August 16, 2016
The Racism Remedy
Post by Brittany Tedesco
I'm sure you know: race relations in our country are in the toilet.
Incidences of white police officers shooting black individuals induced the formation of the Black Lives Matter group. After several police officers were shot in acts of vengeance, they started Blue Lives Matter.
Beyond black and white, there are thousands of ethnicities in our world. Our God is creative and delights in diversity. I find it terribly sad that the variety He meant for good has been a source of pain and heartache for so many people.
Our human nature inclines us to gravitate toward people who are like us. . . who look like us, sound like us, think like us, agree with us (at least on most things!). It also inclines us to view our race, class, creed, or affinity group as superior to another's.
My pastor, a white man, just completed a sermon series on the topic of racism. He told us about the racism his best friend, a black pastor named Danny, experienced early on in his ministry.
A dynamic preacher, Danny was invited to speak at many a summer revival by many a white pastor (with predominately white congregations).
Though many white people came to those meetings to hear Danny preach, they never came to his church. When my pastor asked Danny why there weren't any white people in his church, he learned that, though many were happy to have a black man teach them the Bible, they weren't okay with having a black man tell them what to do. "Oh, we love to sit under the light you're giving," one man told Danny. "But we don't want to sit under your rule."
Years went by as Danny faithfully preached. . . to whoever would listen. He started winning souls from all walks of life and all ethnicities. He established a genuine, multi-ethnic church.
I wish I could say "the end," at this point, but the story doesn't have a happy ending.
Danny, in following the pattern of God's Word, began identifying and mentoring people in the church for leadership positions. Some of the people he began mentoring happened to be white. . . which irked some of the black members who started accusing Danny of being an "Uncle Tom." He left and continued preaching Jesus Christ to whoever would listen.
A close cousin to racism, classism is a huge issue in places like India and Nepal. "The caste system is a problem in Nepal," a native Nepalese ministry leader wrote to us. "In the church, all of us are equal, but in the world outside, one's birth identity dictates their place in society. This has been a hindrance to the advancement of the gospel, especially among those born into higher castes. Whenever we go out to preach the gospel, Brahmins (the highest caste) tell us that they like everything about Christianity except that we do not hold onto caste distinctions.
"God in His providence has chosen low-caste people and people who are considered untouchables, to become elders in our church and this has been very offensive to some in our larger community, many times acting as a barrier.
"But, as a church, we have decided that the gospel will not be compromised to appeal to traditions and belief systems that we have left behind. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek. Neither Brahmin nor untouchable, for we are all one in Christ Jesus."
As my pastor put it, both racism and classism "are foundationally rooted in anti-grace, anti-gospel, anti-Christ ideologies."
I've never treated anyone unkindly because of the color of their skin or socioeconomic status, but I've also not gone out of my way to befriend someone radically different than me.
Why not? Because it's uncomfortable? Because of fear?
You might've heard that Muslims in the Middle East are rejecting Islam and turning to Christ in droves. Partly because they're seeing what real Islam looks like in the form of ISIS, and partly, I believe, because Jesus is coming back soon and He's gathering His people to Himself. The harvest is now, and it's happening in a big way.
A person who decides to leave Islam and follow Christ in a predominately Muslim country makes an enormous sacrifice. They lose their jobs—even worse, they suffer the pain of rejection from their families, who disown or even threaten to kill them. Suddenly, they are alone, without community.
But they have a new community, right? The body of Christ?
Not so fast. . . ministry leaders from multiple countries within the Middle East have told us, during visits to Christian Aid Mission, that Muslim-background believers have a terrible time integrating into the local churches.
Why? Because people are afraid. What if the former Muslims draw unwanted attention from angry Muslim acquaintances? What if they're just pretending to be followers of Jesus so they can harm the church?
One of the Middle Eastern ministry leaders, who visited us this week, told us that a large group of men left one of the churches after a Syrian refugee started attending.
"Do you ever attempt to persuade these church members to be more loving and accepting of former Muslim believers?" I asked him.
He told me that he's tried but the problem is widespread—it spans oceans and can be found here in the U.S. just like in the Middle East.
"Imagine a woman, completely covered in a burka, walking through the door and down the aisle of your church," he said. "Would it make anyone uncomfortable?"
Oh. . . right.
The leader has begun planting small churches in former Muslims' homes where they can study the Bible with a few others who've also left Islam.
He knows that, without a community to support them, they face great discouragement and temptation to return to Islam.
In our fallen, human state, we live in such disunity with one another. But we still sing songs and write poems about peace on earth. Because isn't that the ultimate goal. . . despite the prejudice we see every day around the world, and the prejudice we struggle with in our own hearts? Deep down, don't we all want the same thing?
Nearly three years ago, I wrote my very first blog post for Christian Aid Mission. I wanted to write something encouraging and inspiring. I closed my eyes and tried to think of something objectively beautiful. It didn't take me long.
I thought about all of the people groups around the world who have witnesses for Christ among them—all of their skin colors, and dialects, and ways of dressing, and cultures—and I pictured them together around the throne of God, praising His name together.
Often, when a ministry leader from another country would visit our office, Christian Aid founder, Dr. Bob Finley, would ask them to say a prayer in their own language. It always made me think of all the other prayers going up to the Father all around the world in all different languages and accents. What a beautiful sound it must be to His ears.
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
Father, help us to walk in the light and have fellowship with one another.