The situation in Ferguson is tragic. Not just because a young man is dead. This is the bad, no doubt. But what has transpired in the wake of the incident is also very saddening. Taking sides. Everyone must do it. You see the substance behind shadows. People’s true colors, if you will.
As a minister of Jesus Christ and man with a passion for restoring culture, I am saddened.
I am saddened that a young man, Michael Brown, has lost his life.
I am saddened that a family will spend weeks, months, years grieving over this loss.
I am saddened that a police officer, Darren Wilson, has in essence lost his life. Granted this man is still with us physically, but let’s make no mistake…his life is all but over.
I am saddened that an incident like this still polarizes the nation.
I am saddened that an incident like this forces everyone to take a side. Even Christians.
Ferguson is a reminder. It is a stark reminder. A reminder that our culture still has a long way to go. A reminder that the black eye over this country is still race. It’s not that we are unaware of this reality. Race has long been the black eye. Ferguson just vividly exposes the eye. Like someone who removes an eyepatch. We know the patch is hiding something. But let the patch be removed. It is then our minds can actually internalize the magnitude of what’s underneath.
When I process the events in Ferguson and couple them with the events I see many days in my own town, I begin to ask myself some tough questions. Is racial reconciliation even possible? Is cultural diversity even realistic? Are we, Americans, being naive? The answer to these questions must be no. Underlying the black eye must lie the truth that these types of things heal. Black eyes heal, right? They might leave scars, but they heal.
In light of this, I want to suggest 6 ways to truly attack racism and cultural diversity.
1.) Own it…racism still exists.
Racism still exists today. And most of us are guilty. Granted, active, outspoken racism is much less prevalent today. Most of those people are pushed to the margins of society.
But replacing active racism is a more passive form. One that is just as dangerous. This type of racism says one group or race has no problem with another, but passive racism never goes so far as to truly embrace. This type of racism says I have no problem with black people. I have no problem with Latinos. I have no problem with whites. But when I, a white guy, pass a group of black men while running, I slow down or move over.
This type of racism says I have no problem with inter-racial marriage…as long as it is not in my family.
This type of racism is so dangerous because it is silent. Like a volcano that is dormant. No real signs or issues. Then something triggers and everything explodes. An earthquake for volcanos. Ferguson for America.
It is not until we admit collectively this is still an issue that we will be in a position to attack it. Like a man with an illness, but he refuses to acknowledge anything is wrong. Denial. This is not an attack on our evil hearts as much as it is a call for us to embrace the collective need for grace and mercy. A call for God to transform our wickedness. A call for the Holy Spirit to help us see with new eyes and love with new hearts. Only He can do this.
2.) Celebrate differences.
When is our country (and our world, for that matter) going to arrive at a place where we can celebrate differences? When are we going to mature to the point where the default position becomes acceptance, not condemnation and cynicism? When are we going to realize God does not create machines?…He creates people. Then he gives those people freedom to live differently and uniquely.
There is not one way to worship God. There is not one way to approach life. And this is where things get dangerous. This is where racism has its roots. Believing one group has “figured out” what is right, and for someone to refuse to adhere to their understanding of life and God is wrong.
Superiority…the essence of racism. “I have it figured out. Everyone else is wrong.” Superiority breeds elitism, which often leads to dehumanization.
My black brothers worship God differently than I do. They have a different filter through which they see life. My Latino brothers are the same way. My Chinese brothers the same. I have much to learn from all of these groups. I pray we will have the wisdom and maturity to begin celebrating differences. Different is not wrong…it is different.
3.) Understand racism is about the heart.
None of us make any legitimate advancement in this area by simply agreeing to meet in a room together. Racism originates in the heart, and it must be attacked from within.
I have been in settings before where men and women from all backgrounds gathered together. In the same room. But that was it. When the event concluded, everyone went to eat with “their people.”
We will begin to make strides towards eliminating racism when we agree to sit down with one another and listen to the heart of the other. Relationships must be built. Hearts must be shared. Concerns must be revealed. It is not until we agree to fight through those awkward and tension-filled moments that progress will be made.
Attacking racism doesn’t start by agreeing to get people from different backgrounds in the same room. It starts by inviting people into your home, fostering sympathy with a sincere heart, and, of course, listening.
4.) Pray for deep humility.
This point is arguably the most important one…it is also arguably the most difficult for us to accept. Humility is so important because without it, we will continue to allow the wounds of the past to inform the actions of the present and future.
Without humility, we will default to being defensive. Without humility, we will default to being offended.
For all sides humility is vital. For one side it requires a heart that is more focused on breaking down walls than making sure the other side says everything right. For the other side, it requires a heart that seeks to listen and be sympathetic, not get angry or frustrated when a comment is made that pushes against stereotypical norms.
This is impossible without humility. This is impossible without a softened heart. A heart that understands in this journey we are going to say things that offend the other side. We have no choice. We are human.
A heart that understands an ill-timed comment is not grounds to push away from the table or default back to cultural stereotypes. To fix this, we must agree to stay at the table. We must choose to think of the other group ahead of ourselves…and remain humble.
5.) Realize embracing diversity is not something we drift towards…it requires intentionality.
We humans love to be in situations that are safe and comfortable. Anything outside of those bounds will require intentionality. This is true of racism and true of cultural diversity. If we do not take some intentional steps, all of our friends will look just like us. All of our churches will look the same. All of our social gatherings will be filled with people that look like us. This is the nature of culture and race. We drift towards what is familiar.
For racism to make forward movement, we must be intentional. It is not something that will happen naturally. Embracing cultural diversity is hard. Spending quality time with people that have nothing in common with us is not normal.
The world is not doing it. But it is in these spaces that movement towards embracing and not condemning will be made. It is in these spaces that walls come down. It is in these spaces we begin to see one another as human beings, not label one another by skin color.
6.) Believe only the gospel can eliminate racism.
Racism is a sin in the face of the Holy God and of humanity bearing that face of God. We have not gotten deep enough to affirming each other as human beings. As a result we minimize the gospel.John PerkinsIn a world marred by the stains of racism, there is really only one cure…the gospel. The gospel is the only legitimate answer to this problem.
In Ephesians 2:14-15, Paul says the cross has broken down the walls of hostility so that Christ might create ONE new man in place of the two. This is the reality in Christ…there is only one race.
Any place where barriers of race exist, we can be sure this is not from God. Racism is sin. On any level. And the people of God must lead the way in pushing the gospel’s transformative power directly into the walls of culture and race.
Make no mistake, racism will not be cured by protestors on the streets. It will not be cured by off-handed comments on Facebook or Twitter. It will only be cured when the power of the gospel penetrates the hearts and minds of people in this world.
I pray for the day when a post like this is not relevant in our culture. I pray for the day people characterize one another as human beings only. I pray for the day when the people of God believe in the power of the gospel to penetrate the walls of race and culture. I believe this day is possible. I hope you will pray for this day with me.
I love you all. To God the glory forever. Amen!