White Christians and Race Relations

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus

The rhetoric is heating up. By now, people everywhere are taking sides, calling names and setting up walls of words that reinforce old prejudices, anger and hatred. The tragic shooting in the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina has brought our American racial divide to the forefront of our consciousness again.

I am grateful to see that in Charleston itself, church resumed and people from every race are standing together to promote peace and healing against the racist hatred of Dylann Roof and those who encouraged his violence with their separatist rhetoric.

I am dismayed to see so many white Christians who still do not understand the emotional world of discrimination that many blacks in our communities live with every day. Slavery was not a benign institution. It was evil. And even if your ancestors did not own slaves, they benefitted from the society built on treating some people as if they were property and not people at all. And this attitude about blacks did not go away when the South lost the war. Slavery may have been legally abolished, but society and its institutions retained many ways of treating our black neighbors as property or, at best, as second-class citizens. Many of these practices were only removed from the laws of our country and some states within the last 50 years.

Among a significant number of people, the attitudes and practices still haven’t changed. We can see that in the rhetoric of those websites that Dylann Roof frequented. Racial hatred is alive and well.

Things are better. There is no doubt about that. Because things are better, many white people want us to ignore the bigots and stop talking about race. Healing will not take place by ignoring the divide that still exists. You may be frustrated that certain politicians and pundits will use these issues to get their own name in the papers and promote their own brand. That will always be true. Stop listening to those people.

And start listening to your neighbors. Your black neighbors and your Latino neighbors and your poor neighbors. Listen to what their fears and frustrations and struggles are. And join with them to bring love and peace and healing. Jesus cares about how we treat people and how we love people. The Bible is clear: the only race in God’s eyes is the human race. And there are no second-class citizens in heaven.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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