Church Leadership, Ministry, Women of Color, Race Issues in the Church, social justice

Church, Why Are You Afraid of Racism?

 

Church! We just saw white men who are self-proclaimed Christian Nazis and KKK members carrying tiki torches, marching and instilling fear into Virginia, and we did nothing. Not one thing did we do to care for the people who were and are affected by it. Not one thing did we do to edify or equip the church to be effective in supporting family towards recovery. It is for that reason that I write this entry with a heavy heart, acknowledging that in today’s times an event like Charlottesville isn’t something I read in my history books, but something I saw play out in real time, something I am currently rolled up in a ball crying in a corner about.

Church, wake up! Unlike what most of my white brothers and sisters in the church around me want to project, I, as an African American female, have experienced racism blatantly my whole life. This is not a figment of my imagination. I and majority of your black and brown congregants still currently experience racism. I pray that in your choosing to read this article, it aides in debunking the lie that racism no longer exists. Because racism isn’t going anywhere. Not while you sit there stagnant, allowing it to devour your family.

Church, I am disappointed! Honestly, navigating being disappointed in the church has been tricky for me. I see myself as family. However, I feel omitted, often. Because, oddly my “white” family has a privilege I do not have. They get to pick and choose whether they are affected by racism, while they watch me and other people of color suffer and do nothing about it.

Church, you are a coward! I call us cowards because, when the events associated with racism started happening more frequently and became more visible to the public, my previously solid white friends in church started to avoid me out of nowhere. They’d avoid conversations about the news. They would avoid my posts on Facebook. The same friends who had been there for me in every other crisis I faced, all of a sudden were nowhere to be found. Avoidance is a fruit of fear. I know because I have attempted to use it to protect me against racism and honestly, it has gotten me nowhere. Avoidance has been the most frequent response I have received from the church whenever I enlighten them to the fact that myself and the world are being attacked by racism. Last time I checked, avoidance isn’t a fruit of the spirit. We must do better.  

Church, stop lying! I don’t care how much you state on your Facebook page that you hate racism. If you are a leader within a church and not daily raising the concern of having an all white and male leadership team, then there is no way you hate racism like you claim. You see, when you experience hate, it is like pain you can not sit still within it. Charlottesville showed us that. Hate, like love, demands action.

I regrettably must inform you that the world doesn’t buy your lie that you hate racism either. The world sees our church leaders as cowards too. Cowards paralyzed by fear. Cowards who refuse to take responsibility for your part in this pain and instead deflect your responsibility to the big bad media. Cowards that pretend you are being emboldened to act, but have nothing to say when we ask why you have nothing to show for it. Let me inform you that before the #blacklivesmatter movement and before the Rodney King situation, I was a black woman navigating pain associated with racism. In fact, before the media demon was covering these issues, I and all people of color were in pain due to this disease. A pain the world church has never supported us in healthily navigating. You have never been prepared nor done anything significant in the matter of racism. It is time for us to stop pretending you have.

I am writing this article to establish a standard for the necessary presence of truth in the matter of racism. I vow to no longer pretend our dysfunction as it pertains to racism, has anything to do with Jesus. If that seems harsh, may I additionally inform you that racism exists within the church. It is not a demon that checks itself at the door. Unfortunately, even when racism is found within our four walls, we have no evidence of doing anything about it then, either. We are no closer to knowing what to do about racism than we were when Martin Luther King Jr. (whom is often falsely quoted on our pulpits) walked amongst us.

Church, do more! I will boldly say to the church that it is not enough to simply mention that racism is sad or bad. Actions speak louder than words. We must act. Black Church, it is not enough to call white people out for being silent or to tell them about our pain. We must lead. People’s hearts are hardening as we speak. They are hardening due to a pain associated with racism that we continue to provide no refuge from. A pain we consistently do nothing to edify and equip on how to fight against. A pain we offer no modeling of heaven on, even within our four walls. We must know that caring for people while they navigate being violated by racism is non-negotiable, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. The harvest in this is plentiful.

Church, you don’t care! If you still hold the false belief that you care anything about racism, why have I, as a dedicated member, never heard a message from the church delivering tools on how to help people navigate through racism? Why as a leader have I never been given the blessing to speak on the topic of racism and train others in how to prevent it? Honestly, I have never heard a message that transforms hearts who are affected by racism from any church, even the majority black or brown ones, I have attended. Are we as the church saying God has no wisdom on this subject? As if the Holy Spirit lacks the ability to equip and edify us through this sort of hate?

Church, you are a hypocrite! I am not a hypocrite. I am not one, because I am not asking you as a sum to do something more than I, as an individual leader, have felt called to do myself. Let me explain: it wasn’t enough for the sake of my call to settle on the perceptions I generated about white education from my rural white upbringing. I was constantly hurt and abused within this environment growing up and there was no question of my experiencing blatant racism from my peers while immersed within it. However, in that pain I sought out a different lens of my developed enemies, by choosing to attend an all-white Bible college in a rural white community. Believing that there was more to you than what met my eyes. I did something about my heart’s purity towards you, without anyone instructing me it was the right thing to do but the Holy Spirit. Process that.

While in college, I learned a lot about white culture and white Christianity that my past abusers and circumstances did not teach me. An incredible amount of misconceptions I had towards white Christians were debunked for me while I navigated my learning experiences. At the same time, my reputable ALL-WHITE bible college was constantly feeding me the lie that I was being taught a “United Christianity”: one null and void of “-isms”.  However, I went five years to this college without any explanations as to why my white leaders rested on the idea that their established doctrines could exist while simultaneously being null and void of black/brown and/or female contributions — but could unanimously agree that the world would not exist if black/brown and/or females did not contribute to it. Church, do you see how that makes no sense? Do you see why I am feeling led to call us out? This is just one of the many legitimate realities as to why racism is still given the ability to roam our planet.

Church, racism affects us all! I hold to the belief that though my white brothers and sisters often pretend it doesn’t affect them, they are secretly being tortured by racism as much as their black and brown siblings are. They too are suffering because racism is a systemic issue, torturing us all with fear. This systemic fear is squelching the movement of God we are being asked to orchestrate through faith. A faith that birthed courageous reconciliation in the early church. Throughout my whole life I have been a member of the Christian church. Christians make up millions of Americans and yet church you have left me and people of color to navigate a violence that affects all of us, alone? Are we not birthed of the same Father? Of the same Spirit? Then why can’t I yet see the fruit of us being united as one on this topic?

Church, answer me! You owe me and all the people of color an answer. This answer must lead to solutions. Solutions that redeem all that has been stolen due to racism. To paint a picture, I am looking for a church who bravely gets a one-way ticket to the mess that is known as racism; a one-way to any “-ism” for that matter.  A church family that won’t leave that destination until they have a vehicle or organization big enough to safely transport our whole community into their identity of victory. I picture a Desmond Doss remake where “no man is left behind”. A hero that clings to their convictions, while willfully risking their life for their brother.

Church, Jesus is the answer! The answer to the church being a present and relevant help in racism is Jesus. I know that sounds like a Sunday School answer, but it is the truth. My personal experiences with the church, alone, expose the disconnect with perfect love. I have not been able to see the tangible works of Jesus in the fight against racism in the church and the reason I have not is the church’s fault. Perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love is simple and tangible, Perfect love is Jesus and I can assure you that Jesus is someone who cares about racism.

Church, rise up! Racism isn’t just another social justice issue. Instead, racism is the biggest barrier today, hindering our unity, and making a more relevant imprint than love on the world as we know it. Today, urgency and action are the only appropriate responses to racism.

Church, ask yourself this one question: Why are we so afraid of racism? Perhaps you’re afraid you will have to take responsibility for something you perceive you had nothing to do with (like Jesus)? Or that enough will never be enough and we in the black community will never move forward? Are you afraid because when you tried to help one or two, you were lashed out at? Are you afraid that agreeing racism still exists will lead to our nation “blindly” electing another black president? Please, enlighten us because we need to know. We in the church need this hope. We in the church need you to be better equipped on how to care. Ask yourself the question and leave the reasons why you are afraid in the comments below. Rules: If you can’t be brutally honest on why you are afraid, don’t leave a comment at all. You have my promise that this article is simply step one. I will write again and when I do, I will be equipping you further on how to step out of fear and into being relevant.

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Amanda Flowers Peterson is part of Ezer Rising’ administration team and contributes regularly with a focus on truths about people of color in ministry. She is passionate about crisis, trauma, eradicating racism and equipping the church to be the relevant solution for it all. She is married to her best friend Jason, partnered in raising their two sons Zephaniah and Zechariah, is the Founder and CEO of Zion Crisis Navigational Services, and is a mental health advocate and activist with Stand Against Stigma.  Amanda can usually be found eating, running, reading a thought provoking book or watching her favorite TV shows on hulu, while in bed. With degrees in psychology and biblical theology as well as fifteen years experience in ministry and local government, she is determined to represent the change Jesus charged the church to be when He resurrected. Visit her website at ZIONCNS.com where you can find out more about her passions in trauma and crisis and stay connected by liking her page at Facebook.com/ZIONCNS.

2 thoughts on “Church, Why Are You Afraid of Racism?”

  1. This article sparks something in me. It’s bluntness can’t help but make you squirm, in a good way. A shifting way. But if I’m brutally honest, I don’t know what actions to take next. When you mentioned speaking and teaching on it I thought YES. Because I care and I want to love well and I want to see change but I feel afraid of missing the mark, not doing the right thing or enough. Not knowing what is needed so I can say yes to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you beauty in ordinary things for your comment! Your yes is to accept the invitation. Which you did, by commenting! Welcome to the family! I plan to post every Tuesday on Ezer Rising inviting the church into a step by step process towards reconciliation.. I pray this time next year all who accept the invite are more united and courageous in the needed fight against racism. BLESS YOU!

      Like

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