The Challenge Before Us: Thoughts from the Candid Conversation on Systemic Racism and Bias

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Shortly after the broadcast of the latest Candid Conversation, I was meeting with members of my board. My vice-chair is someone who is falling to the problem of the differing terms that are coming from systemic racism, and what he feels is the constantly moving goal post. The information being pelted to him is clearly causing some form of compassion fatigue. It’s leading the two of us to come into civil conflict. We see things differently. This is the conversation that keeps happening in our churches though and is the challenge before us. We have two sides and more often than not, we retreat to our corners and dig in instead of following any path forward. Our trenches prepare us for war instead of for worship.

Efrem Smith and Peyton Jones help dissect in the recent Candid Conversation with Professor George Yancey what all of us our dealing with.  And if you are not dealing with it, you will have to. Our culture is in labor pains over this and it is being covered on every news source. Or as Peyton put it, “The kingdom of God often out paces the church.” This will not be easy, and it really shouldn’t be, but we are being called to speak into the pain of people lives.

The WE of the matter

Efrem hits on one of the big notes of this issue when discussing a conversation he had with a friend. Why do we have a knee-jerk reaction when asked to deal with this issue? Why do we feel attacked and judged?  Most of us know it was not anything we did or are going to do. In general, we are neutral, but we feel attacked. Well, Efrem points out that we have confused our citizenship. We live in America, so we think we are American.  So, when attacks and judgments are brought to the country, we feel the need to defend. But in Christ, we are not citizens of this country, we are citizens to the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God our call is to be justice — we are supposed to defend the weak and powerless and be their voice. Where we place our citizenship will be a big clue on how we deal with things.

How do we not get political?

This was one of the questions asked via the event chat. How do we help fix this with out being drawn into the battle lines of political parties? A troubling problem. Part of this is: Where does your citizenship lie? But as well you can, choose not to address the politics — instead address problems.  There is no political divide in problems.

Efrem gave an example of tutoring children in third through fifth grades in math and English, and how that can radically change their odds of success and coming out of systemic systems. He then took it to the Bible in showing how we can help the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, those that are sick and in prison. You use that search parameter you should find agreement instead of politics.

Peyton chimed in as well with training that he gave one of his church plants — that they had to be like Paul. All things to all people. If they started with Republican mindset and went to people who were Democrats, then they need to become Democrats, and vice versa. This how we reach all people, wining them to Christ, instead of trying to win them to our politics.

It is about reconciliation

When we go to make disciples, our call as Christians, then we are reconciling people to Christ. We are recognizing people are lost in their sin and need to be found. When it comes to systemic racism and bias, we are recognizing there are systems of our world lost to sin and they also need reconciled to Christ. And in fixing the systems, we will need to reconcile each other to each other — a broken system will always have the advantaged and the oppressed. One side will be seen as the enemy. We need to be brought back into the love of Christ. Efrem points out that this is  the highest calling of Christians versus any other mediation we could do. This will be how we fix these systemic issues and biases, in the humility of the cross.

Watch the replay here of Candid Conversations featuring Professor George Yancey, Efrem Smith, and Peyton Jones.

We are better together!

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

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