Discuss: Race, Diversity, and the Church


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

Featuring Lisa Fields of the Jude 3 Project, this Ask Away episode discusses the following questions:

Is Christianity a white man’s religion? What did Jesus say about reconciliation? How do racial conversations differ between the secular and religious? Does every church need to be multi-ethnic in order to celebrate diversity?

I look forward to your comments, insights, and questions!

To learn more, our website offers detailed information about the Ask Away podcast.


Ask Away
Introduction: Nathalie Hawkins
(Bill Brander) #2

Uhm. Oh so relevant here in SA. When I took over pastoring a Methodist church in a location, I asked them what they wanted me to do for them. In a nutshell they requested that I reduce the service times from two hours to just over an hour.
This was not a complete surprise because in the ‘white’ congregation which I also pastored, I had asked our ‘black’ members why they came here to worship. They’re response was that they wanted shorter worship services.
Pastoring that congregation in the location was one of the highlights of my life. I learnt a lot from them. Amadinga efazi


(Sanchia_J) #3

This is an incredible topic. Thanks for posting it up for discussion.

I have a lot to say, but I think I’ll start with answering: Is Christianity a white man’s religion?

Working within Sub-Saharan Africa (Malawi, Kenya, South Africa) I have heard this sentiment echoed in multiple groups. Its often followed by statements of colonisation and land grabbing. “White people gave us Jesus and took our land”. Given the ugly history of colonisation and apartheid within African countries, it is understandable why Christianity is associated with oppression, and brainwashing. This sentiment is felt in every country that has been colonised, from Australia, India, the entire African continent, all the way to Latin America.

While working in Eastern Africa, I noticed that there is an bitter undertone of resentment felt towards many mission groups. People see proselytism as means to receive funding, grants, or various forms of aid. “We will build a school if you become a Christian”. Locals often feel that their cultures are being replaced with western ideology, and it’s met with resistance especially from younger generations who are exposed to various philosophies of thought. Christian missionaries from the west are often seen as “White Saviours, coming to save African people from their blackness”.

When we examine the contents of the Bible, God does not condone racism or prejudices towards another race group. Jesus commands us to love our neighbours, he shows no prejudice towards the Woman at the Well. even though the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other.

The problem does not lie with Christianity. The problem lies with the people who misuse scripture towards their own selfish gain! Ghandi once said: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. "

Presenting the gospel as non-racial when you have a history of colonisation, slavery and apartheid, requires sensitivity. Simply saying: Jesus loves you, isn’t enough. Like Lisa mentioned in her talk, people ask: If Jesus loves me, why does our race suffer so much? That being said I definitely feel that more people of colour (African, Indian, Aboringinal etc) need to be in apologetics to reach those who feel Christianity has destroyed their ethnic identity. This is not an issue that should be addressed by white apologists, although, they may understand the principals discussed, it needs to come from someone relatable, and not from the symbol of oppression.


(Nathalie Hawkins) #4

I am so grateful for this conversation! I was surprised at how my tears flowed as I listened. My heart has ached for conversations like these with Christian family. I had been wrestling with many of these questions as I have seen several friends turn to the Black Hebrews, Islam, and atheism because of the responses they received when they asked fellow christians questions about racial oppression. I am blown away by the questions you addressed today because it was as if you were listening in on my conversations with the Father. You have reaffirmed that He knows me, He Sees me, and He cares for me.

Thank you Ask Away crew for being so open and willing to take on the tough questions.

I am about to dive into Jude3project.com.


(Jimmy Sellers) #5

I thought this opinion piece on a book by Reggie Williams, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus would be of interest to this group. I have not read the book nor am I familiar with its author but the piece was a very interesting. I was unaware of Bonhoeffer’s time in America pre WWII and totally unaware that he traveled in the south and saw first hand American racism in action nor did I know that he attend church and taught Sunday school at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. This from one of his letters.

Every Sunday at 2:30 in the afternoon and together with my friend [Albert Fisher], and often as his substitute, [I] had a group of young Negroes in the Sunday school; I conducted Bible study for some Negro women and once a week helped out in a weekday church school. Hence not only did I become well acquainted with several young Negroes; I also visited their homes several times. This personal acquaintance with Negroes was one of the most important and gratifying events of my stay in America.

The basic premise of Williams book is that is was Bonhoeffer’s year in America that prepared him for his final divine appointment in the Germany homeland as stood in the gap and eventually was hanged in the final days before the war’s end.

Williams throws down the gauntlet with startling force (startling for white readers, that is):

The Volkish devotion to pure German blood, with its ethnic, nationalist, imperialist longings, was the German equivalent of normalized humanity from the American version of white supremacy. … Seeing society from the hidden perspective of Harlem helped Bonhoeffer to recognize white supremacy in Germany and to see it as a Christian problem that might demand Christian political action. … Because he was exposed to American racism from the perspective of Christians who were subjected to it, Bonhoeffer was equipped with prophetic insight that his white German colleagues in the church and the academy did not have.

Here is the link to the complete article.
I would be interested in comments.


(Kathleen) #6

I was so encouraged to learn of the work of the The Jude 3 Project! Thanks so much to ATL HQ for interviewing Lisa Fields and getting word out about this ministry. I spent a good bit of time after listening, thanking God and praying for their beautiful and challenging work.

As a white woman from Memphis, TN (a city fraught with racial tension and an ugly past of white-on-black violence), I have felt the need to dive more into the work of reconciliation, but have been also seeking to understand also ‘how we got here’. So good to know that there have been and are ‘ministers of reconciliation’ in the trenches in America and the rest of the world, preaching the Good News of ultimate reconciliation and restorative relationships.

And, @Jimmy_Sellers, thanks for posting that article! The book sounds fascinating. A couple of excerpts that stood out to me, all centred on the theme of ‘lived’ faith or experience…

Bonhoeffer’s association with Abyssinian Baptist Church allowed him to move beyond the literary expressions of black America to the lived experience of an exceptional congregation living through hard times.

Intellectual assent to theological propositions meant nothing, [Pastor of ABC] Powell taught, if what we believe is disconnected from a suffering world.

How revolutionary! Imagine if the white church believed this at that time… Side bar: I come from the Presbyterian tradition, and Dr. Sean Lucas has been a great resource for me in understanding how/why the evangelical world was so blind during this time. I especially appreciated his book, For a Continuing Church.

It was this emphasis on lived faith, Williams believes, that shaped how Bonhoeffer “understood what the church should be doing when the church struggle began in 1933. … The tradition of Jesus the cosufferer hidden in suffering and shame that Bonhoeffer encountered within Powell’s ministry and within the Harlem Renaissance literary movement remained with him when he returned home.”

If [Williams] is right (and he is) white American Christians (and the white American Church) in all its theological and ideological manifestations has missed something critical. We can’t capture the powerful simplicity of Jesus unless we repent our addiction to white supremacy in sackcloth and ashes.

‘white supremacy’ - I appreciated how the author (Alan Bean) tied that notion to a (I believe, problematic) social or neo-Darwinian view race, evolution, and (I would add) human ‘progress’.


(Rashidah Lovick) #7

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing! I did not know this about Bonhoeffer, either.


(Rebecca Fohner) #8

Hi,
Thank you to Ask Away for addressing this topic. As Lisa said, color blindness and saying there is no race or ethnicity is not the answer.

My question is, would a better approach be James’ reference of the rich and the poor man in chapter 2?
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

So, as the church (and particularly from a white perspective,) do we see the person as they are, and reach out showing no partiality based on those aspects while still being sensitive to the aspects that exist (social status, wealth, race, ethnicity, culture, ect;) understanding that those aspects are part of who a person is?


(Oryn Yong) #9

Interesting topic, especially in this age!
Sometimes I thank God because I’m a Christian in a place which is quite homogeneous in terms of race. But cultural practices (e.g. ancestral worship) do stand as a barrier to the gospel

Is Christianity a white man’s religion? This comes up quite often. Many have suggested that Christianity was used a means to enforce slavery/colonization in Africa. It’s interesting to know that those who fought for the abolition of slavery where Christians too. The Bible doesn’t prescribe slavery (as we know it today) even though is described. Paul Coplan (in his book “Is God a Moral Monster?”) gives Biblical evidence on how people were expected to treat servants, and these guidelines are in stark contrast to the slavery which took place in Africa a few centuries ago. The problem is with people misusing the Bible for selfish purposes.

Minute 23:50 I think to say that the secular world does a better job at diversity and inclusion is a little misleading, especially in this post-truth age. More and more, feelings and opinions and preferences are being elevated above truth and facts. For instance, there are now up to 71 genders. There are many races and tribes, but the Bible makes us understand we are created male/female. We are to defend Christianity with gentleness with gentleness and respect, but how do you put across this truth without being called “divisive” and “bigoted” or “hateful”? Worse, many of these growing trends are being passed as law! The secular world may seem to be more inclusive because nobody wants to “offend” another.

Interesting podcast!