. If it did, then I’m not sure it’s racial reconciliation. Here it is wise to take a page out of the book of the Civil Rights Movement – white people joined a black majority and bold people of color and their allies in the faith were a force so strong that they made major moves in changing the political landscape of the country. Pay attention to where, why, how and through whom change has happened. And again, become a student.

3. Righteous anger as a staple (and even requirement) in the reconciliation agenda

Anger is a part of reconciliation. Let me say it again: Anger is a part of reconciliation. If you plan on doing reconciliation by running away from, concealing it or snuffing it out – I would call your practice reconciliatory supremacy, not racial reconciliation. Anger can be attached to pain, hurt and suffering, thus when it is ignored as a barrier to reconciliation instead of an aspect of it, pain, hurt and suffering is ignored. And what is reconciliation for if it is not mending work? To deny someone the full range and scope of their feelings in light of their experiences is to deny them their being. Let me say that again: to deny someone the full range and scope of their feelings in light of their experiences is to deny them their being. Don’t do that – unless you’re okay with supremacy.

4. A minority-created or minority-led reconciliation ideation    

Basically minorities need to be the primary visionaries behind what reconciliation could look like for that body. That’s it. Will it super-structured and neatly mapped out? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is that people who experience the “racial” part of racial reconciliation most intensely get to name their own solutions, get to take charge in efforts to work through things that might have been plaguing them for most of their lives.

5. Leaders willing to hold minority pain without becoming fractured, impatient, insecure, or feeling (egotistically) threatened

Hopefully taking seriously the suffering of others should fortify resolve. Yes, despair is kin to resolve and needs adequate space to live and breathe, but resolve should have the final say. Being pained towards action should be the driving force of leadership in churches called to racial reconciliation. If the truth is painful, this can mean one of two things: 1) Your heartstrings are pulled where you feel a mixture of hurt, shame, but ultimately painful clarity. Something is clicking within you about what spaces of power you occupy and need to surrender; 2) Your heart is hardening and you’ve hit your discomfort limit and may or may not use language of not feeling safe (and yes, the majority using safe language in a space difficult to exist in as a minority is power language), feeling that what is occurring is reverse racism (also a poor showing of power), or that race is brought up too much (avoidance = power, seeing a trend?). Either way, painful truth is an important discerning tool for the minority; it shows quite clearly whether someone is in or out of the reconciliation efforts.

6. Minority leadership

Half of the leadership should be minorities, because (cough, cough) they have experience being a minority and might have an idea about what is important to minorities – not to “bring or draw more in” but to be considered equally as the church. Minority leadership is not a gimmick or advertisement, but a practice of a church who has minorities who also should be seen as part of the church. This notion is not novel; it is civil and just to allow minority voices to have presence in their very own church.

7. Minority context

Because, let’s face it, minorities will not come to white churches to be their reconciliation “project.” Churches need to be in spaces where it can know a variety of people. If a church is in a diverse space and still attracts white people, that is a warning sign that some type of barrier is in the way whether it’s denominational, racial, economic, cultural, etc. Something needs to be named and teased out, honestly named and adjusted.

8. Built in time and space for minorities to retreat 

Reconciliation exceeds being a job. It is lifestyle, and thus for people who think about and/or have experienced powerless a great deal of time, it can be a life drain. Minorities do not want to be around people in power operating in their power all of the time. We need breaks. We need retreat. We need time and space to be around those like us where we do not have to teach others how to see us and others. Space to simply be away is important. It may look like attending another church, it may look like a minority caucus within the church or with other churches. Either way, it is necessary for sanity and the presence of minorities to continue in reconciliation work.

9. Willingness to have desires dissected

Everything will be questioned on a large scale: Why are we doing this? What does this mean for us? And on a small scale: Why do I feel like I want to leave? Why is this so hard for me? Have I always lived in supremacy? How do I unlearn it? Reconciliation requires everyone, minorities included, to be unmade from harmful and inaccurate depictions of the self and others. If you are raising a family, this will be heightened as you are literally passing along your life lessons to your family. This is scary ground to be on, but necessary.

10. The courage to risk denominational exile  

If churches aren’t asking why minorities cannot thrive there, but can thrive amongst their own, they miss the opportunity to see where privilege might be built into the structures of their denominationalism. But this is a silly point to list as most are not willing to risk “that much.” Reconciliation is not an agenda, but a way of being church. If churches are not willing to take the ultimate risk and be church away from or outside of denominations with tainted histories and present practices that favor some over others that it is not willing to address, then that church is not ready for all reconciliation as a way of life requires of them.

Risk of angering and stepping away from their denomination if they do not advocate for just reconciliatory practice – this is the most dangerous practice. The security of a denomination is basically a god. Funding, support, progress, placement, even community are all perks of denominational affiliation. To have the heart to risk angering or leaving a denomination is a risk most are not willing to take. But when reconciliation does not fit inside denominational confines, the rubber must hit the road. If one’s denomination is built on majority ethnocentricity, which, if we’re frank, many mainlines are, hence black and immigrant churches, it should be a candidate of things that need to be reformed in your church’s life.

When it gets down to it, all ten things can be summarized in risk. Risk hurts, costs a lot a lot of the time, and has a slim chance of reward. It is not good business practice especially with such low return rates. But it is the stuff of our faith. To avoid risk is to claim identity as a church that simply isn’t true.

This entire list can be summed up as “risk as faith.” Racial reconciliation work takes both. Faith in this form will take on the uncomfortable form that it was intended to be. Faith was never meant to be easy, pleasant or fun, but true. And what is truer to the Christian faith than battling the ways of the world – the church world, where comfort and power dressed in the holy linguistic garb of “love” reigns. “The world” is not out there, but in here – the world is in our churches, churches that can learn a lot about what some in the world get right about loving our neighbor as ourselves and thus fighting and putting comfort and safety on the line for their just treatment. The world is internal; it is in us. Until churches pursuing racial reconciliation acknowledge this fact and get treatment for it (minority spaces being one form), it is running in self-righteous circles. The world is not a place or people who need us as the church to save it, it is the moment in ourselves where we fail to see another equally, and choose to attribute this feeling to sin. It is missed opportunities to try to do better in some strange hope that the Spirit will make us better and move us towards wholeness. Racial reconciliation is a terrifying proposition for terrifying and terrified people. I have no idea why, but it seems like God wouldn’t have it any other way.





Racial Reconciliation Power Check

16 07 2015

So, I also deleted this post for fear of being too controversial. Glad I’m over that…

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Racial Reconciliation Power Check photo

Those invested or involved in racial reconciliation in the church, consider if you recognize the following in yourself. In trying to do reconciliation those in power need to be aware of the following:

1) Excuse-ing: where those in power ex-cuse themselves out of a situation they perceive as too hard, uncomfortable or difficult. Excuses become the language one speaks as permission to leave these situations. But they fail to consider the whole church; they fail to imagine how it is for those with less or no power.

2) Wall-retreating: emotional oppression where the angered, upset, critical, observant minority is perceived as too emotional or mean and thus unhearable and/or one to run away from. The person in power hits a wall, but instead of deciding to pick up a sledgehammer and join their minority brother and sister to knock down that wall, they retreat from it, giving up, or worse yet, decorating the wall while vehemently denying that it is a wall. They instead call it a foundation – a foundation they are proud of because ironically, and horrifically, they helped build it.

3) Selective solidarity: identifying with an oppressed group on some level, but denying their truths on another level, or, bypassing oppressed groups in front of them completely in order to join with others they have fantasized helping full ignorant to the fact that this solidarity operates in a mode of exchange: I, the person in power find myself or secure my morality in helping poor (insert minority here), where (insert minority here) have minimal desire to enter into this contract but see the potential to have some of their needs met, so reluctantly and strategically agree. Survival becomes evident on both ends, the question becomes surviving what?

Racial reconciliation is amazing and nearly impossible because it leaves absolutely no room for bull, no space for lies, and no time for theological mannequins.

Either you do it or you don’t. And to be clear, “doing it” implies actually entering the throes of knowledge alerting you to the fact that everything you thought and much of what you think is reconciliation actually is not.

Racial reconciliation thrusts those in power towards having different teachers, teachers that they cannot pick and teachers who care less about how truth hurts feelings and more about how hurt feelings perpetuate injustice.

Reconciliation is not for the faint of heart. It is for all Christians, though – many, unfortunately, who are faint-hearted.

Where might help come from? Jesus, of course. But let’s not also forget that the body of Christ is present in the church – therefore, I encourage those in power to explore the body they are part of. Perhaps they might realize that they are a fingernail instead of eye, a knee cap instead of a arm, an eyelash instead of a torso.

What wonders would body exploration bring? But of course, we must recognize that even “exploration” is such a loaded concept in itself.

 





Deconstructing the Masks of Racial Reconciliation

7 10 2010

Disclaimer: I am no expert on racial reconciliation, nor do I claim to be one; I write solely from my observations and experiences, but I write with the intention to identify the obvious and unspoken, the uncomfortable results of the racial reconciliation movement that we who have decided that church cannot be church without reconciling, repentant, loving, inclusive action and being have a duty to name and hopefully address honestly, not simply with reprimanding in mind, but repentant and faithful living. (and yes, that was a run-on sentence!)

Racial reconciliation should transcend the boundaries of actions that are close to but don’t purport the notion of community through sacrifice: sacrificing all that is familiar for the unfamiliar, sacrificing personal preference in order to embrace the preference of another, and especially sacrificing pre-meditated understandings of peoples and places and believing the people of those places who tell you differently. Racial reconciliation is not racial welcoming, racial tolerance, nor racial observation. It is more personal than we think. It affects more people than we think. It affects the body of Christ entirely, not just a congregation here or there. It runs deep into Jesus’ body, not as a fad, but as the life-giving connection between His blood and our worship, His veins and our stylistic preferences, His arteries and our cultures.

What it is not is un-sacrificial. It is not a runner-up to what Jesus meant when He sat, ate with and was joined by sinners. It is not achieved in the welcoming level, tolerance level, or observatory level.  

Racial welcoming comes close to what people think to be racial reconciliation, but lacks the effort and commitment to adopt a theology of discomfort from both parties covenanting to be with one another. It welcomes as long as it is not transformed into something unrecognizable, for unrecognizability resists the “predominantly” label so many churches are accustomed to having and being.

Racial tolerance is even further from the target than racial welcoming as it signals one group at the center of the Christian universe, whether they’re African, African-American, Asian, Latino, White etc and allows other to be, to a certain extent, only in light of their being. One group sets the standards and others are “appreciated” in light of how much they are not like the standard, for diversity must be celebrated, right? Celebrated but not integrated, racial tolerance gives permission for Christians outside of their majority to exist within the confines of what the majority deems Christian existence.

Racial observation rests even further on the outskirts of racial tolerance for it is simply a ministry of on-looking. It witnesses difference from afar, and witnesses from afar alone. Nothing is done to see if racial difference and cultural distinction can mean more, it is simply observed and in that observation a false sense of education is exercised, pejorative reading of the Christian church is made precisely in that inactive “education,” and the division between groups remains glaring and distinct.  

These three models of racial reconciliation I believe are more often than not, falsely practiced in place of true and Holy Spirit led racial reconciliation. They provide the foils against which true racial reconciliation can be recognized, but are utilized often because they are disguised as “we’re getting there” and “this is a messy vocation that takes time” language. These three types of models mirror the three categories of personality types present within many churches who find themselves a part of the racial reconciliation conversation. They enter into a conversation without calculating what it would cost them and thus mete out what they are willing to sacrifice, giving rigidly, contemplating giving, or convincing themselves that their interest is gift enough.

The Racially Welcoming Christian (RWC) exhibits 1 Corinthians 11 behavior (vv. 17-33). They are most than happy to sit at the table with everyone, but do not change their eating habits. They feast the same, not cognizant that even their being at the table (implying communion) has to be received differently. They commune not only for themselves with Christ, but with and for others in Christ. They love that difference exists in their midst. They embrace their brother or sister as important, imperative to their understanding God’s kingdom, valuable to and in the body of Christ. What they fail to do is change as a result of another person’s permanent place in their life. Their church body may change, but their personal theology doesn’t change much at all. They listen to the theological background of another, but do not add it to theirs since addition of another’s means subtraction of their own theological beliefs. They operate the same, but appreciate and recognize the difference in everyone. They are touched, but only changed on the surface. Nothing changes in their life, except information about other people. The information does not penetrate deeper than their intellectual capacity; it may touch their heart, but it rarely reconfigures it.  

The Racially Tolerating Christian (RTC) models the Galatians 3 confusion assuming that people are entering their world and thus need to adhere to their way of existing. The Gentile is welcomed in, but the confusion surrounds what the Gentile is entering into. It is a Jewish existence for sure, but what they misunderstand is this notion of being the “original church body” in the first place. Both groups are Gentilic, entering into a completely new existence. Chosenness rests in Jesus’ body that both, the majority and minority church body, are equally invited into. Both are bringing aspects of themselves into community together that looks messy, feels incomplete, and hurts a lot of the time, but leaves without a shadow of a doubt absolutely no room for selfish ambition to parade around as if it is God’s will. It takes both groups out of their traditions of comfort and asks them to be together uniquely and collectively. It leaves no room for human effort, but encourages desire and participation; the Holy Spirit does the rest. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, faith that His words, and body and practices did something to old ways of doing and thinking and constructed something completely new, un-like what we would deem comfortable or perfect and yet is perfect.

The Racially Observant Christian (ROC) parallels the rich, young ruler in Luke 18 (vv. 18-23). They have resources, they have culture, and they have influence and power and do not find it necessary to lose them in order to be with other people. They face Jesus and honestly think that they have done their Christian duty but cannot handle a re-drawing of the boundaries of their commitment and love. They fear that the loss of their resources will affect how others view their culture and influence although that is precisely the story of others’ lives. Their understanding of faith is contingent upon comfort. They believe themselves to be educated on the crux of a life that follows after Christ and models His ways, but are unaware of the depth of this pledge. So they choose to remain afar and give up absolutely nothing. But no doubt, continue “keeping” the commandments.

These responses and ways of being in the racial reconciliation conversation are produced from a desire to do something righteous and right, but after the cost is counted, kill and hinder true racial reconciliation’s attempt to spring forth. The messages sent forth in their failure to break out of the selfish grips of church tradition, racial and cultural purity and generational war deter us from truly seeing the form of racial reconciliation. It is an ugly one at that, a hunched over, injured, and imperfect figure that Christ calls us to. It may not have the stage for P&W (Praise & Worship), the hymnal, the fiery preacher, the contemplative chants, the whatever. Or it may have all of those together mashed together as the same thing; those interested in being reconciled must understand that racial reconciliation happens when people of those different cultures are reconciled, brought together, asked to and taught to live together.

What the racial reconciliation conversation should continue to emphasize is the “person” aspect of Christian life. The church preferences belong to the people, they come from the people. The people who swear up and down that God loves to hear Christian Contemporary Music, and guitar solos, and see young adults in small groups and mission trips are people!

Once the people recognize that it’s more than sitting beside, allowing people to sit beside and thinking about but in the end choosing not to sit beside another, but rather that it’s sitting with that person entailing changing perspectives, open dialogue, holy disagreements, and holier shifts in what one’s “particular” culture is, then racial reconciliation can truly be the strange, weird, ugly, and holy love movement Christ’s body has affectionately called “community.”








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