David Mills directs us to Larry Auster’s comments regarding “The only hope for the betterment of the black race (and the white race)”:
“The solution cannot be in the ‘horizontal’ dimension, that is, in the relationship between blacks and non-blacks, because blacks will always be behind on the level of earthly functioning, leading to unjust racial resentment on the part of blacks and undeserved racial guilt on the part of whites.
“The solution can only be found in the ‘vertical’ dimension,” he continues, “… in the relationship between each black person and God through Jesus Christ, who will put each person’s self in true order and true freedom and remove the focus on the ‘horizontal’ differences and inequalities.
“Each black person will then live and perform and fulfill himself as a human being according to his own aspirations and abilities, without comparing himself to whites.”
Um, yeah, so the solution is for us to pray for us to forgive white folks and leave our resentment behind. I do believe we need to keep having conversations across the racial divide, and I’m as “We Are the World” as the next brother, but this would be considered a conversation fail. Note, while there is some truth in the statement, the onus was in what black people need to do. We can get sidetracked and bogged down by so many conversations that dance around the true issues at hand, and still manage to enflame all the old passions and lingering resentments. Conversation does not mean confess your guilt to a Negro. Don’t confuse institutions of black survival (the black family, black church, and black schools) with institutional or reverse racism.
Sociologically speaking, I’ve learned that we can have the language of sorry, but we don’t have the practice of sorry. My two boys, Reese and Malcolm, have been known to on occasion fight. We, the parental figures and ruling authority in their lives, have been known to make them apologize to one another. Without fail, the initial apology is done through gritted teeth and is essentially worthless. But it is a start. If I’ve learned nothing over the last few months, I’ve at least learned that “sorry”, or rather, repentance, needs to be lived out. And racism needs to be repented of.
Institutionally speaking, the church doesn’t need to program diversity, it needs to be diverse. One of the myths about the Great Commission is that Crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate. This myth is that only select missionaries are called to cross cultures in order to make disciples. The rest of us should only focus on people like us, in our culture. The problem with this myth is that the actual Great Commission commands otherwise. Incredibly, Jesus gave a commandment to his mostly Jewish audience to go to a mostly Gentile people and make disciples! Jesus commanded his Jewish followers to go to all people groups (all ethnos, the Greek word for “nations”). In other words, the Great Commission itself is a mandate to cross cultures!
So we start with the individuals. Church folks concerned about multi-cultural church or the state of race relations, looking at your FaceBook friends list is a natural moment to examine the demographics of your life. If the diversity is my sister and I, you may need to color up your lives. I’m not saying take out ads looking for black friends, I’m saying take some steps to break out of the comfortable routine of your life.
At the same time, diversity isn’t the goal. Diversity isn’t the mission. We’re to be missional, advance God’s kingdom here on earth. Strive to carve out a foretaste of what heaven’s supposed to be. In my experience, most times conversations about race in the context of church devolve into spiritual circle jerk. Churches may talk about wanting diversity, even making token statements about wanting to see it reflected from the top down, yet their leadership remains a white, sausage fest. We hear plenty of talk and have attended many conventions, now we need more.
Too many people’s idea of being post-black (post-racial group of choice) means leaving their heritage behind. As we move forward, no one should have to leave their culture for the the sake of coming together. I mentioned in my previous post about how my formative years were spent in another (the dominant) culture. It is part of a journey I’ve spoken about before. As a result, I was a perpetual other: never a part of the dominant culture and often looked at askance by my own. In order to navigate my circumstance, and keep some measure of cultural sanity, I developed a third culture mentality.
Church should be a third culture experience. Countercultural. Church needs to serve everyone: hungry is hungry, widowed is widowed, orphaned is orphaned, the least of these are the least of these. Pain knows no color. Diversity can be a measurement of how well we’re doing our job. Not something expressly sought after, but a by-product of how well you are serving your community. Your whole community.
Are we really living out our core values, the things we say we’re about or do we once again have to learn to be patient and give the church another chance to get things right (and forgive it its slowness)?
Church is a bigger place than one building or one community. I’ve come to realize that one particular body might not meet all of our needs and may fail us on occasion. And we’re quick to measure our experience with the church by a particular body. But it is all of the Christians who make up the church. Our mission is to be about loving, learning, worshiping, and serving together and one another. But we can’t be that until we’re willing to enter the discomfort. In any culture, despite pain and discomfort that may come. We have to risk our safety and taking on pain. We need truth tellers, bridge builders, and risk takers. We need to be the church.