The Church and White Privilege

Two pictures of racial tensions in the US, taken 50 years apart.

History may view this statement as hyperbole, but I’ll go for it anyway:

The events taking place in Ferguson are a watershed moment for racial reconciliation (or the lack thereof) in America. And if the church stands idly by as this watershed moment takes place the Gospel will be further relegated to a place of obscurity within that same culture.

Thankfully, the church of Jesus Christ has leaders who are speaking up, and guiding us with wisdom. One of those leaders is Matt Chandler. He is one of the most influential Christian leaders in the world. I don’t listen to sermon podcasts anymore, but when I did his was always my go-to. I have much respect for Matt, and it has grown after he spoke on the subject of white privilege last Sunday (listen to the full message here). In a post from earlier this week he clarified some of what he shared during his message (read the full post).

The challenge with white privilege is that most white people cannot see it. We assume that the experiences and opportunities afforded to us are the same afforded to others. Sadly, this simply isn’t true. Privileged people can fall into the trap of universalizing experiences and laying them across other people’s experiences as an interpretive lens…

What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias. A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege.

I want to piggy back on Matt’s post by sharing one more post also related to Ferguson. Thabiti Anyabwile is in the process of moving back to the United States following a time of serving the church in the Cayman Islands. Thabiti is a black man, and on Monday he shared that he has one main fear of moving back to the US:

Truthfully, the Lord has kept us from any fears that we can discern about planting the church or living in Southeast. If I have a fear it would be one thing: bringing my son Titus to the United States. He’s so tender and innocent and the States can be very hard on Black boys.

That’s my one fear. This country destroying my boy. Ferguson is my fear. I could be the black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son’s blood.

My friend Kyle pointed out last night about how sad it is that Christians get more upset about Gungor’s beliefs about Creation and the flood in Genesis than they do about race relations, specifically the situation ongoing in Ferguson. Considering we just engaged the issue surrounding Gungor last week, this is worth examining.

Ferguson is an opportunity to look at the blind spot so often ignored. Let us dive into it deeply, with humility, and with a posture of listening and learning.

How long, oh Lord?