In Part One, I unmasked three ways kind and loving Christians unintentionally support a racist world in their adamant refusal to examine their hearts about race. In this last part, I explore two methods employed by good Christians to maintain racism and the call to become bad.
How Good Christians Maintain Racism
Good Christians use a variety of methods, often unknowingly, to maintain racism. Two common ones are silencing and good works.
I have witnessed silencing attempts by good Christians when people speak out or write about issues of race. Silencing is the practice of these good Christians who supposedly exist on such a higher plane that they dare not come down from their holy mountains, except in efforts to silence people (across race) who dare interrupt their deep-seated desire to live in blissful racial ignorance. With ease they call people across race who brings up race, “racists,” but rarely, if they ever, they challenge a White person with bigotry. Then, they need more investigation. Then, they become keyboard researchers to try to prove otherwise. They seem have much empathy for people who support an unexamined life about race and allow them to do the same. There is little to no empathy for people who have experienced racism from inter-personal to institutional domains. Sadly, they use the Holy scriptures in their manipulation tactics with more pride than the devil. These silencers seek to prove how racism only exists in very people who challenge it. I know it seems backwards, but it makes sense to people who go to great lengths to avoid looking in the mirror.
I have experienced my share of good Christian silencers, too.
Good Christians, who in the name of “helping” me and, out of a loose concern about my walk with Jesus, try to silence me for bringing up race or racism. Typically, these people do not care to really get to know me. On the other hand, the moment I say or write something about race and these Christians feel like they need to save my wayward soul. To be clear, and I say it with the love of sweet Jesus Christ,
If I am going to hell for naming racism, the people who try to silence me about it will probably be the welcoming committee.
Let the Church say, “Amen.”
In other words, of all the things that concern me about my soul, talking and writing about race is not one of them. To drive this point further and more Mississippi:
It ain’t nann one of ‘em.
Good Works as a Cover
When we use works as a cover, we are blinding ourselves to our own souls.
Often, I hear Christians say that racism a heart issue, but when do we pause to examine our own hearts. We are too busy fighting and covering our lives with works to actually listen and search for ways that we have problematic racial messages that we have internalized.
We are too busy trying make ourselves right in our own eyes and our neighbors’ eyes.
When to be honest, none of us are really right.
No. Not one.
I encounter a lot of people who put more effort in assuming based on good deeds, clichès, and varying degrees of superficiality.
Searching our hearts and yielding is not the same as assuming.
When we sit in pews getting spiritually fattened every week, assuming we are fine because we refrain from racial slur usage, we fail to realize that it might be a feeling of conviction-our hearts being pricked, our pride welling up, when we go from zero to sixty in five seconds on the anger scale when we hear anything about race.
Our fellow White Christians who use a personal problematic racial encounter as evidence that they do not have to consider the existence of racism or still search their own hearts, are refusing to yield to God.
When we use our experiences with people across race as a banner of pride signaling why we no longer have to look within, we shut off more opportunities to grow.
And spouting off select quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and waxing poetically about our colorblindness do not remove centuries of evil.
All of these works keep racism buried with shiny smiles.
It does not matter if our best friend, who is a co-worker we do not even spend time with outside of work, is Black.
It does not matter if we adopt a child from Uganda or Ukraine.
It does not matter if our praise and worship leader is Latino.
It does not matter if we go the ends of the earth to another country to do mission work.
We can do all of these things and still have ways of thinking and living about race that completely miss the mark.
Instead of spending our lives trying to avoid facing race, what if we actually owned it. After years of discussion, guiding, leading, pleading, and ignoring people and their racial hang ups, I realize that we cannot be people who seek God or who strives to follow Jesus and remain racist or support racism-even unknowingly.
Forget being a good Christian.
If all of these ways of avoiding self-examination makes one a good Christian, then call me a bad Christian.
It does not matter if you mean bad as in Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” LL Cool J’s, “I’m Bad,” or that one sister in the church whose food you avoid at the picnic “bad.”
In this context, I think bad means real.
Because we need real Jesus, I pray for more bad Christians.
God is Knocking
I believe we cannot walk with God our entire lives and remain racist.
As bad Christians, I think it is impossible.
Given the tumultuous history of the U.S. Church, you might ask, “What about racist preachers who spread the gospel?”
Again, there are many of us who unknowingly rely on our works and the kudos from others as a heavenly thumbs-up.
However, when we are in relationship with Him, God is going to metaphorically nudge us in the side, tug at our sleeves, tap us on the shoulders, or do something to get our attention.
He is faithful to lead us and guide us unto all righteousness.
Throughout my life, in all seasons, even as a person who was not “raised in church,” I can look back and see all the ways God drew me or sought to direct me. Even before I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, God believed in me and patiently wooed me.
Even after Christ, in moments of straight-up Jesus hissy-fits, He loved me.
Even after Christ, when I had anger and bitterness in my heart, God would point out that these were unnecessary loads to continue to carry.
My heart wells us with an overflow of peace as I write these words, because the amazingly wondrous miracle is that God continues to help me change, all out of His love for me. I have yet to experience anything like it.
God ever speaks to us.
Daily, He stands, knocking on our doors.
God has no issue with reaching us about race or racism.
He keeps reaching to make us bad.
But, we act too good to listen.
Other than the still small voice of the Holy Spirit in the whisper of dawn, the televangelist speaking directly to our souls on a late Saturday night, or a booming voice from the camp fire à la Moses, God speaks to us about race. He speaks to us about racism. He is speaking in ways we might not recognize as God. He speaks to us outside the pews, sermons, and immaculate buildings of worship.
He speaks to us about race through the Black and brown poor faces with signs of protest that we easily dismiss.
He speaks to us about race from the peace and violence that erupts within racial and ethnic groups.
And from the peace and violence across.
He speaks to us about race when we flip through a magazine or watch a movie.
He speaks to us about race in that inner resistance-that deep lack of peace we have at the slightest mention of it.
He speaks to us about race when that social media post grates at our nerves.
He speaks to us about race when we see something on television that bothers us.
And when it does not bother us.
He speaks to us about race when someone raises the race issue, and we roll our eyes.
He speaks to us about it when we complain about being “tired of it,” when our weariness is from hearing about something, not actually building meaningful relationships with the Other.
He speaks to us when we feel compelled to talk about how poor we were and how we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.
He speaks to us whenever our first response is anything but open and empathetic.
Oh my God, He is speaking.
Right now, He is speaking, pleading, and trying to get through to many our Pharaoh hearts.
As for those of us, who still go to church and do our good works, measuring our Christianity against the norms of our communities and local assemblies, God is knocking.
He is knocking on areas of our hearts that have been locked away in pride.
The answer to the race issue is not trying to ignore, avoid, or silence people.
The answer is not trying to be good people.
The answer lies in being bad enough to answer the knock at the door. Then, we can have true fellowship with one another and a deeper relationship with God.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20 ESV)