Most of us like presents of all types, and for many people, Christmas is one of their very favorite times of the year. Therefore, early Christmas presents are really special. Personally, gifts are not high on my list of “love languages,” but occasionally I receive a gift that really strikes a chord in my heart. Within a 24 hour period, I received several such gifts from people who responded to my blog. I wasn’t having a bad day or anything, so the gifts weren’t essential to my emotional well-being. But they were heart-warming to an amazing degree, causing me more excitement than I have experienced since I started this blog.
A White Brother
The first one I read was from a white brother, who out of his love and concern for his black brothers, reached out to a number of them to just hear their perspectives and understand them as individuals better. Although this is something I’ve been urging in my blog, he didn’t need my urging, for it was already on his heart.
A Hispanic Sister
The second one I read was from a Hispanic sister, whose story is delightful and underscores how very fortunate we are to be in a racially diverse church. However, one thing I have been hearing lately from black brothers and sisters is that we are much more diverse in our church assemblies than in our relationships outside our assemblies.
Just How Diverse Are We?
Honestly, this one came as a bit of a surprise for me. Since I became a part of this movement of churches (officially) 31 years ago, my wife and I have had close friends of different races. In fact, we enjoyed these kinds of diverse friendships long before that, even in the Mainline churches of which we had been a part (although those churches themselves were far less diverse than those in our present movement). But I have asked enough of our African American brothers and sisters about this to become convinced that the observation is too often true.
While I’m not doubting that we are not as diverse in relationships as we should be, given the rather consistent input I’ve received, I think another factor might be involved as well. I wonder if we have just become more selfish and therefore naturally hang out with those we are most comfortable with? Another way of putting it is to ask if we have just become cliquish in our relationships? It may involve racial comfortability, but it may involve comfortability that is not racial in nature.
Racial Comfortability or Just Plain Selfishness?
Here is why I raise this question. I have noticed that when our church services end, we naturally start conversations with those who are already our closest friends. We don’t venture out much beyond that, even to visitors. There was a period when first time visitors to church were immediately surrounded by many disciples and often asked repeatedly to study the Bible (even when they had little clue of what that meant!). Our reduced evangelistic zeal has likely resulted in our becoming more cliquish and perhaps less involved with those of different races along with it. To put it bluntly, without evangelism high on our priority list, selfishness gains ground and all types of fellowship lose ground. Something to think about…
But back to the second letter. As you read it, you will note that one size doesn’t fit all regarding our interracial fellowship and relationships. What I have been hearing from some (too many, frankly) doesn’t fit me (and many others) and it certainly doesn’t fit the situation described by our Latino sister.
A Black Sister
The third letter is from an older black sister who has been in our fellowship of churches for decades. Her upbeat example brightened my day, and her hope for us gave me hope. As I have said and will continue saying, racism in the world is a given. I hate saying that, but we know it is true. 1 John 5:29 states what we all recognize as reality: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
Satan has the world in his grip but we can pry them from his grip one at a time. On the other hand, we know that we are children of God, and with his help can change anything that he wants changed. To whatever extent prejudice, racism and cliquishness exist in us individually and collectively as a church, God can help us to eliminate it.
As you read these three letters, each published with the permission of the authors, I hope that your heart will be as warmed as mine has been. Enjoy!
Hey, Gordon. I just finished reading some of your blogs about racism, and appreciate what you had to say. I have done a good bit of research about slavery, the Civil Rights Act, population analysis, and racial representation in the history of the U.S. Over the summer, I preached to the Savannah church that as a white male, I do not and cannot relate to what Black America has been though (because it is not my history) and that I planned on talking to some of my black brothers to help me to understand. I got with a half dozen brothers that I was close to (and felt that we could be honest) and had long discussions predicated on the question of “What does Black America want from White America?”
I talked very little and asked a few questions when I did not understand something, and I learned a lot from those brothers and feel that I got closer to them. I definitely think it is beneficial for people to sit down face to face and talk, without making accusations or judgements (like most do on social media), and I appreciate what you are bringing to light through your blogs.
NOTE: Chris is a deacon in the Savannah church and serves as a church administrator, although he and his wife own their own business. He preached, but is not “the” preacher, in other words.
First of all, I want to thank you for starting the conversation about racism in America in our churches. Like you have stated, emotions run deep with our black brothers and sisters and we can all help. I am Central American and came to the U.S. when I was 12 years old. For the first time in my life I saw a black person when I arrived. When new Latinos arrived here, we were told by family, friends and neighbors (which by the way are Latinos because immigrants tend to move to other Latino communities and stay together) to be careful and stay away from blacks because they were dangerous.
In my early days in Miami, Florida, my mom and her friend got mugged at the train station by a black man. In another situation a black girl at my school (7th grade) wanted to start a fight with me for no apparent reason to me, since I did not know her. So, what I was told made sense for me after those incidents.
Thank God I became a Christian in the South Florida Church of Christ when I was 18 years old and I can say that Jesus transformed my heart. Half of my bridesmaids and half of the groomsmen at my wedding were black Americans and black Caribbeans. I married an Italian Cuban husband. The other half were Latinos and whites. By no means was this mix planned, it happened spontaneously. It truly was “the power of the blood” of Christ.
I’m sure my mom and dad were very puzzled, for they were silent about the racial mix. It looks like everybody in our churches needs to get more educated on black/white issues, if we are going to help each other. I might be wrong, but I don’t think black disciples talk much about racism to Latino disciples either. In my 22+ years in the church, I only have had conversations about racism with two people and that happened in the last two years. I believe the conversation is heating up. I look forward to following your blog because I love my church and want to see my brothers and sisters of any color and race being loved the way Jesus loves them. Thank God for putting this subject on your heart.
NOTE: When I asked Monica permission to print her story, she wrote back to give me permission, but also to express a concern. Here are her own words regarding that concern: “The only thing I have a concern about is that I shared how I was told by my family, friends of my family and neighbors around us to stay away from black people. I would not like readers thinking that I’m speaking for all Latin Americans or that every Latino that comes to America is told the same thing. This is simply my story and how my family viewed black people in Miami in the 1980’s. To my dismay, I have learned that a lot of the members of the most dangerous and violent international gangs are from my country. How can I in my right mind judge another group of people? I cannot do it, and we know our society doesn’t judge fairly.”
I am a 70 year old black woman, born and raised in the South. I’ve been a disciple for 40+ years. Your blog articles have encouraged my soul. Finally, the issue of racism is being talked about in the church. I have great relationships in the church. I’m a Crossroader, and when I was in the Crossroads church, my best sister/friend was white. Today, my best friend is white. But I feel like I never reveal certain feelings with them. I co-lead a Women’s Bible Study with a dear Republican sister. I’m ready to initiate a conversation with her – not about politics but about our unspoken feelings on the racial subject (at least mine). I believe God has brought his people to a place where we can deal with racism in the church!
NOTE: Dorothy’s disciple heart shines through bright and clear. One implication in her letter is very important, namely that relationships in the church supersede politics. I will have more to say about that subject later from both an Old Testament and New Testament perspective, but our highest allegiance is to the kingdom of heaven and not to the kingdoms of men, the United States included. If we have to agree on politics, we are in a heap of trouble. My most outspoken Democrat friend is an older white man. My most outspoken Republican friend is a somewhat younger black man. I know couples who cancel each other’s votes at the voting booth because they are in different political parties and have differing political views. As an older disciple, Dorothy understands what binds us together ─ the blood of Christ in the kingdom of Christ.