Christians Need to Talk About Race.

Source: redsuspenders.tumblr.com / Via imgur.com

I started a podcast recently, called Faithfully Podcast. It falls in line with the mission of FaithfullyMagazine.com, which is to capture, curate and contribute to conversations about the intersection of race, culture and Christianity. The responses have been surprising — people agree that we need to talk about race and some are including Faithfully Podcast as an option for those discussions.

Because, contrary to what some people might think — Christians do not have it together when it comes to race, and that has been the case for hundreds of years.

Christians got it wrong on slavery, on Jim Crow/segregation and some fellow ministers publicly told Martin Luther King, Jr to quiet it down with that ungodly civil rights business (read King’s response: “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”).

King often decried the “tragedy” of Sunday morning at 11 o’clock being “the most segregated hour in Christian America,” even as he and countless others of different stripes fought to convince white America that it was “self-evident” that blacks, too, were “created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought an end to segregationist policies, but it did not alter segregationist thoughts. Fifty years after King’s assassination, Christians, like the rest of the nation, are still grappling with and confronting the lingering effects of white supremacy, often times perpetuated, in some cases unwittingly, by other Christians.

Here are just three examples:

1. ‘I Bought a Dashcam Recently’

Those are the now infamous words written by a respected Christian leader who decided to share on Facebook a video of a random black teen he noticed behaving immaturely in the street in March. This man, who happens to be white, speculated to his 23,000-plus Facebook followers on the likelihood of this boy having “no guidance,” being fatherless, and being destined to himself father “a number of children,” if their mother(s) don’t abort them first. The commentary and later-deleted video from James White, director of a Phoenix, Arizona, organization called Alpha and Omega Ministries, sparked immediate backlash from other Christians, mostly people of color who have followed White’s work for years and jarringly found themselves appalled and hurt by his racial insensitivity and refusal to engage any of them in conversation.

2. ‘Indian Savages’ and the Doctrine of Discovery

Mark Charles is a Christian and Native American from Arizona who describes his work as “helping the nation understand its complex history (regarding) race, culture & faith to forge a path of healing & conciliation for our people.” Charles primarily focuses on educating others about the nation’s founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence which describes Native Americans as “merciless Indian Savages,” words still uttered when the document is read aloud every year.

Charles also educates people about the Vatican’s papal letters that guided “European entities to seize lands inhabited by indigenous peoples under the guise of discovery” and which later inspired the codification of policies in United States used against Native Americans.

Members of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people explain the Christian Doctrine of Discovery.

3. Christian Segregationists Are Still a Thing

Finally, do a Google search of “Christianity and race” and the very first result you will see is a website touting white supremacist ideology and something I have recently learned is called “kinism.” Kinists, usually identifying as Christians, argue that while everyone is created in God’s image, people from different cultures and of different ethnicities should not intermarry, live together, or even attend the same church. God is the original segregationist, they argue.

Source: http://i.imgur.com/5H4Zf0f.jpg

These harmful, stubborn and unfortunate aspects of American life and the varied responses to tragedies like those that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina, indicate that the civil rights movement never really ended. Laws, it would seem, only influence people’s behaviors. Laws do not change a person’s heart.

Slavery was so long ago, but why do the same attitudes that prompted some Christians to argue so passionately for it still persist? Do white Americans have a special responsibility to challenge ignorance about supremacist ideology and privilege among white communities? Do all U.S. churches (all 300,000-plus of them) have to be racially diverse? Do other Christians of color feel marginalized when discussions about race and racism focus exclusively on a black/white binary? Can one claim membership in a church and in the Klu Klux Klan and actually be a Christian? What is black liberation theology and why is it controversial among some Christians? How can Christians who are wary of the Black Lives Matter movement still engage its issues? What do African Christians living in the U.S. think of their believing black American peers?

These are examples of the kinds questions I’m looking to dig into with Faithfully Magazine, and via Faithfully Podcast, which includes myself and two other co-hosts in discussion with a different guest every week about some of these same issues. We have already discussed Christian engagement with Black Lives Matter, the frustration some Christians of color experience when weighing political parties, and how the so-called first and only “Christian Republican rapper,” who happens to be black, navigates those intersecting spaces. We are also hoping to speak with a white history professor from the South who recently wrote about his change of heart over the Confederate flag, and with a family member of one of the nine black Christians killed by a white supremacist at a Charleston church last summer.

Christians need to talk about race. Why?

Because understanding, awareness and opportunities for healing and unity can only come when we choose to talk and share our perspectives and experiences.

I repeat, Christians need to talk about race.