As promised, this is an introduction to a five-part series of blog articles written by my friend, Tony Chukes. Like me, Tony will focus on interracial relationships in the church. The world is broken and unless people develop God’s perspective and imitate his heart, it cannot be fixed. Hopefully it can be improved in some ways, but the world is the world is the world – and always has been. The church is a different matter. It is the family of God, with each person in it a part of God’s family and equally important to him. We cannot control how those in the world think and act, but we must strive to help those of us who profess Christ to become more like him. Any positive effects we can have on the rest of the world are an added bonus.
Although I do believe that racial issues are real and really significant, I also believe that open, blatant racial discrimination in our society has been lessened outwardly to a considerable degree. How much hearts have been changed is another question whose answer is difficult to ascertain. Outward actions can be legislated, but attitudes cannot. I also know that Satan is very adept at taking something positive and pushing it to extremes until it becomes negative. For example, in America one can lose their job by using racial language openly (even if it starts out in a private setting and is later exposed).
Further, it may just be a comment, or a single word used in ignorance or perhaps only the result of accidentally misspeaking, a slip of the tongue, and that too can result in dire consequences. A news anchor in Mississippi lost her job by quoting a phrase used by Snoop Dogg, assumedly done in ignorance. Do we really think that the White people in the public eye are going to feel more positive toward Black people when they live under the stress of knowing that one verbal mistake could damage or possibly ruin their careers? A good concept taken to extremes can have bad results. Something to think about there.
About here, a Black person might well say, “It’s about time they know what it feels like to live under the stress of what the consequences might be if you simply make a mistake unknowingly!” I understand why you would feel that way. At times we all wish others could feel the pain we face and feel. My issue here is that we would be better off seeking solutions instead of giving in to the temptation of wanting some form of vengeance, even in a roundabout way such as I just described.
In my talks with Black friends, different opinions abound regarding the desire for, or the value of, interactions and relationships between Blacks and Whites. These different opinion groups might be divided up into three main categories. One would be those with a desire to not just talk about racial issues with those of a different race, but for different reasons than might be assumed. Those who have assimilated into the world as it is and have done well in their careers and finances often just don’t want to rock the boat. Life is not ideal for them, but good enough to live with the status quo.
Another group doesn’t want to talk about these issues either, but mainly out of fear that it will make things even worse. They have essentially given up on the possibility of making meaningful progress between Blacks and Whites. Then the third group, representing the majority most likely, would be comprised of those who definitely want to talk about their experiences and those of their fellow people of color with White folks.
Most in this larger group have some level of anger about the racial injustices which they have experienced or observed in the lives of others. Some are able to control their anger when they do engage in discussions with those of a different race, some are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and the rest fall somewhere in-between. Since I started speaking and writing about racial issues, I as a White person have been at times been frustrated at my inability to get my White friends to engage the discussion and have no doubt allowed myself to become too edgy. That really doesn’t improve the situation, but I do understand the temptation to “just say it!”
I cut some slack for my Black friends who sometimes really need a place to vent, not just to their fellow Black friends but to White friends as well. I’m good with that. If you have read the Psalms, you know that God understands that we humans need to vent at times, and he allows it. We too must learn to do the same in many different situations, such as with our own children when their emotions are boiling over, an obvious example.
Back to My Title
One of my church friends, someone I have known for decades, has been one of my advisors when I have written about racial issues. He is a disciple of Jesus, a good-hearted brother and very bright. I call him my “militant advisor,” because he has really strong feelings about racial injustice and feels free to express those feelings to me as an understanding friend. I find it sad that he has said at times that I am the only White brother with whom he feels comfortable just saying it as it flows out of his heart without having to worry about my reaction.
I not only want to hear the content, but I want to hear the feelings behind that content as well. Otherwise, you don’t really get the other person’s heart. Friends should be able to hear each other when emotions are aroused as a part of helping the other person figure out what is behind those emotions and then be able to receive some help. That is friendship. This is, in the words of Proverbs, “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17) with a few sparks flying!
I asked Tony to write five articles containing the issues from his perspective that are most hurtful to him in relationships between races in the church. Tony Chukes has not only advised me, but he has written an article for this blog as well (“Understanding the Foundation of Institutional Racism—Blog 14”). I suggest you go back and read it. Tony knows Black history very well and understands the principles at play which have made this history what it is.
A part of his frustration comes from his broad-based historical knowledge of the inner workings of that history and how it has played out in the development of our nation. At any rate, I will be talking with Tony and together with him, doing some editing of his articles to make them the most helpful they can be with White audiences primarily in mind.
One reason I have not written much for a time on this blogsite is that others writing on the topic are better at it than I am. They understand the topic better. That said, I have my own influence and should be using it as best I can. I am going to do that, as evidenced by this article. Another reason for my lapse in writing on the topic is that I believe more people of color should be given the opportunity to speak from their perspective in firsthand fashion. This article introducing the series by Tony will help accomplish that goal.
Like Tony, I don’t understand why us Christian White folks aren’t more interested in the experiences and feelings of our Black brothers and sisters in Christ. We are very interested in knowing how others feel when they have experienced illnesses and losses and are quick to ask those who are hurting how they are doing. We genuinely want to know and want to help carry their burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Why is it then that we wouldn’t want to know how our Black brothers and sisters feel when they face hurtful things pretty much on a daily basis because of the color of their skin? The Black person’s world has been radically different from that of the White person’s world in our country’s history, and this history has radically affected who we are as a people of all colors up until this present day. Let’s listen with our minds and hearts totally engaged as Tony tries to help us see what we are not yet seeing. Christian love should demand no less. Help us, Tony.