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WHY THE CHURCH CAN’T KEEP TURNING AWAY FROM OUR RACE ISSUES: WHY WE CAN’T PUT THE PAST BEHIND US — BECAUSE IT’S BURIED IN US

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Ask the Lord to speak to you about what is good, what is justice, what is mercy, and what is humility in light of our race issues in this country.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ( Micah 6:8)

When my husband and I decided to adopt, and thus become a trans-racial family, we had no idea what we were undertaking.

I believed the lie that we lived in a post-racial America.

And why wouldn’t I? Racism didn’t touch me as a white woman.

It didn’t affect my everyday life. Sure, I might run up against the occasional racist comment or joke, but those were rarities. Those were due to a few “bad apples.” Those didn’t represent the current state of race in our country.

Then Michael Brown happened.

My husband and I were living in the already-but-not yet that marks every international adoption.

We were already parents to a beautiful little girl, but she was not yet with us in our home.

Roughly a year into that peculiar stage, Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson. Protests and riots broke out in St. Louis. A string of people with the same color skin as my daughter turned into hash tags. A collective outcry arose from the black community, a lament impossible to ignore.

And yet, many people with the same color skin as me seemed to be ignoring it.

The dissonance was disturbing.

In an attempt to better understand the outcry, I began tuning into black voices.

I followed individuals on Twitter—pastors and counselors, historians and artists and community leaders.

I read memoirs and articles. I listened to podcasts and sermons.

The more I listened, the more the scales fell—scales I didn’t even know were there.

Slowly I started to see what I couldn’t before—a pervasive injustice all around.

“The world is wrong. You can’t put the past behind you. It’s buried in you.” – Claudia Rankine

Slavery. Convict leasing. Over 4,000 lynchings. Jim Crow segregation. White flight and red-lining.

All of it is buried in us. All of it points to an appallingly racist past that has left a racist legacy that manifests itself in policies and systems that disadvantage and oppress specific people groups.

Like our education system, where black and brown students find themselves more segregated than they were in 1968—stuck in schools that are understaffed and under-resourced.

Or a criminal justice system that frisks 85% of blacks and Latinos stopped by police, but only 8% of whites. Those are just two examples of many—the tippity-top of a giant racial iceberg. Statistics I didn’t know until I started to listen.

I had no idea that Sunday remains the most segregated hour in America. I saw a handful of black people inside my church as proof that we were fine. I had no idea that many black evangelicals in predominately white churches report feeling unseen and unheard.

That wasn’t something I learned until I leaned closer.

But now I see.

I see it in the person who posts Galatians 3:28 on Facebook, then goes on a rant about how much they can’t stand Colin Kaepernick.

I see it in the way people love the pictures I post of my daughter, but get really quiet when I start talking about the issues that will directly impact her as a black woman in this country.

We want Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech, not his letter from a Birmingham jail, where he calls out the white moderate, “who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

Comfort has become our golden calf, but we wrap it up and call it unity.

We fail to recognize that when Paul says we are all one in Christ—that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free—he was not doing this in order to silence the marginalized. But to lift them up in a society hell bent on stomping them down.

Let us not be the dysfunctional family—ignoring our problems, dismissing abuse—as if our goal should be getting through a holiday without raising our voices.

Christ did not come for that.

He came to reconcile us to Himself, to reconcile us to one another.

This is unity, and the path leading to it was never meant to be a comfortable one.

Let us be the family who doesn’t leave loved ones in the trenches, but steps down into those trenches and locks arms with the ones we claim to love.

Let us do as Moses did and burn our golden calf in the fire. Let’s ground it to powder.

Let’s get uncomfortable for the sake of love.

Again I find myself living in the already-but-not yet, only this is one that marks every Christian life. Christ has already removed the dividing wall of hostility, but it’s not yet our reality in this broken, sin-soaked world.

How then, shall we pray?

Christ gives us the answer.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

What then, shall we do?

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8

We can’t do justice until we see injustice.

And we can’t see until we are willing to confess the scales that keep us blind—defensiveness, comfort, pride.

We can’t see until we’re willing to humbly listen.

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free. Isaiah 58:6

(Reprinted with permission. Katie Ganshert is an award-winning author of several novels and works of short fiction, including Carol Award-winner, The Art of Losing Yourself and Life After. Check out her new novel, No One Ever Asked. This blog post originally appeared at AnnVoskamp.com.)

6 Replies to “WHY THE CHURCH CAN’T KEEP TURNING AWAY FROM OUR RACE ISSUES: WHY WE CAN’T PUT THE PAST BEHIND US — BECAUSE IT’S BURIED IN US”

  1. We so need God’s help in bringing us together to realize that we all bleed the same.
    This should be obvious to us as Christians but the reality is that we have so far to go.

  2. Thank you for writing this article. I am an “invisible” black evangelical. Honestly, I rather not refer to myself as an evangelical. It is just a hard time for people like me in the church. We don’t fit and many of us feel homeless. The sad thing is our perspective, our insight and experiences aren’t even welcome. Yet the Holy Spirit has given me peace. I have learned something you mentioned. The reason we can’t put it behind us, is because it is in us. Black and white, it is in all of us. My prayer is that more of my white brothers and sisters have the revelation you had. May God use you mightily in this work. Love and peace to you and your family.

    1. Tiffany, thank you for sharing your heart! You are not invisible! Your perspective is vital. We pray with you that more white brothers and sisters have this revelation.

      David Kubal
      President/CEO Intercessors for America

  3. I pray our Heavenly Father will bring a new revelation opening our eyes to what we need to do to bring peace & love to every race in our nation. We are all created in His image. May we love one another as He has commanded us to do. Amen.

  4. Katie, thank you for your article. I agree that we as Christians should be leading the way in black/white/Hispanic/etc race relations and yet so many of our churches are so segregated. Both of my children are adopted from Haiti so I am especially grateful for the church I attend in Center City Philadelphia. We have been very intentional about embracing racial diversity. Our congregation, our leadership,our worship team, and our worship dance team that I am a part of are all multiracial. And we have about every kind of cross racial marriage you could imagine. And we really do love each other!! We aren’t there yet but we’ve come a long ways. By God’s grace it can happen, but it takes a lot of work and intentionality. May God give us all the grace and perseverance and vision to see it through!!

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