Engaging the Challenge of Racism

Some Thoughts for September…

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                 –Jesus

There have always been challenges to our faith. The trick, I think, comes in how we deal with these challenges. In other words, do we isolate ourselves from the problem or do we engage it? I think history has shown that the latter is the better course of action.  So, bearing this in mind, how should we, as a community of faith and as individuals, engage the challenge of racism?

First, we can pray. Jesus invites us to pray for those who persecute, to love our enemy, and to be persistent in our asking. In addition, we are invited to ask for forgiveness for our own transgressions and to give thanks to God for all the blessings we have been given. And it’s important that we bring humility and these specific invitations with us as we offer the following prayer. A prayer that, as it says in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, calls white supremacists to “…change their hearts and lives.”  This is the essence of repentance.  To repent is to see things from a completely different perspective. Racism causes a person to view the world from a very narrow perspective.  Maybe our prayer should be for a widening of their range of vision and for them to gain the courage to open their eyes and hearts to new possibilities. We can pray.

In conjunction with prayer we can advocate for the gospel.  Jesus is very clear all throughout the gospels that he is on the side of marginalized, the outcast, and the foreigner. Jesus shows us repeatedly that God is love and that hating anyone because of their race or religion or national origin simply isn’t acceptable.  As a matter of fact, the very core teaching of the Bible is Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.” This is what I mean by advocating for the gospel.

Now, it’s important here to understand that I’m talking about advocating in a micro sense.  I’m inviting you to advocate for the gospel in your everyday conversations, on social media, and if you have the opportunity, in the public forum.  Will you encounter resistance? Probably. Challenging the evil that is racism takes courage.  Remember that hate comes from a place of fear and fear is a strong motivator. Hate groups like the Alt Right and the KKK exist because of fear; fear of diversity, fear of a loss of dominance, fear of change. But fear is the opposite of faith.  Faith, your faith, backed by the gospel and the claim of this congregation, provide you with the support and the encouragement you will need to engage the fear that leads to hate.

But how we engage, the language we use as we advocate for what’s right is just as vital.  The third way we can stand against racism is by employing civil discourse.  All the rhetoric, the partisan name calling, the deep ideological division in our nation has created the space for racism to once again rear its ugly head.

You know, on many occasions you’ve heard me repeat the words of my grandmother.  She said, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” And as usual, grandma’s wisdom transcends time. If you have a political position or are passionate about an ideological perspective, having a civil conversation with someone who disagrees with you will benefit you both.  Yelling and name-calling gain nothing.  But if you truly engage, and listen, really listen to the other person’s points, even if you disagree, then they will feel like they have been heard and hopefully you will as well. Civil discourse is less about being right and more about building relationships with a diverse group of people.

Which brings us back around to racism.  As I said before, racism fears diversity.  It fears a diverse group of people coming together because it requires division to exist. The success of the Alt Right and other hate groups depends upon dividing our nation into small, hostile groups and then pitting them against each other. So, the answer to the challenge of racism is unity.  Unity and understanding. We need to become one people; one people with an assortment of skin colors, religions, national origins, and lifestyles.  Our strength as a nation and as a church is in our diversity.  And we can achieve this by listening to each other’s stories and coming to realize that we’re more alike than we are different. And when we do that, when we unify and say, “no more hate” racism will fade into the background.

Peace and Blessings,

Pastor Phil

 

 

 

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