Racism and Faith

June 7, 2020; Trinity Sunday; EX 34:4-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13

Paul tells the Corinthians in today’s second reading, “Live in peace with one another.” Easy to say, but in light of this week’s events difficult to achieve. Ignited by the horrible death of a black man in Minneapolis while under police restraint, our country has erupted, often violently, in almost every American city. We have not witnessed such civil unrest since the 1960s. Protesters are demanding the end to police brutality and insisting that we face and address the issue of racism in our country.

I have to admit that the events of this last week have left me almost paralyzed. There is so much of what is happening that I don’t understand. I cannot explain why so many people in our country are angry and desperate. I cannot understand why some people think that the destruction of property and the smashing of windows will somehow move us forward. And above all, I don’t know what to do. I do not see myself as a racist. I have never insulted a black person. I have never denied a job or given an unfair grade to a person of color. Moreover, I am a Christian. I believe in my heart that all people are equal and that God loves people of every race. So I don’t get it. I do not know how I am expected to change.

But at the same time in my gut I know that things have to change. I cannot ignore the anger of so many people taking to the streets. I know that I have some responsibility to be a force of justice and peace in the midst of this turmoil. I am just unable to suggest a concrete step that would seem to make a difference. In the last couple days, I have read many articles and I prayed often. And I have come upon two insights. They are not an action plan and in no way a solution to the problems that our country is facing. But they were helpful to me and I would like to share them. One is about racism and the other is about faith.

This week I began to understand that racism is not limited to the individual intentional actions of bad people. I will repeat that. Racism is not limited to the individual intentional actions of bad people. Actions such as assaulting a person of color are certainly a part of racism. They are its most visible part. But racism is bigger. It goes beyond individual intentional actions. Racism is imbedded in the structures of our society. It is present in the ways laws, tradition, and influence give preference to one race over the other in the areas of business, housing, education, health, and safety.

Now the reason that this insight was helpful to me is because it allows me to see how racism is my problem. Even as a person who has never engaged in individual intentional acts of racism, I live in a society where the structures around me have been influenced and shaped by racial preference. Therefore, since I am a part of society, I share in racism.

What does faith say about this? Today’s first reading presents God as slow to anger and rich in kindness. I would suggest to you that if racism is our problem, we must be patient and kind. There is so much we do not understand that we must be patient with ourselves and with others as we try to learn. We must also be slow to anger even when dealing with people who have deep anger. Because in doing so we reflect the God who is merciful to us. And we must have the courage to believe that God who made all people of every race will show us how we can work against racism so that one day we will be able to follow the advice of the apostle Paul and live in peace with one another.

5 thoughts on “Racism and Faith”

  1. Thanks Father – some very challenging thoughts. You know 6 of our 10 grand-kids are bi-racial and they have shared with Joe and I some very disturbing incidents that have happened to them. Their safety is always on my mind and they are always in my prayers. I am so concerned for our country and the welfare of all people.

  2. I believe God created man and woman, but never “race”. There is but one race, Homo sapiens, and we are a fairly homogeneous species compared to our nearest cousins, the chimpanzees.

    The sin of creating the “concept of race” and using it to advantage over an “identifiable group” belongs to men – men seeking capital and power. And that is why it has persisted in North America for over 400 years. All those who have the advantage, don’t want to join the human race, and really be “equal”, or we could have fixed this by just living up to our creed – “all men are created equal’’. (Yes, I point out that men have not considered women equal yet either.) ”Race” only exists as a convention of the powerful to dominate at someone else’s expense.

    If you are not one of the suffering, racism can be easy to overlook. Yet psychologists have long known that every child in this country knows whites have an advantage in America, a special status. Kids just learn by taking in the racist world around them. As soon as they hit school, every non-white child will know what an unfair system we live in. Their parents cannot shield them from the daily grind of not being included, but being excluded, just because of what they look like. And cultural stereotypes all across the culture reinforce that they are “less than” whites and deservedly so.

    Painfully, racism exists and it is our obligation to point out that it exists and participate in constructive change to whatever wrongfully stunts the lives of our fellow citizens. Racism and its devastating effects on the individual and the family ripple through society and erode our common humanity, generation after generation. Mr. Floyd’s death was a modern day lynching and it is not an isolated case. And how could it happen on a public street, in broad daylight, and no one stop that officer or call 911 to report the ongoing murder and ask for assistance? We have a video where no “good Samaritan” comes forward. People are finally in the streets over deliberate murder of a black man by an armed police (or peace) officer. But the carnage is everywhere, in constant disadvantages – in food, housing, education, employment, wages, health care, red lining to toxic areas, denial of rights, gerrymandering, incarceration for non-violent offenses, bail bonds, unfair lending practices, poor health outcomes, high infant mortality rates, and the constant stress of living at a disadvantage and under suspicion – branded as “less than” by the pigment of your skin or the slant of your eyes. And to “get along” you often try not to complain and make white people “uncomfortable” – the very people who hurt you, or even kill you.

    “Race” was never part of God’s plan for us. That “log in the eye” of scripture is “racism” for white America and Europeans. We need to own it, confess our sin, make reparations, and sin no more. We need to finally “love our neighbor as ourselves”. That means the majority of Americans must give up their white privilege, especially white men, and immerse themselves in the Truth. We need reconciliation hearings, and reparations so the pain can be expressed and the social fabric be rewoven – “e pluribus Unum”. We must abandon privilege for we are all children of God and God is Love.

      • Thank you Father for taking on this essential topic at a time when we hope to move forward significantly along the path of Peace/Justice.

        “True Peace is not the absence of no tension: it is the presence of Justice.” Rev. Marin Luther King Jr.
        Montgomery Bus Boycot, Alabama 1955


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