This has been a long time coming, an awakening that has been both freeing and yet disturbing. I am a white Christian, but not the same white Christian I used to be, for my whiteness has become to me, my new black. Walking in shoes never worn, walking in ways never walked.
Four years ago, though I had been a Christian since childhood and a pastor for 20 years, I discovered the pure Gospel of God’s Grace. This original Gospel that Jesus brought has been all but lost in our Christian culture. When my eyes were opened to its beauty, it was like breathing for the first time. The message of the pure Grace of God through Jesus changed my whole way of being, feeling, and thinking. Every day since then, this Grace has increasingly awakened me to the immeasurable love of God, my new-creation identity, and what it truly looks like to be a Jesus person.
Unfortunately, the more I have sprouted in Grace and allowed God (who is love) to shape my thinking and being, I have experienced sharp criticism, distancing, and blatant rejection from many in the faith community. For the first time in my life, I have become a minority. I preach, teach, and live a message that is in many Christian circles unheard of, heresy, offensive, and controversial at best. I am beginning to know what it is like to be labeled, suspected, marginalized, demonized, misunderstood, and even hated. I am beginning to know what it feels like to be seen as the non matching puzzle piece, the one that is deemed second class, substandard, and different. I am beginning to know the frustration, the anger, the insecurities that are unavoidably intrinsic to being the minority; the last kid picked for the team, if picked at all… the one who is marked to be spiritually segregated, drinking from the fountain reserved for heretics, and escorted to sit in the “cheap grace” seat on the bus.
This has been an eye opening experience to say the least, and one that has left me with a deeply changed perspective on what it must feel like to be a black person in America. If it feels anything remotely like what I have experienced, it is a sure kind of hell. And sadly, racism towards blacks has historically and presently been far worse in comparison to any social or societal experience I have ever had.
To be honest, as I grow in Grace, I have come to realize that I have been a white Christian racist who has no clue. Racist, not because I don’t love, respect, and honor black people, but because I have been satisfied with harboring limited, ignorant perspectives on what it must be like to be black. And that, because I have chosen to close my mind, heart, and experience to the reality that black people have not only had a terrible history of slavery and abuse in America, but currently experience real racism.
I have been the white Christian who unfairly gets nervous on a late night in the city when a black man walks towards me on the sidewalk, simply because he is black. I have been the white Christian who, when driving by an impoverished black neighborhood, had streaming, inward trains of thought, “That’s too bad, it’s their own doing, glad it’s not me.” I have been the white Christian who assumes that there is more (or at least equal) reverse racism towards whites than there is legitimate racism towards blacks, and somehow that justifies my disregard and callousness towards the issue. I am the white Christian whose ignorance eclipses him from even knowing how to talk about this issue without tumbling over words, history, and vernacular. I certainly don’t have that problem with other issues that affect me and impact what I love. And there in lies the problem, a lack of love. I have not listened fully nor intently to their story, taken seriously their adversities, nor truly empathized with their experiences. All, while many (if not all) of my black brothers in sisters seriously suffer, struggle, and carry an intrinsic burden of being black in America.
No, I don’t believe every instance that is deemed racists against blacks to be true. Not every police experience, job interview, or legal issue involves or has been influenced by racism. Are there people who exploit and even perpetuate racism for their personal gain or political advantage? Surely so. Are there rushes to judgement and premature conclusions drawn regarding white people committing racial acts? To be sure. Not every arrest, death, decision, comment, or outcome is racially motivated. Certainly, there is no excuse for race hustlers, but if you have had your ass unfairly handed to you as an individual, race, and people for years and years, you might have some moments here and there of overreaction and bias too.
Some say there is a systemic issue of racism in our country in almost every facet of our culture, others say this is exaggerated. Each bringing their studies and statistics to prop up their conclusions.
Yet, the truth is, we can go around and around debating the statistics and trends and brand our views with clever slogans, “black lives matters” “white lives matters” “all lives matter” and yet completely miss the forest from the trees. The fact is, racism against blacks is historically and presently real, no matter how you slice it. And by my lack of empathy, level of ignorance, bias, silence, and absence of genuine care, I am a white Christian who has become much more a part of the problem than the solution. Drastically failing to be Jesus to my black brothers and sisters. And for that, I deeply apologize. I am embarrassed and disgusted with my lack of Grace and love for black America.
The bigger problem is, I am not the only one.
White Christianity today has largely remained silent, in the eyes of much of black America, in responding to the racism being expressed towards them. I tend to agree. Yes, many have been afraid to speak for fear of being labeled the very thing they are trying to avoid being seen as, a “racist.” Others, would just rather avoid the charged issue all together and keep their hands clean. I understand that pressure.
Yet, I just don’t see Jesus ever being silent or content with non action with regards to those who are on the receiving end of physical, spiritual, or emotional violence, abuse, marginalization, or discrimination. Jesus has always been colorblind to race, and a defender of the oppressed.
We Christians have, because of Jesus, the solution to racism, the only solution…not policy, slogans, or politics… but Grace. Pure Grace.
For Grace puts everyone on the same playing field. All are of equal value, worthiness, and hope. Grace does not judge nor condemn. It is the only thing that solicits true change in heart, mind, and behavior. It is the only answer to sin and life.
It does not evaluate ones identity by the color of skin, nor even the content of one’s character, but by the quality of Jesus who created all and qualifies all for every blessing, despite one’s performance in life. For Grace sees all people as the loveliness of Jesus, and nothing less, regardless of their personhood.
Racism cannot live nor grow where Grace is planted. Grace is the great equalizer. The kryptonite of labelers. The leveler of all that would Lord over, look down, or declare privilege or entitlement.
Only Grace can win against race.
We all would do well, to become and be people of Grace. Whites and Blacks.
I for one, have had a change of mind and heart regarding my black, brothers and sisters. The oil of Grace has penetrated this area of my thinking, believing, feeling, and behavior. For my whiteness has become to me, my new black. Walking in shoes never worn, walking in ways never walked. Loving the freedom to love completely and without restraint, black people everywhere. They are my brothers and sisters, deserving of my ardent defense, love, ear, and honor, not because of some political correctness, or religious call to do so. Not because of some kind of minority or majority construct, but because we are, and always have been, in fact… equal. Their history is my history, their present, my present, their future my future, because at the end of the day, we are all human… together.
I am a white Christian, but not the same white Christian I used to be.
Grace wins, yet again.
Pastor Chris, I just want to say thank you. A few months ago my family and I visited your church. Unfortunately during that time there were some hot issues going on that heavily separated black and white America. It truly warmed my heart to read this. Thank you for this. God bless you and your beautiful family.
Thanks Randi, good to hear from you. Hope you and your family are well.