As a pastor I would love to say that the answer to the racial divide can be found in church but unfortunately our history would say otherwise. This is the original design specs for the church when it comes to race.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11a
The apostle Paul let us know that there is complete equality in Christ. Unfortunately the church historically is not known for its equality. It is said that the most racially segregated hour of the week is 10 AM on a Sunday.
In the 50s Jim Crow laws separated blacks and whites in schools and hospitals and restaurants and drinking fountains. Based on the verses we just read it seems pretty obvious where Christians should stand on this issue but when the battle for equal rights was being waged many churches stood in favor of segregation.
In 1954, clergymen in the Presbyterian Church regional meeting of churches, heard a message from G. T. Gillespie. In a carefully argued speech to the pastors in attendance, Gillespie outlined a “Christian View of Segregation.” He stated, “There are many varieties of the bird family, but under natural conditions, so far as known, bluebirds never mate with redbirds doves never mate with blackbirds, nor mockingbirds with jays.”
Carey L. Daniel, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Dallas, made a direct comparison between desegregation and the schemes of the devil himself. Conversely, Daniel labeled Jesus the “Original Segregationist.”(Quotes taken from Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise. BTW this book is a must read).
These two examples don’t represent all of Christianity by any stretch. Many, and probably most, Christian churches were against segregation, but most remained silent. When we should have stood up against injustice we kept to ourselves. A quote attributed to Edmond Burke puts it perfectly
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
This is such a difficult topic and there so many opinions but I believe that the words of Paul in Colossians gives us our best response.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:11
Is compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience the response you see in culture when it comes to conversations of race? Seems like the general response is anger, frustration, and defensiveness. If our response is not compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience then you and I are doing it wrong.
The word compassion in this verse means to feel something deeply in your gut. When your neighbor hurts you hurt. When your child is struggling you are struggling. When a spouse feels deep sadness, you have that same deep sadness in your soul. This is what we need when it comes to bridging the racial divide. We need to feel with.
The answer to the racial divide is not to stand up for our own rights but to listen to the stories of people who look different than us.
The answer is not for us to demand that people continue to notice us. The answer is in sitting down and hearing the stories of people that have a different life experience. My go to person to get perspective in this area is my good friend Gino Mingo. Gino played professional football as did his father, Gene Mingo. Gene is in the Denver Broncos Hall of Fame. One story that I cannot get out of my head took place when Gene was trying out for the Miami Dolphins. When the family arrived for training camp they were denied entrance into the team hotel because they were black. In the middle of the night Gene had to drive his family from hotel to hotel looking for a place to house his family. He finally had to settle on a dirty rat and cockroach infested hotel. Gino was one and a half at the time so when they arrived Gino’s mom began to hurriedly clean the room so that her son could crawl around in safety. Mom was pregnant at the time and during one of her cleaning sessions she slipped and fell on her broom and damaged her placenta. She was rushed to the hospital and the baby was born but only lived for a few hours. Mom was never allowed to see her baby girl.
Stories like this open up my eyes and educate me and grow my compassion. If you’re a reader let me give you a place to start.
Coach Wooden and Me, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Get the audiobook read by the author.
Barracoon, Zora Neal Hurston. This book is consistently in the top 20 biographies of all time and it tells the story of one of the last known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade. It’s a short read but eye opening.
The Sixth Man, Andre Iguodala. If you’re a basketball fan you will love this book. What I found intertwined with his story about basketball were subtle stories of racism he has felt throughout his life. Here’s a quote that hit me between the eyes.
“Race was not something that I became aware of in a moment. It was something that built slowly in my understanding of the world. I didn’t run around when I was three years old thinking, “I’m black!” None of us do. Everything in my world seemed normal. If I had any consciousness of white people, it was simply that they were somewhere else. They were “over there.” But as I grew, that changed, slowly but certainly. The freedom to be unaware of racism simply doesn’t last long if you’re black.” Andre Iguodala
I believe as a people we have a general understanding of compassion. There are just certain comments that we would never to say to anyone. If you had a friend who shared with you the devastating result of their parents divorce there isn’t anyone who would say “That was a long time ago. Why don’t you just get over it?” If you had a friend who had leukemia as a child and spoke of the fear they carry as an adult as a result of it you wouldn’t say “Dude, that was decades ago. Let it go.” I grew up as the child of an alcoholic and my dad was not the happy beer drinker you see on TV ads. My house was filled with angry words and black eyes and coffee cups shattered against the kitchen wall. I am 59 years old and I still feel the results of those scars. I have shared my story to thousands of people from the stage and a thousand others over coffee. (OK, so I am a bit of an over sharer!) Never once have I had anyone say “That was a long time ago. You should just get over it.” Each time I have shared the story I have been treated with compassion. Why does race talk tend to eliminate the same compassion?
Compassion is not a solution to global division caused by race, but it is Gods simple solution to making a different one person at a time. Hopefully one person that experiences that change is you and I.