Note: This article is reprinted from Christianity Today, where it launched a 20-week series on race, justice and the church. We encourage you to check out the series as it continues running at CT.
Many minorities would rather talk about anything else. We would much prefer to converse over the joy of sports, music, cinema, the beauty of nature, and many other topics.
But many feel like we have to keep bringing up the topic of race, often in an exhausting effort to get other Christians to see that our concerns are not imaginary. From the personal to the public domain, we keep talking to pursue a life of flourishing in the church and society. There remains not only a need to say, “Racism is part of reality” but also, “We need to construct paths toward fruitful life together in this world.”
I propose we begin not by asking, “Why talk about it?” The reasons for conversation need no explanation. Instead, let’s delve into the deeper questions, for instance, “What is happening within me when my inclination is to resist talking about race?” Or a second: “Is it possible my reluctance to discussing racism emerges from an ideological default setting that enables me to easily categorize and dismiss these conversations?” Or a third: “If I am honest, how much do I really know about all of this?” Or a fourth: “Am I aware of the diversity of views within and among African Americans and other people of color?” Questions of self-examination are critical for all of us in general, but they have particular urgency when it comes to issues of race and justice.
Times of urgency such as we’re experiencing currently bring us to the crossroads of decision: What path should one take? Should we follow the path marked “Least Resistance – Status Quo Ahead” or the proverbial road less traveled marked “Committed Inquiry – Discomfort and Growth Ahead”? The choice is really no choice. We must take the road less traveled. Christianity Today has featured countless articles on race during difficult times in recent American history, but this sustained series seeks to do more than react. We intend to engage in the steady, marathon work required for change.
It would be delightful, if not truly amazing, for a single article to serve as a “shalom pill,” providing the perfect resolution to all of the challenges racism presents. But just as a single moment of conversion does not yield instantaneous transformation into full Christlikeness, no single article (or sermon or conference or encounter) will usher an individual Christian or church into the fullness of sanctification expressed in the relentless love of God and neighbor. The race we run against race requires many runners and many strides. The good news is that in Christ we are assured of victory.
This series will not participate in the politics of guilt, but it will provide a “politics of reckoning.” To reckon is to take up and read, to ask God for eyes to see and ears to hear (Mark 4:23), to understand what the Lord would have happen in our hearts and have us do in the world. To reckon is also to acknowledge that righteousness under God must be done. Justice and peace go hand in hand (Psalm 85:10). Such divine reckoning elicits understanding and empathy, provides vindication and exposes guilt. The politics of reckoning evokes many emotions, but these need not be mere sentiments. Instead, these feelings present opportunities for the Holy Spirit to transform us more and more into disciples who do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).