Category Archives: Justice

Racial Justice in the Church

I care a lot about racial justice. One of the main reasons is that, for a long time, I had no idea I was racist. I was living comfortably in mostly white community and thought blissfully that racism was a thing of the past.

Sometime in high school I started getting the feeling something was off, but I didn’t call it racism until college. And only then because I went to a particularly diverse college (yay UTA!), studied Anthropology and Linguistics, and took classes in Sociology.

Let me repeat that. In order to recognize the racism all around me and in me, I had to take college courses about language, culture, and society while living in a unusually diverse community.

If I had lived in that community and studied nursing or engineering, I might not have had my eyes opened to racism as abundant as oxygen. If I had studied those topics at a mostly white university, I might have been able to maintain the idea that racism was a thing of the past and not something going on inside my own heart.

It still took time. I shutter when I think about some of the things that I said in class discussions in my first few years of college. Yet these are things I still hear white people saying: “reverse racism”, “White privilege isn’t real”, …

Racial Unity is in the Heart of God

Another reason is that I care about the unity of the Church. Around the time I was learning about racism in our society, God was mercifully opening my eyes up to his heart for unity within his Church. John 17 wrecked my understanding of the priority of unity. (It hadn’t made my list of important things before.) Jesus spent the last night before his cruxifixction pouring out his heart for the unity of his Bride. Unity is a priority in the heart of God.

Around that time, I was blessed to learn from people who had been working toward unity for a long time. But the focus was the denominational unity. While denominational unity is important and should be worked and prayed for, it falls short of the fullness of the vision of unity in Scripture. It is good and difficult work, and I don’t want to for a moment discount the value of people who have spent years forging partnership and friendship between leaders of different denominal backgrounds. Jesus is so in that, and so blesses the communities that emerge from that work. And he uses them to bless others.

But Revelations does not paint a picture of a multi-denominational church before the throne of God. It’s multi-ethnic. It’s multicultural. It’s multi-racial.

That picture is not reflected in the church in America.

Unity is Humility

Racial justice demands deep humility, especially on the part of white people.

We will need humility to see that the way things are is not ok. We will need to let go of our comfort — a comfort that is derived from white voices shaping evangelicalism to the exclusion of our brothers and sisters of color. We will need to let go of the ”colorblindness” that assumes our own perspective is neutral and not influenced by our whiteness.

We will need humility to learn from people and contexts that make us uncomfortable not because of the message being shared, but because of the way it’s being shared.

For example, I’ve been reading about the different traditions of preaching in white churches and black churches. First, I have to realized that the style of preaching I am used to — which has been deeply formative in wonderful ways in my life — is simply a style. It is not the only way to talk about the truths of scripture. It is derived from a culture I am comfortable within, therefore it seems neutral to me.

However, whenever I hear a black preacher preaching in a style that is derived from the culture of the Black church (in reality a variety of cultural traditions, but all of them so different from my own that I have trouble seeing the nuanced differences in them — not a issue I have within the variety cultures of white churches), I have trouble following the train of the sermon. Though I can recognize sound doctrine and have been blessed by hearing sermons, it’s more work for me learn from these sermons.

That’s on me. Not the sermon.

Do the Work of Learning

I care about racial justice, especially within the church. But more and more, I am learning that while talking about racial injustice is of vital importance, I also need to be actively seeking out my own blindspots and doing the work of learning.

Learning not in an effort to appear more woke. Learning not in an attempt to become an expert in the Black experience. (How could I?) But learning because I care about people. Learning because I see that my own culture, while historically dominate, is not more valuable than other cultures. And learning because my own spiritual growth is hobbled if I don’t learn from people different from myself.

Seeing this takes a measure of humility. Pressing into it and continuing to learn, will take more than I think I want to face from where I’m at right now. However, because I care about racial justice and unity within the Body of Christ, press in I must.

The unity Christ died for is at stake.

Harvey and the Floodwaters of Injustice

I am Texan. I grew up close enough to Houston that when my little city’s entire electric grid went down my mom and I drove to Houston for the afternoon to shop for a prom dress. I’ve got family in the Houston area and my dad grew up on the shipping channel. The heat and azaleas of Southeast Texas are the backdrop to many childhood memories.

Harvey. I wept for the suffering of that city. For Houston and The Woodlands and Beaumont and Sour Lake. For Corpus and Conroe. Even after I knew my family was safe, I wept. I’m Texan, and Harvey hit me in my gut. While I’ve been grieved for the suffering in Nepal and Sierra Leon from landslides, and we’ve given to relief efforts in both, Harvey hit my home. It hit the roads I know in my mind’s eye. The path to cousin’s houses and the zoo. Where school buses drove us to NASA. It hit friends from college who moved there after graduation. It hit the towns whose’s high schools routinely beat mine in football. If I still lived in Texas, I would be in one of the caravans of my friends headed down I-45 with bleach and gloves and willingness helping people clean up.

I wept as I watched videos and heard stories of rescuers, both professional first responders and volunteers with a boat and courage, scouring neighborhoods and working tirelessly to snatch people from the flood waters. A pastor swimming into flood waters to check sinking cars for trapped people: strangers who’s lives mattered enough to him to risk his own. A news reporter, on the way to help an elderly man, pausing to get aid for a woman in labor. One furniture store owner who opened his doors to people needing shelter. Another that donated their entire showroom full of furniture to the Houston Furniture Bank. A Dreamer, Alonso Guillen – brought to the US as a child – loosing his life in an effort to save others.

And now this week, DACA has been rescinded. The executive order that allowed Guillen and so many others to live in the open and lead productive lives has been overturned. People who were brought across the border as children, whose only home is American, some of whom don’t even speak the language of their passport country now face possible deportation unless Congress can act. Congress doesn’t have a great recent track record of acting.

So I’m looking for the rescuers. But unlike in Houston — where those of us who live far away couldn’t get in boats to save people — we can all be on the ground in this crisis. Elected officials and the everyday citizens can stand up and change lives. Who will swim into the flood waters of injustice because other people — strangers and neighbors — matter to them?

How do we do that? There are many ways. I’ve listed a few here.

1) Pray for justice for the people affected by the recision of DACA.

Pray for the young people working to get an education and establish their lives whose future has been thrown into jeopardy. Pray for just and compassionate policies so that they can have the stability they need to thrive.

2) Educate yourself on what DACA is and who it affects

The process by which DACA was created has been criticized a lot. What it does and doesn’t do has been criticized. Learn about the details and form an opinion based on the fullest story you can. Also remember, the young people affected by it could be your coworker, your barista, your child’s favorite teacher. As you learn about DACA try to imagine being in their shoes. Let what you learn inform your prayers.

3) Get involved in local advocacy organizations led by people at risk of deportation

Most of our political influence is on the local level. Find a local organization – preferably led by people directly affected by DACA – and join in the work. These local organizations can help to advocate for your neighbors and shape local policy that will have a profound affect on their lives.

4) Contact representatives

Call your Representative and Senators. Give a short, specific statement on what action you want them to take. Then call your state and local representatives and do the same.

5) Advocate for Dreamers in your local community including workplaces and universities.

Many universities and large companies have put out public statements regarding DACA and what they will do for their employees or students. If you are affiliated with a university or company look up their statement. Having learned what you have, is there anything you want them to change? Should it be strengthened? Use what influence you have to shape the policies and statements of the organizations you are a part of. Or if you think the organization is doing a good job, communicate your support to the leadership.

5) Organize within your church.

God clearly tells us to welcome foreigners. The church needs to be on the forefront of advocacy and care for the marginalized among us. Churches in Houston are mobilizing teams of hundreds of volunteers, providing physical needs and counseling, and cleaning homes. They are on the forefront of caring for people suffering in their community.

Advocating for the Dreamers, while less compelling on video, is no less needed.