Can Good Christians Be Unintentionally Racist? Issues Part I

If you have been in the United States for at least thirty minutes or exposed to any of our global media exports, you have received messages about race.

Most likely, they were problematic.

Instead of doing the Matrix moves of good works to prove how any of us are not racist, we need to just own that we have some stuff in there like Prego that we need to continue to undo from minutes to years of drinking in the racial messages that permeated our cultural lives.

I do not care how much you declared to your children that you “don’t care if they are Black, White, yellow, or polka-dot,” you have received some problematic message about race.

Let us take the pressure off of identifying who is and who is not racist. Okay?

Besides, I have pretty simple assessment to easily establish who needs to examine themselves about race:

1)    Are you breathing?

Yes.

2)    Are you in (or have you encountered media) from the United States?

Yes.

You, my friend, have some level of racial work to do in your life.

Repeat after me: It is okay.

All of us have racial messages.

Therefore, this post does not cover what makes a person a racist. This post explores quite the contrary. In this part, I unmask three ways kind and loving Christians unintentionally support a racist world in their adamant refusal to examine their hearts about race.

Egads.

  1. Cold Hearted Saints

When we live cold-hearted about race, with all of our colorblind and “Jesus loves you” rhetoric, we support a racist world. I have wrestled with this phenomenon of kind, loving, and generous Christians in the United States who, when the issue of race surfaced, in a flip of coin would shift into some of the coldest, cruelest people you have ever encountered. People would act like they needed an extra helping of gluten-free communion wafers and cheese to settle them down or something. Others would act so out of character that you would think an exorcism was in order.  The immediate change from Ned Flanders to the Incredible Hulk at the mention of race was almost miraculous.

Over the years, I began to wonder if we worshipped the same Jesus.

I struggled with trying to make sense of fellow sisters and brothers in Christ who justified perpetual cold hearted responses and actions because a) they can quote scripture or b) Jesus did not mention race or c) they believe it will not send them to hell.

God save the queen and our souls.

Come on.

Jesus did not mention Androids or iPhones, but I do not see these very folks denying themselves of such worldly pleasures.

I sought to understand how we could declare our love for God and simultaneously refuse to examine ourselves by relying on a literal interpretation of the Bible to get us off the hook for areas we do not feel like exploring.

I have come to see that the cold-heartedness reflects the internal war of our human will against a God we love. Our pride gets in the way. And are using even the Lord himself to avoid it.

How human of us to fight with the ones we love. God included.

  1. Obsessed with Good

Our selfish obsession with trying to be good feeds the racism demons in the world. I have come across countless Christians who errantly believe because they are neither Klan nor neo-Nazi members and because they invited Jesus into their lil ol’ hearts that there is no need to bother with race.

When it comes to issues of race, I have observed Christians, mostly White, who seemed more wedded to being perceived as “good” than godly.

Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “Ain’t nobody good but the Father in Heaven. So, I’m  gon’ need ya’ll to chill.”

No wonder Jesus kept going off to the wilderness.

Speaking of chill, snowflakes includes those of us, who melt down, stop our ears, and do everything but yield even this one area- this racial area- the stony grounds of our hearts to God. But, many of us want to be so good that to be linked with racism is like a stab in a heart and gut at the same time.

In our avoidance of feeling like a bad Christians, we live out our good works and deeds. In refusal to examine their heart and lives about race, we passively give permission to racist woes of the world.

What some of us realize intellectually, but not spiritually, that we can not live goodness 24/7 in our own capacity, so we depend on Christ to strengthen us.

Therefore, let it be resolved that there is no such thing as a “good Christian,” and that God wants us to get over our racial crap to break free of this spiritual stronghold of racism in all the ways it shows up in our lives. To obtain this freedom requires that instead of meltdowns, that our hearts actually melt from engaging all people as Christ by truly listening, hearing, and developing in substantially meaningful cross-racial relationships.

  1. Salvation from Dealing with Racism

Jesus saves.

I know.

He saved me, too. *cue the heavenly chorus*

Jesus did not save us from dealing with racism. Upon conversion, as new creatures, none of us morphed from humans to ostriches so we can bury our heads in the racial sand.

Typically, Christians believe that once we have given our lives to Christ, we are new people, and all of the old things are passed away. According to our faith this is true, and there is more.

We still have much of our flesh (our natural human desires and ways), ourselves that still remains to be crucified daily, so that we can live like Christ.

This does not magically happen in one prayer. Otherwise, we would not sin forever and ever and ever *echo*.

The truth is that Jesus did not save any of us from the social and cultural environment and politics we were born into.

Once we prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” we did not miraculously get beamed up to heaven by Scottie or Saint Peter.

We were left on this earth having to learn how to live in this world without being of it. We get to help change the world around us by shining as lights.

Even with the newness of life of being born again, we live in a world engaging with all of the inherited messages that have been well into motion about what it means to be of a particular race, religion, gender, nationality, etc.

We did not lose our all of our personality, our memories, our patterns, our preferences, our habits, our quirks, and unique attributes in one spontaneous moment.  (Testimonies exist of immediate freedom from addictions. However, do not think it strange if it did not happen to you).

Following Jesus entails intentionally surrendering our will to live as if things like race do not matter, not just spout off a scripture about there being no Jew, no Greek, and all being the same in Christ.

In other words, we do not surrender once to Christ. We surrender as a lifestyle.

We do not take up our cross once in a prayer of repentance.

We take it up daily and follow Christ as we die to ourselves.

And our good Christians need to let go of striving to feel and be seen as good and nonracist.

When it comes to race, these individuals go to great lengths and out of their way to avoid looking in the mirror and looking up to heaven and surrendering to God.

Haven’t Jesus been through enough for our sins? Now, He is an excuse to be a good Christian—a willfully ignorant bigoted one?

Instead, groups of us prop up leaders, often in the form of pastors, who refuse to challenge us about race. Week after week, we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds with specific parameters to avoid the ways we live racially.

Such practices help us feel content in believing we are disconnected from any legacy of race and racism from our nation’s history. On the other hand, we claim to follow a multi-ethnic Messiah who we have neither touched nor seen from generations ago from a land far, far away.  To top it off, we profess that somehow, through a special prayer and a sacred book, we remain connected to Him.

We are sound asleep in our blissfully ignorant racial comfort and in dire need of spiritual awakening.

Allow me to cherry pick a scripture out of context to express my thoughts:

Come to your senses and stop… (1 Corinthians 15:34 CSB)

Or even better,

Stop. (1 Corinthians 15:34 CSB)


We Know It Is Wrong

I believe that deep within most of us, we know it is all wrong.

By it, all of this racial avoidance, blaming, meltdown, coldness, defensiveness—all of it.

That’s why people get so easily angered by bringing racism or race up.

That’s why there is defensiveness.

That’s why people seek the company of other Christians and churches who do not challenge them, but give them permission to stay the same.

That’s why whenever a Person of Color shares a troubling racial experience, we can count on at least one White Christian bringing up any racial issue they have experienced in attempt to silence or dismiss the reality of racism.

That’s why we see Christians who say things, like “get over it” with bitterness spewing out of their hearts and have others who do not dare challenge them.

These people who keep telling others to get over racism because it magically disappeared with Civil Rights legislation desperately need to get over avoiding their racial hang-ups in their heart.

Deep down, we know it is all wrong.

We know we need to search our hearts.

Guess what happens when we examine ourselves?

We do not feel spectacular about it.

Chances are, if you are a Christian, when you gave your life to Christ, you did not feel awesome beforehand.

You realized that the miserable void that sought to fill physically was a spiritual one.

You felt sorrow-some Godly sorrow that lead to repentance.

Pride did not save you.

And it will not save you from a racial heart of stone.

Humility does.

Instead of saying “I’m tired of hearing about racism,” or “I am tired of talking about race,” try this racial sinner’s prayer:

Lord, I am tired of running from examining my heart about race.

I give up.

Please, help me.

Amen.

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