This afternoon my wife put our emptied moving boxes on Craig’s List to see if anyone wanted to come get them. Sure enough, within a few minutes, a woman called and told us she’d be over in an hour. When she and her husband arrived, right around dinner time, my wife went out, conversed with them, then came back in to sit down. Because there were so many boxes, they were still loading them up when I finished my meal, so I went out to offer my assistance.
Within a few minutes, both the husband and the wife began telling me about how awesome their church is – the amazing light show, moving music, involvement in the community, and even the diversity of their congregation. I was glad to hear people so excited about their church. That always makes my heart smile.
However, when I went back in, my wife told me about her conversation with the couple. When they arrived and got out of their vehicle, and my wife went out to greet them, the wife says to my wife, “I wasn’t sure if you were black over the phone. I’m really glad you’re not black.”
I’m honestly intrigued by the fact that this couple could, out of one side of their mouth, praise the diversity within their congregation, and out of the other side of their mouth, express gratefulness that the people they’re merely picking up moving boxes from are not black – as if something would be wrong with the boxes if we were black?
I suppose on some level people just don’t see the contradiction in holding the belief that persons of other races are created in the image of God, yet at the same time holding the prejudiced belief that people of other races are also inferior or dirty.
But what if they don’t see the contradiction because our churches just don’t address such prejudices? The only people I’ve ever even heard preach on the subject are John Piper, Ellsworth Kalas, and a few others.
This makes me wonder: Is it possible we don’t preach on the subject because it would be hypocritical? After all, most American churches, especially here in the South, are neatly segregated by choice. We don’t think we have a race-issue because race is not an issue for us on Sunday mornings. We don’t have to struggle through the difficult conversations, the demanding self-examination, or the daily grind toward unity precisely because we have all opted for the easier route of hanging out with people who are just like us.
I believe this is one of the more glaring hypocrisies of the American church that keep us completely off the radar of the Millennial generation, which has justice at the fore of its concerns. I believe this hypocrisy, which has deep historical and emotional roots, is one of the main ways God desires to change the American church.
I say it is time for pastors to start preaching more ardently and frequently against racism, sexism, classism, and hatred of people because of their sexual orientation. I say it is time for us to repent of our hypocrisies, no matter how historically rooted they are. I say it is time for pastors to acknowledge our failures in these areas. I say it is time for us to preach the full gospel of the kingdom of God, which is beautiful precisely in its diversity.
You cannot tell me how great your church’s light show is, but live in the darkness of racism. You cannot express to me that the church music moves you, while your heart is hardened toward those who clap on a different beat. You cannot celebrate your church’s involvement with the community, but then keep your heart at a distance from those you serve. And you cannot praise the diversity in your congregation, and then turn around and only want boxes from people of a certain skin tone.
Well, I guess you technically can do those things. But all that tells me is that the light show, the music, the involvement, and the diversity have not moved your heart toward the God who died for people of all tribes, tongues, nations, peoples, colors, sexes, orientations, and pay check sizes. After all, there’s a small step between considering someone unworthy to receive moving boxes from, and considering them unworthy to receive communion with.
Your Turn: Have you ever experienced racism in the church? What do you do when you encounter this kind of situation? What are your thoughts on remedying racism in the church today?