How to Talk About Racism Within the Church Without Allowing Yourself to Become Bitter

The American church has a problem with racism.

The issue is not new.

It includes support in the past for appalling acts such as lynching and racial terrorism and ongoing, inexcusable apathy. Although much has changed, the path toward deep diversity, authentic inclusion and radical repair remains long. Much of my time is spent telling Christians about the past and present concerning racism in the nation and the congregation.

Christians engaged in anti-racism work risk becoming bitter toward the church. In my speaking and travels, people often ask me, “How do you talk about racism without becoming bitter?”

Or they ask a similar question from a different angle: “How do you maintain hope in the midst of so much evil?”

There’s no easy answer.

At times, I’ve been tempted to give up on church people in frustration. Especially white evangelicals.

The 2018 midterm elections, for instance, revealed that yet again, white evangelicals chose to support a brand of politics that is inimical to people of color. In spite of the fear-mongering and overtly racist appeals of some candidates, 75 percent of white evangelicals voted for Republicans in the midterms.

Two years into his administration, white evangelicals remain the only religious group in which a majority view Trump favorably. More than 70 percent of self-identified white evangelical or born-again Christians have a favorable view of the president. Seventy-five percent of black Protestants have an unfavorable view.

It appears to me, as a person of color, that white evangelicals have little regard for my voice or those of people like me. Attempting to voice the concerns of black Christians among white churchgoers and receiving so much opposition makes it difficult sometimes for me to read the Bible and go to church.

I am still healing from wounds I’ve accrued over years of writing, speaking and teaching about racism and injustice. But no matter how discouraging the racial conditions in the church become, bitterness is not a healthy option.

To be clear, voting for Republicans is not the issue. The issue is Christians saying they support racial reconciliation on the one hand while simultaneously supporting politicians — in this case, Republicans — who traffic in racism and xenophobia on the other.

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SOURCE: Urban Faith; Religion News Service, Jemar Tisby