Racism in the Church – a dangerous cancer
Racism in the church is such a sticky issue, almost too taboo to talk about. It ruffles feathers, it sows discord, it creates strife – and so the list goes on. The only way to deal with it I believe is to talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, indeed racism does exist in the church body of Christ. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
A history of racism
As a South African, I have grown up with an acute awareness of our country’s past involving racism and the infamous Apartheid regime. Our country, affectionately known as “the rainbow nation”, because of its rich cultural and diverse racial heritage, has had its fair share of race-related issues going back many, many decades. Many other countries have faced similar issues relating to racial relations – so we are definitely not unique in that regard. After the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the end of the Apartheid era, many thought that racism was a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, as we have discovered, it is not so. Racism doesn’t just magically disappear overnight. Oh, how we wish it could! But it won’t because it is a deep-rooted evil.
It has taken on a more subtle form, but it is nonetheless still present in some folks. Some people have chosen to let go of racism, others have not. It is often thinly veiled, but when you scratch the surface it will rear its ugly head. And it is not only white towards black(other races), it is the other way round too. Racism is not only a South African problem but a worldwide phenomenon.
An issue of colour
I was born so-called “coloured”. In South Africa “coloured” means that we are not classified as black, nor are we classified as white. We are supposedly somewhere “in-between” because we are seen as a mixed race and so we are called “coloured”. I know some people hate being called “coloured”. The term can get a few people extremely hot under the collar because it is seen as a derogatory term. I personally don’t have a problem being called coloured – it’s what I answer to that matters. And I answer to “human race” or “God’s child”, because that is what I ultimately am.
I myself have had many racial encounters. Some subtle, some not so subtle. It always leaves me hurt and angry, but more than that, it leaves me asking God why. Why do we still have to deal with racism in 2018? One can(sort of) understand racism coming from non-believers but inside the church? No. That is the most hurtful.
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A few mild experiences:
– A born-again acquaintance of mine shares my love for Gospel music. So I once offered to borrow her some of my cd’s. When I handed her a stack of cd’s, she flipped through them and handed some back to me. I asked her if she doesn’t like those particular ones. She answered and flat out told me that she doesn’t listen to white people singing Gospel music. I was shocked. White people are also Christian and surely they are also allowed to sing Gospel music!
– The church that my husband and I attend is situated in what was previously a “white-only” suburb under the Apartheid regime. When other non-white church-goers starting attending church there, a lot of the white congregants left the church in search of a more white-looking church. Why? One can only guess.
– A lady of colour started attending church at an all-white congregation church. When she started clapping hands to a praise and worship song, she was promptly asked to stop by a white deacon/usher, because “we”(meaning the white congregation) don’t do “that” here. I am not sure if she ever returned to that church.
– White people sit mostly in a certain area of a certain church while non-whites sit on the other side. Whether this is subconscious or not, I don’t know, but as a church visitor to this particular church, I found it interesting to note.
And so I can give you many, many examples. Sadly.
The devil’s work
When will we open our eyes as Christians and see that this is the devil’s work? His modus of operandi is to divide and conquer. Because if we as the church are always looking for ways and means to be divided against each other instead of looking for ways that will bring us closer to each other and to God then he is free to do his evil works.
Example: When some of us all belong to the same church then we will bicker about which area of ministry is better or more effective, if we all belong to the same choir then it’s who sings better and who doesn’t and so it goes on.
Instead of looking for things that we have in common and for the things that can bring us closer to each other, we scratch to find the things that cause division! And what happens? The devil sits back and laughs. He has accomplished his mission. There is division, strife, and in-fighting instead of unity, power, and love amongst Christians.
And what happens when there is strife and divisions in the church?
It causes our faith to be ineffective resulting in endless so-called faith-failures because faith works by love. Galatians 5:6: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love”. We are to avoid strife at all costs if we want our faith to work.
We are also commanded by God to walk in love for a reason(John 13:34-35 and Mark 12:31).
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. ”(John 13:34-35)
Strife and division are not what God wants. He wants us to walk in love with one another.
Oh, just imagine how effective we could be as Christians if there was unity amongst us. We would send the devil running for cover!
One race: the human race
God created us all as humans – the human race. When we bleed, everyone’s blood is red. Just think about it this way: if they were trying to determine who a child’s daddy is they would take a sample of the child and the father’s blood. They don’t just take into account the child’s physical appearance to determine who the daddy is.
It’s in the blood
No, looks can be deceiving, but our blood determines the truth. And the truth is this: If we are all Christian, then God is our daddy – so whether you are Black, White, Indian or whatever race God created you to be – God is your heavenly Father just as much as He is the Heavenly Father of your black or white sister or brother sitting next to you in church. The blood of Jesus is what makes us brothers and sisters in Christ – not our skin colour.
I am sure it grieves the Father’s heart to see us acting in this way here on earth, especially when there is so much work to be done in the Kingdom of God. We are wasting time and energy on an issue that Jesus settled long ago with His blood that was shed for all of us. Let us embrace each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
I certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to racism, but I do know who has all the answers we could ever possibly need. All we can do is to keep praying for unity in the body of Christ, love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and continue to do our best in raising our sons and daughters to have a healthy love and respect for people of all colour.
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Have you ever experienced racism in the church?
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