I have been hemming and hawing about how to write the next blog post on of my “calling out racism” series. I was supposed to be sharing my own experiences, specifically in regards to racism in the church, but at the same time, I never want to come across as though I am rebuking the church harshly or unnecessarily. I am part of the body of Christ. The Lord is my Groom and I belong to him. And the church, as imperfect as she is, she belongs to the Lord as well. Before I share my experiences, I felt it necessary to write a disclaimer.
With my personal tales of woe that highlight the imperfections of the church, I could easily jump on the current Christian social justice bandwagon and declare, with justifiable experiences, that evangelicals are white supremacists, revel in white privilege and do not care about people of color, especially Christians of color. And because of my history with my own default assumptions about white people, which I shared in PART ONE, I could easily wear the “social justice activism” coat on my mortal body, comfortably and without remorse.
But…..I am not my own. I belong to the Lord, both body and soul. He preserves me in such a way that all things work together for my salvation and my sanctification (Heidelburg Q & A 1). I do not belong to my experiences. They do not own me and I do not own them so I cannot use them to divide the church.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a secular theory developed out of American law schools in the 1980’s. Its goal was to critique society and culture by using a framework of language and ideas from the social sciences disciplines.
CRT focused on law, race and power specifically in these 3 ways.
- CRT assumes that white supremacy and racial power are maintained through the use of law, which trickles down into culture and society, affecting how whites and people of color interact with each other.
- CRT looks for ways to achieve “racial emancipation” by pushing an “anti-subordination” agenda. In a nutshell, the law, which claims to be neutral, is actually set up against people of color so people of color have every right to push back on “the system”.
- CRT uses stories and personal experiences of people of color so that white supremacy can be challenged. Stories and experiences of people of color are assumed to be silenced and one way to push back on being silenced is to tell our stories, to de-legitamize the majority narrative.
CRT is NOT a Biblical solution for racism, but for the secular world, it has become the gold standard for people of color to push back on the majority. Telling our racism stories or personal experiences within majority culture uses a methodology that is counterintuitive. Telling our stories is supposed to educate the masses that racism still exists in its various forms, biases, and subtle nuanced expressions, but in actuality, it assumes that 1) whites have all the power 2) people of color have none simply because they are not white. The unbelieving world may operate under this flawed ideology of CRT but believers should not. Galatians 3:28 states that there is neither Jew, nor Gentile, neither slave, nor free, nor male and female, nor white, or black or brown, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
As I gather my thoughts and words to share my stories, I must question my motives. Do I want to enlighten others that racism in the church is still prevalent, in order to help my fellow brothers and sisters or am I doing it as means of retaliation, using CRT as a basis for feeling hurt or invisible? Interestingly, the longer my stories sit in my own heart and mind, I began to question whether or not my experiences were true examples of racism or something else. Furthermore, I want to be able to say with Job, shall we accept good from God and not trouble (Job 2:10). It is in times of challenge and adversity that our faith matures, refines, and purifies and we need to be careful how we deal with, respond to and analyze our personal experiences. Are we allowing secular language and assumptions to dictate how we are to respond to troubling church experiences or are we willing to allow Scripture to tell us how to respond?
When faced with overt or subtle expressions of racism, which I prefer to use a Biblical term to denote the reality of what racism is, the sin of partiality (James 2:9), I must be slow to speak, quick to show grace and patience and pay attention to how my heart reacts first and foremost.
A brother in Christ recently asked me if the term “sin of partiality” was too soft a term to use for overt acts of racism, like lynching? My response is still the same. Unrestrained partiality leads to evil acts committed against others. In the case of lynching, it’s murder, fueled by preferring ones own skin color, which leads to hating those who don’t share the same skin color. Racism is the secular tidy term that people use to explain murder and hate based on skin color. But racism is not a Bible term. Hate and murder are.
When people of color respond in retaliatory ways to acts of aggression from those preferring their own skin color, that retaliation is fueled by anger and frustration, fostering recycled hate based on skin color. Except the person of color now hates the white person for hating the person of color. It’s a mournful, yet destructive revolving door of hate fueling hate – which is Satan’s playground.
We often think that murder is the highest form of hate that someone can exhibit but Scripture takes it further by saying even if we hate our brother in our heart and talk bad about them, we are also committing acts of murder.
1 John 3:15 says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”
This verse tells us that if we hate our brothers we have already become like Cain. Physical murder has more severe consequences than hatred alone, but the second we hate our brothers we are no better than a murderer. When we harbor hate in our heart and wish ill upon another, or want revenge by any means necessary, we “align ourselves with death and are thus opposed to life in Christ”.
When faced with any sin of partiality, we must ask ourselves several questions.
1) Am I reacting in rage, sadness, hopelessness, retaliatory-ness?
2) Do I feel inclined to love in spite of another showing disdain?
3) Do I prefer to withdraw and divorce myself from the church or that brother or sister?
4) Or worse, do I convince myself that I need to fear them?
These are questions that Christians of color must ask themselves before railing on the entire body of Christ by accusing the totality of the American church of living in the “comfort of white privilege”? We must rely on the Holy Spirit to take a temperature of our heart and be willing to ask ourselves if our reactions are aligned with ALL of the Word of God, not just portions that reflect our personal anger or frustration? If our lives are supposed to reflect that we are people of the Word, are we “topical kind of people”, or “whole counsel kind of people”?
Furthermore, Mathew 5:43-44, Luke 6:27, and Luke 6:35 tell us that if we believe someone is our enemy, we are commanded to pray for them, love them, and do good to those who we think hate us. The Bible offers no other solutions.
Just because I encounter a person in the church who appears to exhibit sins of partiality (racism), I do not have permission to categorize an entire aspect of the church as such, especially since these are the tactics of CRT. Since the various expressions of people of color are not homogenous in thought, background, upbringing, or character, neither are those who have less melanin. When we allow CRT methodology to divide the church into majority vs minority, typically based on skin color, we prove that we are people of the world and not people of God.
Most importantly, we do not have permission from the Lord to place a blanket statement of “white supremacy” or “white privilege” on the entire evangelical church just because the office of the president is occupied by a white man that some do not approve of. Christians must have the discernment to never categorize other brothers and sisters into one mass entity and assume secular group think is occurring based on voting results. I felt inclined to state this because many of the articles, commentary and blog posts that I come across that justifies the condemnation of the entire evangelical church in the U.S. seems to be linked to the premise “since Trump is the president”.
There is no doubt that there are folks in the church who are overtly racists, meaning they have bought into the Darwinistic lie that others are somehow inferior. This form of ideology is often passed down from older generations and racist language is more than likely used in their homes quite often. These folks need not just rebuke but discipline, especially if they are unwilling to see the error of categorizing their fellow brother or sister as inferior.
But even if we encounter a brother or sister who ascribes to overt racist ideology, we would be wise to reflect on the many former self prescribed white supremacists who encounter the living Christ and repent of their former ways. It would be irresponsible to neglect to mention that when these stories pop up on our social media feeds or we come across them on main stream media new outlets, most often it is through a person of color that former racists become aware of their need for a Savior.
Likewise, our personification of Christ’s love and meditating on Galations 6:1 reminds us that if we come across anyone in the church who is caught in any transgression, which includes racism, those who are spiritual should restore them in a spirit of gentleness. We must be careful to keep watch on ourselves, lest we be tempted to react in our flesh and our rebuke becomes unbiblical, lacks gentleness and is done in a spirit of sarcasm that is filled with condescending facetiousness.
Aside from overt forms of “racism”, we must place more attention on the various nuanced forms of partiality that everyone engages in, regardless of skin color. Sadly, when white brothers or sisters commit sins of partiality, it is assumed that these sins are overt forms of racism. We erroneously superimpose all of our country’s historical racism on any outward sin of partiality that comes from our white brothers and sisters, while often ignoring our own sins of partiality. Again, we will justify our accusations by pinning the secular definition of racism that purports that only those with economic power can be “real racists”, excusing ourselves and other Christians of color from self evaluating our own sins in anyway, shape, or form.
When dissecting my own heart over these issues, I have zero point no economic or financial power to wield, but I know how powerful the disdain that exists in my heart is, especially for those that don’t accept me as their equal, or they ignore me, or they leave me out of fellowship. Liberal and progressive Christians and secular scholarship want to convince me that what is going on in my heart towards other brothers and sisters is not important, that it’s not God-dishonoring, and it surely can’t be racism simply because I have no financial or economic power, nor can I use my disdain for institutional gain.
However, I know better. I know that I am committing a grievous sin of partiality out of retaliatory feelings and emotions when someone does not include me, or recognize me, or acknowledge my presence in the church or the public square. If I am not careful, and allow myself to be tethered to the Holy Spirit for guidance on how to maneuver my feelings that stem from another’s behavior, my hurt can easily turn into hate and resentment.
Case in point: My own mother turned me into a victim of physical abuse. After my parents divorced, I bore the weight of her anger and received too many blows on my skin. When I was a child, it broke my heart that she failed to show me love. I wanted and yearned for her love and affection. As I grew up, with the abuse continuing into my teenager years, that hurt and pain turned to anger and resentment. I grew to hate my mother simply because she chose to show her hate through acts of violence towards me, for no other reason than my skin color was a reflection of my father’s dark skin, where my sister’s were more fair skinned, like my mother. I share this because I am very familiar with how hate grows out being a victim over skin color.
Now as a believer, I have to be careful with what I do with my former experiences with victim-hood. How easily they re-appear with any slight of a negative experience received from the hands of another.
The father of socialism, Karl Marx, once alluded that the the person who gives the definitions to a movement, controls the movement. In 1970, Patricia Bidol-Pavda, a secular scholar and professor provided new ways to interpret words in her book, Developing New Perspectives on Race: An Innovative Multi-media Social Studies Curriculum in Racism Awareness for the Secondary Level.
She defined prejudice as a “preconceived opinion not based on reason or actual experience; includes bias and partiality”. She then goes on to define power as “the capacity to exert force on or over something or someone”.
Then in 1996, Caleb Rosado, who is currently an adjunct professor in Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University, took Bidol-Pavda’s definitions and wrote his article, The Undergirding Factor is POWER: Toward an Understanding of Prejudice and Racism.
Racism is prejudice plus power. On the basis of this definition, while all people can be prejudiced, only those who have power are really racist. African Americans, Latinos, Asians and American Indians, the powerless in American society can be and often are most prejudiced toward Whites on an individual basis, but they are not racists at the structural, institutional level. Within this understanding of racism, to be a racist you have to possess two things:
1) socioeconomic power to force others to do what you desire even if they don’t want to
2), the justification of this power abuse by an ideology of biological supremacy.
Only Whites have that kind of power, reinforced by a belief in an ideology of supremacy, both of which constitute the basis of racism in America today.
This finally led Dionne Wright Poulton, a diversity and inclusion consultant, certified K-12 teacher and author of It’s Not Always Racist…but Sometimes It Is, to create The Poulton Racial Bias Equation that asserted,
Prejudice + Power = Racism.
It becomes evident, that patterns of thinking, analyzing and dissecting observations of humanity that become so far detached from Biblical guidance begin to not only harm us, but because they come from higher education and those with advanced degrees, they become our first line of defense in our attempts to understand sin and its effects.
These are just a few that have attempted to create new ways to see an old problem, Biblical sin. They were reacting to the fractured patterns of sinful behavior that were evident during the Civil Rights era, Jim Crow, Reconstruction, slavery, and any sinful pattern of behavior directed at people of color. Years later, Christians of color are still using these redefined terms due to modern day claims of “racism”, especially in social justice circles.
It seems that contemporary Christian social justice advocates are willing to embrace ideology, definitions, and scholarship from secular academia while simultaneously reject Christian scholarship, especially with the latter taking a deeper look at Genesis 3.
Embracing the reality that Biblical sin has deeper ramifications on humanity as a whole is not enough for social justice advocates. Turning to secular methodology for answers is preferable. In essence, those who seek out answers exclusively from secular scholarship over theological answers, are in fact guilty of being partial to knowledge that comes from secular academia…..aka….committing sins of partiality.
Social justice advocates, who are professing Christians, are even willing to divide the church body, with self-serving assumptions of distorted justice. It’s distorted because it places all culpability on our white brothers and sisters to rise above their sins of partiality, without addressing the need for Christians of color to face our own sins of partiality.
The reality is, there is no one that can say they do not have preferences when dealing with others.
1 John 1:8 reminds us that if we think we are neutral creatures who treat others the way we want to be treated 100% of the time, we deceive ourselves and the truth of God is not in us.
Only when we face this reality can Romans 7:24-25 be our heart’s cry.
Oh wretched person that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God but with the flesh the law of sin.
I have learned that as I experience possible or perceived encounters with racism in the church, or rather those who exhibit sins of partiality, I must be quick to remind myself that if I lived in my flesh, I would prefer to surround myself with others just like me.
I am not denying that racism exists in the church. I am saying that it seems to be the only “sin of partiality” that we magnify. We magnify it because secular scholars, along with social media have told us how to think and how to respond to it, with Adam style blame shifting. Yet, they offer no real solutions.
And we ought not to do that.
Ephesians 2 is helpful to point us back to our only solution.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
So this leaves us with one question? Where does our authority come from? Do we allow secular definitions to interpret society or do we take our cues from Scripture?
This post first appeared on Ariel’s blog, arielgonzalezbovat