I had the opportunity to take a class on Bible and Race this past January. The class was administered by a black professor in his 60’s who God had led into the ministry when he was 21 years old. He had served a variety of roles in his life from prison chaplain to pastor of a predominately white mega church, but race relations had always played a prominent role wherever he was. He started pursuing the idea of a class like this ten years ago and finally was able to land it this year in Jacksonville. The class consisted of 25 students in a nearly 50/50 Black/White split.
There was a heavy conversational tone in the classroom. The professor wanted to make sure students had a chance to hear each other and ask questions. Everyone even had to give a 5-10 min presentation the last day on their racial experiences and what they’d learned from the week.
Truthfully, I thought I had heard everything to hear entering this class. I was not sure there was going to be great amount of application nor insightful information. I was wrong. I’ve been processing what I learned for the last 7 weeks and I know it will continue for much longer. Here is some of what I learned that week that will forever change my outlook on racial reconciliation:
- Corporate Sin Is Real: We tend to focus on sin as being an individual thing that is unique and contained to us. But in scripture, sin is never contained to the individual, it always seeps into the surrounding lives of the offending person. If this is true for David or Saul, how much more so is it of a whole group or nation? Tim Keller (start @ 26min if you want to just watch Tim) has a great word on the corporate sin of racism in our country.
- Racism still is a White problem: Joseph Barndt’s definition of racism = prejudice + power and he claims that white people have and continue to hold the power in this country and so when we are prejudice (even just a little) we are racist. Prejudice without power he says, is just prejudice - its effect is mitigated for its lack of impact. This was a point I disagreed with until reading more of his book and hearing from other black students in the class share their experience with racism in the last 20 years (ie. 1996+).
- The generational effects of segregation and Jim Crow: are still being felt in our society and will for years to come. Having an opportunity to hear from black classmates that they have friends (or themselves) that often change their entire demeanor, speech, and posture when a white person walks into the room because they were raised hearing “you better not embarrass us!” was eye opening. The reality is, many black people in this country are still being raised hearing the message that they are inferior because the color of their skin.
We have a to seriously consider where God is calling us to make an impact with the ministry of reconciliation that he has entrusted to us. We are all brothers and sisters, whether we know it or not. As a famous black preacher once said:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.