Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: For almost 3 decades I’ve helped churches become culturally integrated. And, an important aspect of that is working towards “racial reconciliation.” But it’s not as easy as most churches think. Churches hope by integrating their worship teams and even their boards they can accomplish racial reconciliation. But racial reconciliation is something much deeper that requires addressing practices that run throughout society. And, so it requires a church to take a more expansive stand.
Read this interview with my IWU colleague who has investigated this and explains the phenomenon.
An Interview With Russell (Rusty) Hawkins.
…(Hawkins) For the last 20 years, according to sociologists, there’s been this really significant move among white evangelical Christians to embrace racial reconciliation. This has become a big part of white evangelical Christianity, this move to become diverse and have diverse churches as a way to achieve this reconciliation. So, there’s an attentiveness over the last two decades to becoming more racially diverse within American churches, particularly among white evangelical Christians. The problem here is that the tools that get used to bring about this racial reconciliation are very much centered on ideas about just interpersonal relationships and ideas about colorblindness. White evangelical Christians say, “We recognize that there has been a problem in the past. The way we’re going to move forward is becoming friends. Ultimately, we’re trying to get to the point where race doesn’t matter at all. So, we’re getting to the point where we’re colorblind.”
While that might have some particular outcomes at the individual level and the interpersonal level, what that leaves in place are all sorts of structural disparities that continue to persist within American society along racial lines. And so, you get black Christians who enter into these churches, into these relationships, and say, “Well, okay, so there’s an interpersonal thing going on here too, but there’s also a larger reality about the experiences of people of color in this country that we need to address at the structural level or at the level of systems that operate in this country.” And when those conversations start to happen, suddenly these white evangelical Christians pull way back and say, “No! That’s not what we’re talking about here. That stuff doesn’t exist. Or if it exists, it doesn’t exist to the extent that you are claiming exists.” And the problem here is that you can’t just get over these past things and just enter into these relationships.
In other words, these white evangelical Christians have been influenced by decades’ worth of this teaching that tells them don’t talk about race, try not to see race, be colorblind. And when someone tells you that structural racism or systemic racism exists, you can ignore them…
Read more of the interview here … https://religionandpolitics.org/2021/06/29/how-white-southern-christians-fought-to-preserve-segregation/?