The Problem with Race and the Christian

6 04 2012

I just watched a great interview with John Piper and Tim Keller entitled “Race and the Christian.” I had many reactions to the interview that I will list in a second. But before I get to that, let me just say that I think we underestimate how deeply the sin of racism is embedded in this country. Especially for those like me who have a strong desire to see racial unity within the church. The interview brought up some great points about power and white privilege that I don’t think people often think about when we start talking about the inclusivity of the gospel. Yes, the gospel is inclusive but we live in a very exclusive society. And although as Christians we can argue that the gospel takes precedence (because it does), sometimes it can be a difficult message to preach because of these realities. Racism didn’t just begin yesterday, and therefore, people’s cultural biases are also very deep-seeded. That being said, here are a couple of my thoughts on the interview:

  1. I have to admit. My first gut reaction when the video started playing was “Why are two white men the only panelists on a forum about Race and the Christian?” Fortunately for me, that was one of the first questions that Anthony Bradley addressed at the start of the discussion. The problem for me wasn’t so much the men on the panel–I happen to be a fan of both Tim Keller and John Piper’s work and explanation of the gospel. And their answers to the question were valid and I respect that. My issue is not so much with them as it is with the fact that there seems to be a lack of black (or other ethnic minority) pastors who are called on to weigh in on this issue as a whole. Ultimately, I would just love to see more non-white pastors have some influence in this area so that more discussions like this can be had and all perspectives can be heard. I would also like to see more black churches take part in these types of dialogue.
  2. Anthony Bradley’s questions about power and white privilege, I think, point to a great area of misunderstanding and miscommunication among blacks and whites in the church. We see things and circumstances and situations very differently sometimes. This is a reality. This is something that I’ve had to face for the past 7 years attending predominately white churches. And I haven’t always been honest, with myself or with my white brothers and sisters, about how certain experiences have affected me. This is not good. It moves us nowhere in the discussion on racial unity in the church. But it’s difficult to talk about when you’re in the minority and you feel like no one will understand how you feel or you feel like people might take things the wrong way. But these conversations must be had. How do we do that?
  3. All that being said, I do love the fact that this discussion is being had with two white men. As was stated in the interview, it can’t always be black people telling people about racial issues. It has to be white people talking about it too. It reminded me of Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. His plea to white clergy was that this can’t just be a black struggle. It’s a white struggle too–especially if we are proclaiming that Christ has made us one through his shed blood.
  4. The gospel is supposed to eradicate the prejudices and differences that we have in regards to race. But our churches are still so segregated! Why??!!!!!!!!! I think the church is the last sacred space (well, the church and maybe HBCUs :-). When I think of my friends and relatives who are stuck on going to black churches, I think the black church may be the last place where some black people feel they can let their hair down and be themselves. What I mean is, people can come to a black church and see pastors wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin, which causes a feeling of solidarity around issues regarding race. That’s just one of many examples. I’m reading two books right now, Thabiti M. Anyabwile’s “Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity” and Anthony Bradley’s “Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America.” Both books touch on how a social gospel has impacted the black community and black churches in particular. I’m struggling right now with how a social gospel fits in with “THE” gospel…is it the same thing? Should they be congruous? Can they co-exist? Or are those two ideals self-defeating?

One thing is for sure. This issue of Race and the Christian is not easy. The answers are not easy. Walking it out is not easy. In 5 months I’ll be starting seminary. I’m going into that situation to study Theology and Film. But more and more I feel my heart drawn toward this issue. Maybe there is a way I can combine both fields of study. Only time will tell what will become of it all.

To see the Q&A interview on “Race and the Christian” with John Piper and Tim Keller, moderated by Anthony Bradley, see below. Also, be sure to watch the full lecture on the subject by clicking here, where you can hear the whole conversation in its context and hear more commentary from Anthony Bradley.

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9 04 2012
The Gospel Bond « Convergence

[…] light of my post from Friday, I’ll say that it can be uncomfortable to be in any environment where you feel like you are […]

12 04 2012
In the Gospel Bond | Restoration Church

[…] light of my post from Friday, I’ll say that it can be uncomfortable to be in any environment where you feel like you are in […]

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