The problem of Racism in the wider society cannot be divorced from Racism in the Church.
The Lord Jesus described the church as the light of the word. If the church is full of darkness, which is what Racism is, how then can the world not be blinded?
Once again, the events of Charlottesville bring to the fore the problem of racism in the church.
On Saturday, August 12, white supremacists attacked protesters marching against them in Charlottesville.
A 20-year-old man, James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of people. The results? 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and at least 19 others were injured; a police helicopter monitoring the protests crashed killing two state police officers. This is not the good news that we all yearn for.
No doubt, many pastors and church leaders preached against racism and many more, hopefully, will be preaching about it in the coming weeks.
Outside the church, conversations about racism reached its peak on Facebook and social media. While the conversations continue, following are 4 practical suggestions for Christians to take in the fight against racism.
1. Hold our leaders accountable. Today, any pastor caught in adultery most likely would lose his position. Similar levels of accountability and responsibility should be placed on pastors and leaders concerning the sin of Racism. Both the sin of adultery and Racism do lots of damages to the communal life of our faith.
I think that the sin of Racism does more damage than the sin of adultery. However both need to be faced headlong. There is a saying that “as the leader goes, go the people”. This obviously applies to racism. A congregant who sees his pastor preach against racism and practice what he preaches both in public and behind the scene most likely will begin to emulate the pastor.
Every Christian should be bold to confront leaders when they exhibit racist tendencies. In Galatians 2: 11 – 14, Paul confronted Apostle Peter over his hypocrisy and racist action. Allowing our leaders to continue to get away with the sin of racism will continue to spread the sin and thereby undermine the witness of the church.
2. Examine your church employment criteria to ensure that it is Christ-centered and was not intentionally crafted to exclude some communities or race. Even when such criteria is designed to be inclusive, keep your eyes open to see that the implementation process honors the spirit of the criteria.
A denominational church in an increasingly diverse neighborhood once wrote in their hiring profile that they were open to hiring a person of color as their pastor but when it came to doing it, they went for the son of the “kinsman”, even when the Lord brought to them a person of color that met all their requirements.
They probably did not expect that the Lord would raise a Master of Divinity holder from among the people of color from their denominational seminary or maybe they did at the time they developed the criteria but because careful attention was not paid to the agreement, human connections took priority of Godly connections at the time of implementation. Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation.
3. Watch out for Special Events and celebrations to ensure that the diversity within your church is honored and none is excluded. Even if there is just one black person in your church or one white person in your church, find a way of including that person. His or her presence makes a significant spiritual presence and should not be ignored.
If the Lord could spare the city of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of 10 righteous men (Genesis 18:32), it means that He values the presence of every member of every church. Homogeneous churches should never ignore the fact that their homogeneity did not happen from God’s act in the Tower of Babel but from man’s continued inclination towards sinful unity and disobedience.
This recognition should lead us to repentance and a genuine desire to forge diverse worship and ministry experiences. Even churches far away from other people groups can still have ongoing joint worship services with those people groups from time to time. This will bridge relationship gaps and promote understanding across all peoples.
4. Watch out for subtle Racism – In a church celebration event, the MC started introducing pastors present. He introduced each of the pastors with due titles and recognition as Revered A, B, C, D in keeping with church tradition for public events. But when he came to the African American pastor, he did not add his titles and his introduction was brief.
When I confronted the announcer after the event, he tried to minimize what happened by telling me that “titles do not matter” and advised me not to make a mountain out of a hill. If it did not matter, why did you add it before the other names? The principle of Christ is opposed to favoritism. So, if it did not matter for one, it should not matter for all and vice versa. But if you consider it good enough for the goose, then, it must be good enough for the gander.
I have also seen a situation where a church staff team took a group picture, excluding the only one staff that looked different from them. They conveniently posted the picture on the wall as part of the church timeline. This should not happen in a church of Christ. We are to make extra efforts to see that none is oppressed using subtle words and actions.