By Dan Crain, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at REMERGE
Everyone in their right mind is condemning what happened in Charlottesville, VA. White supremacy, affiliations with the KKK and the such are pure evil and it’s great that many white pastors and Christian leaders are denouncing such wicked behavior.
My concern is that while this is outright racism and hatred, what we will miss is the underlying sin and racism that hides in our hearts that we fail to ignore. The events that transpired in Charlottesville are low hanging fruit and are easy to pick when it comes to systemic racism. This is why I love this phrase that was floating around on social media recently; “One of racism’s most deceitful tricks is to assure you that it abides anywhere other than your own heart.” Garrett Kell
First, a story about the sin of my own racist heart.
A fear years ago my family and I were at a large park here in Atlanta and after we were done playing I went to get the van with the twins and parked next to a restaurant that overlooks the park and waited on Adrienne to bring the two older kids. As we were waiting an older African-American man walked up pulling a suitcase and was looking to find his way into this restaurant. My instant thoughts were “why is a homeless guy looking to get into this restaurant?” And then his family walked up behind him as apparently there was a wedding in the building and they were just looking to get in.
Regardless, the damage had been done. I classified this man as something that we was not. The fall skewed the way I viewed this man. I repented to Christ and to two very good friends of color who have helped me on this journey of what had happened. They chuckled because they know my heart.
But this experience happens all the time to people of color. Believe me when I say, “ALL THE TIME.” Particularly to young black men.
But why did I immediately have that reaction? I live in a black community. I have been mentored and discipled older black leaders.
Why? Because we live in a fallen and broken world that is constantly trying to continue to divide us.
Why? Because there a history of systemic racism in our country that continues to classify and control people.
Why? Because my I have a false self that I struggle with that loves to classify and control. Robert Mulholland in his work, “The Deeper Journey” explains one aspect of false self as this; “Distinction making self”:
“Our false self is characterized by a need to categorize others in ways that always gives us the advantage. Since our false is a way of being that positions us “over against” all others, others must be evaluated and labeled in such a way as to keep them either inferior to us or affirming and supportive “equals.”
We have to be honest that we all do this because we are born into sin, which is why the reconciling work of Christ is so important and the need to confess our sins to him and to each other. We are all racists, bigots and whatever adjective you want to use to describe our sins and the reality is that we all need a savior.
I believe that all that’s transpiring in our nation and church is that God is pulling back what we have never faced in the first place. We as the body of Christ have made huge strides in past few decades in naming and owning up to our past, but we have a long ways to go and the fact that our churches are divided racially, culturally and socio-economically reveal that we do. If we know church history, particularly in the book of Acts, the birth of the word Christian is because of the unifying factor that the gospel had in the city of Antioch across racial, cultural and socio-economic lines.
Some tips on practical next steps:
We journey and we name the sin and racism of our own hearts that likes to classify and control through prayer, confession and being with people with a different life experience than our own.
We educate ourselves about the complexities of race and choose to sit and learn from Christian leaders of color.
We read some of the resources provided below:
Divided by Faith: Divided by Faith
Join Be the Bridge to Racial Unity: https://beabridgebuilder.com
Issachar Advisors: http://issacharadvisors.com
Attend Grace Dialogues here in Atlanta: Grace Dialogues