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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Friday, March 20, 2015

As Bad As It Is, Racism Is Just One Of Our Dire Problems

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor and a contributor to the Gospel Coalition website. He just wrote a blogpost for that website which talked about how engrained racism is in people (click here). Before that blogpost, he wrote a series of blogpost containing letters to and from a Ferguson protester. Some of those letters were excellent in content and writing. But our concern here is the article linked to above.

To show how pervasive and profound our problem with racism is, he likens it to a cactus plant he once planted in the front of his yard. He discovered that he had to remove it because of how the growth of this plant was  effecting some of the other vegetation. And it wasn't until he tried to remove the cactus that he realized how deep and far its roots went.  This is why he likens racism to a cactus plant. For though some things have improved, racism is still there in force and it exists in other places besides individual people.

For example, Anyabwile vaguely cites the latest DOJ investigation of Ferguson that states that the city has a problem with 'institutional racism'  (click here for news report on the DOJ investigation). And who could argue with that when it found that the police department there showed a pattern of 'racial bias' as evidenced in the force used, citations issued, and traffic stops made. That this racial bias reached into the court system as measured in the number of cases not dismissed against Blacks. Others have reported incidents of misconduct by various police officers which included false arrests and the planting of evidence (click here and there). This doesn't include the failure to indict police officers for their violence against unarmed Blacks. The Eric Garner incident comes to mind here because of the video evidence. At the same time, we see violent White criminals apprehended rather than killed such as the man who ambushed and killed a Pennsylvainia State Trooper and the white supremacist who was just apprehended after a shooting spree in Arizona (click here)

When we add this to the number of unarmed Blacks shot by police and the inordinate percentage of minorities who are incarcerated, there is not much doubt regarding Anyabwile's claims. We should note that he could have made a stronger case by providing documentation. For example, Anyabwile also mentions that judges are in on the racial bias action, but he offers no testimonies or documentation.

Above is the institutionalized racism, that doesn't include racism practiced by those in the private sector. We should note the racist rant recorded by a fraternity at Oklahoma (click here and there), the Trayvon Martin shooting, and a Black man was found hung in Mississippi just recently (click here). Regarding the last instance, the FBI is investigating and so no conclusions can be drawn as to why this man hung. 

In essence, Anyabwile is correct in his assessment of our problems with racism. But, again, he neither documented nor provided enough testimonies to make a strong case. And since what he is saying is basically correct, his lack of a strong case can partially sabotage his efforts.

However, Anyabwile makes an excellent point by noting that our problem with racism is a Christian discipleship as well as a social justice issue. The implication of his point here is that Christians are not just called on to combat racism on a personal level, they are to join everyone else in publicly fighting it. This includes calling on our government to address the issue.

But something else needs to be said here. Anyabwile makes the following statement:
It’s tragic that the country’s biggest sin is racism and the Church’s biggest omission is racial justice. The tragedy gets compounded when one remembers that some quarters of the Church were once the strongest supporters of this sin.

This statement must be challenged not because racism is not a huge problem, it must be  challenged because we need to step back to see the other major problems we have and check if they're related. We should note that the problem with ISIS is not racism, it is a religious warfare problem. The problem with Wall Street and corruption is not racism, it is economic classism.  And we should note how American Conservative Christians have been trying to use the law to keep homosexuals from achieving a fuller equality through the access to same-sex marriage. Russia and the United States are causing problems because of nationalism. And concerning nationalism, it would help to remember what Bobby Seale,  cofounder of the original Black Panthers organization, said on a talk show. He equated nationalism with racism because both dealt with issues of superiority.

So really, the world's biggest problem is tribalism, which can involve racism, and the Church's biggest 'omission' is not challenging this tribalism whether that tribalism revolves around religion or race, national identity or sexual orientation, or economic class.  Our loyalty to our groups is becoming so strong that not only do we more easily look at outsiders as threats and the source of all evil, we easily excuse our dehumanizing actions toward them while exalting ourselves.

That we go on from racism to approach the problem more abstractly, we find that we are presenting an even a bigger challenge to the Church than calling on it to oppose racism. This is  because much of the Church has even closer ties to money and those with wealth than it has to race. For example, some Conservative Churches are beginning to address the racial issue. But very few, if any, are challenging the economic classism problem as it exhibits itself in an ever increasing income and wealth disparities as well as a growing hopelessness for those imprisoned in the underclass. Though the Conservative Church as a whole still has a dismal record in combatting racism, its battle against economic classism is almost nonexistent. 

And how many Christian churches are challenging the abuses of nationalism? Currently, the churches in Syria and Egypt are battling the temptation of compromising speaking the truth to power because those in power, who so harshly abuse others, are making efforts to protect the churches. Thus, these churches have to choose between enjoying protection and spiritually biting the proverbial hand that feeds them.

In America, the failure of the Conservative Church to challenge nationalism is not due to a fear of losing protection; its failure is because many in the Conservative Church feel pride and a sense of significance in celebrating nationalism. And by exalting our nation and associating our faith with our nation's accomplishments, it is a way of exalting oneself as well. Thus, any challenge to our nation's prestige is interpreted as being a slap in the face by those who are proud Americans.

If Anyabwile could only step back from racism and see that our real problem is tribalism regardless of whether race is involved, he would have said that the Conservative Church's biggest omission is social justice. And that would have included the complicity in racism of which many in the Conservative Church are guilty.

There is a P.S. here. In listing the different kinds of groups we join and embrace tribalism, I forgot to mention one of the major kinds of groups: political-economic ideology. 

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