Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blacks and Whites

A front page article of the New York Times today reported "A Racial Divide is Bridged by Recession". Remarkably a suburb of Atlanta is experiencing the easing of once sharp racial tensions as whites and blacks mingle in welfare offices and food banks. The article contends, "nothing else has worked to remove barriers as quickly as economic hardship". Blessed be the tie that binds.

Christians take note - rubbing racial shoulders is still newsworthy! We're not even talking about whites and blacks liking each other. All they have to do is cordially share a waiting room and the Times will slot that phenomenon next to Obama's China tour as front page material. I guess those (white) people who think race doesn't matter in America probably aren't selling newspapers.

Ephesians 2 is vehemently pointed in its vision for race in religious life. On our best days, we as the church understand the first half of the chapter - Jesus' death and resurrection achieves vertical reconciliation. But we rarely venture into the latter half - Jesus' death and resurrection achieves horizontal reconciliation. In other words, 2.5% of American churches can be considered racially diverse.

In reality, a vision for blacks and whites outside the gospel can scarcely hope to achieve more than a waiting room reconciliation. Only the gospel grounds a fellow citizenship, a dwelling place for God made up of the awkward, uncomfortable, self-sacrificing joining of all races.

But I guess the Times makes much of racial hobnobbing in Henry County because they haven't found it anywhere else.


Jon Furst said...

You are correct that there is a disproportionate racial spread between churches. Even still, statistics can be a poor prophet.

It seems that this is something that needs to be seen from a local level. Many communities themselves are not racially diverse, but such data would have a way of skewing the figures. I know you have in mind Lexington where this really is a problem, but to base it on a national statistic like this one is problematic.

Also, this is further complicated by racially specific churches (and here I would be curious to hear your thoughts). Many African-American and Asian churches are set up, perhaps not to the exclusion of their white brothers, but surely not to their inclusion. In light of Ephesians 2 (or Galatians 3:28), do you think it makes sense to start a church on the pretext of race or culture or socio-economic status? How do you suggest diversity ought to occur?

Lastly, I think you're giving the Times a little too much credit. Would they report on racial diversity in a church? Maybe, but by the time it became newsworthy they might be reporting on care for the poor, genuine healings and prophecy at the same time.

david gentino said...

Jon, you're right, Mud Creek, Kentucky isn't going to have a racially diverse church anytime soon. And you're right to say that explicit or implicit racism in church is not just a white problem. And you're right that the Times is hardly longing to vindicate the church in print.

My point is a lot more simple. That article confirms what Jesus stressed about the identifying marker of the church - brotherly love. Nobody raises eyebrows when they see a group of people who look, smell, earn, and act the same pat each other on the back at weekly gatherings. You can find more scandal in a Rotary Club.

But if we took Ephesians 2 seriously and applied the cross to our community people couldn't help but take notice.