What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

23 January 2011

We Must Do This Right

Anyone who's been around here for a while has probably seen that I'm not one to take on serious topics with the blog. That's mostly because I think serious topics are best tackled in actual conversation, not virtual, and also because this blog serves as my brain's pressure release valve more often than not, and there is a lot more zany than serious rumbling around in there. But since I decided to start posting "Sunday thoughts" on Sundays, the goof meter has taken a dip. All that to say, this is a serious subject.

Our Sunday morning Bible class is currently studying James, and last week we spent pretty much the entire hour on this passage: "If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, 'Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!' and either ignore the street person or say, 'Better sit here on the back row,' haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?" (James 2:2-4, The Message)

We spent some time talking about rich v poor, and whether we are really likely to show favoritism to the rich, and someone rightly pointed out that we in the US are the rich when compared to most of the world, and so on. But there was a huge elephant in the room that we were quietly dancing around until someone finally said it out loud: The issue American churches must learn to get past isn't wealth, it's race.

It's ridiculous that by 2011 we haven't yet put this behind us. It's bad enough that our society hasn't been able to move past race divisions yet; it's even worse that our churches are still largely segregated. Christendom has an unfortunate history when it comes to race relations, and I honestly feel that churches have done more harm than good. We should have been setting the example, we should have raced to reach across lines of ethnicity and class to embrace fellowship long ago-- but instead we built more buildings so that people who don't look the same don't have to approach God together. It's disgusting.

Part of the blame here does belong to societal trends as a whole, of course. Neighbourhoods are usually defined on income lines, and unfortunately the income lines still keep nonwhites poorer across the board than whites, so we end up with neighbourhood churches that have been traditionally attended by one race or another. But I'm unwilling to excuse American Christians for reasons of convenience-- when we decided to follow Jesus, we were deciding to accept inconvenience. We were willingly taking on a lifestyle that would lead to discomfort and go against the grain of "everybody's doing it". And so I say that we should be in the front, mending racial divisions, not reluctantly trailing behind.

I'm happy to say that the church we attend is diverse. In our class last Sunday morning, there were African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, and European-Americans all there to talk about why this is still an issue, and what we can do to help solve it. I don't know what the answer is, but to ignore it makes me as culpable as my ancestors. I want to be among the ones reaching out, not standing back.

What do you think? What should churches do to help repair the damage we've caused?


Madeleine said...

Hmmm good question. I guess follow the teachings of Jesus because that is what everyone relates to whatever religion/ethnic background they are from if you treat them with respect and courtesy the rest will follow. :O)

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

You can encourage people to mix at a party, but by the end, everyone’s gone back to the groups they know again.

I suppose ignorance and fear make us segregate ourselves. Stupid really; integration could be so enriching.

Su said...

@Madeleine: Very true!

@Blogger: An excellent point. Sigh...

Timbra said...

i don't know if it's "american" churches as much as regional. . . i mean, in UT there are THIRTEEN congregations and about as many "cofc" christians as there were in the country of Fiji (incidentally, less than 1million people, 13 congregations). . . we just don't have that kind of latitude to be building buildings for convenience and location. . .all the "good locations" have already been purchased up here ". . . in fact, i SO appreciate this congregation, set in one of probably the three "wealthiest" areas. . . the building can barely be supported b/c the demographic of attendees does not fit the demographic of the building location. . . VERY diverse, many "down and out," etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm not simply baffled its still an issue, I'm even more baffled that some of the worst perpetrators of racial hatred are religious.

Su said...

@Timbra: I can't claim to be an expert on every area of the country, of course, but that sounds more like an exception than the rule. And I'm not talking about one denomination-- it's across the board. :(

@Charlie: Yep. It's sickening.

Kari Marie said...

Religion can be a barrier to faith, and sometimes serves to divide us rather than unite. It's not intentional, but it's unfortunate.

Su said...

I agree. I'm not expecting to fix the whole world with one blog post, but I just have this feeling that there must be something that I could do differently, you know? And then encourage others to do the same. The whole "be the change you want to see" thing-- is that a nice saying, or can it be truly acted upon, I wonder?