I have avoided discussing race until very recently. As many of you know, during my sabbatical last year I stumbled into the issue by means of a book, Waking Up White. I ended up reading six books on the issue, and I am still continuing that journey.
We have always had a race problem in America. We don’t like to acknowledge this, and it makes us very uncomfortable. We’d rather not have the conversation, but we have used that very tactic, and look where it has gotten us.
The Church has been silently complicit. In the nineteenth century the Pres-byterians and the Baptists recognized that slavery was a very divisive issue, and their solution was to stay silent, to not talk about it. I’m sure you can see how we still do this.
Not talking about slavery, race, etc., has allowed us to avoid taking responsi-bility and it enables us to remain in a powerful position. If we don’t acknowledge a problem, we don’t have to change.
The time for silence on these issues is over. I’m not suggesting we suddenly become a bunch of activists. But doing nothing, ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away won’t work anymore.
As the instability and anger continues to unfold, we do well to remember that Jesus dealt with racism. Numerous times people were shocked when Jesus talked to Gentiles. One of the great issues in the beginning of the Church had to do with race—Jewish believers in Christ insisted that Gentile believers obey particular parts of the Old Testament Law. This led to the first great council of the Church which we read about in Acts 15. The controversy also lead the Apostle Paul to pen these words:
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free,
there is no male or female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
We face an historic moment. Working through it will demand our attention, our prayers, and our participation. What it does not need is our silence.