Jun5FriHow should Christians respond to racism? June 5, 2020 by Major Amy Reardon
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From the Samaritan woman at the well to the Canaanite woman in Tyre, Jesus ministered to the marginalized. He humbled influential men and disdained societal establishments while lifting the outcast. No Christian can deny that God is on the side of the powerless.
But despite the murders recently committed, many Christians do not see that powerlessness based on racism is rife around us, that people of colour are still marginalized in every part of the world. Even good people must consider the possibility that they themselves harbour prejudices and stereotypes they don’t even realize are there.
How can caring people respond to racism? In her book Waking Up White, Debby Irving writes: “I had assumed my daily experience was basically universal. People were mostly friendly, I felt mostly safe, and those with authority encouraged and supported me.” Her illuminating moment was when she realized this was how the world treated her, but people of colour did not share that reality. The first step toward fighting racism is acknowledging that white people and people of colour do not experience the world in the same way.
Salvationists often shy away from taking a political stand, but speaking out against racism and advocating for equality wherever we can isn’t political, it is spiritual.
Another key to fighting racism is allowing safe space for people to share their truth. Two offences are common when the subject of discrimination arises: 1) people of colour are told they are “overreacting” and 2) people who are not black or brown are treated dismissively when they don’t understand the ethnic experience. Both these reactions are in opposition to Romans 12:10: “Honour one another above yourselves.” How can we honour another person unless we put our preconceptions aside and truly listen—with open hearts—to what she has to say?
We can deal racism a hard blow by putting people of colour in leadership at every level—from the most influential politicians to elementary school teachers. If diversity is not at the table where decisions are made, how can our policy makers understand the needs and perspectives of their population? And without role models, how can we expect children of colour to understand their own potential, and all children to learn respect for all people?
Christians who don’t wish to offend often shy away from taking a political stand, but speaking out against racism and advocating for equality wherever we can isn’t political, it is spiritual. Racial inequality is antithetical to Scripture. We are people of love and equity. If there is reason to fear speaking out loud, we must be bold anyway, confident in the presence and help of the Lord (see Joshua 1:9).
Major Amy Reardon is a corps officer at Seattle Temple, Washington, in the U.S.A. Western Territory.
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