Last week I shared the first part of a conversation I had with eight different ladies who attend The Crossing and meet together weekly in a group devoted to pursuing racial reconciliation in the context of community. (If you didn’t have chance to read the first part, I’d recommend taking a look at it first before reading this week’s installment.) This week, I’ll share the second part of our conversation.
Share one way that your thinking has grown or changed as a result of being a part of this group.
Guimel: I’ve always had a close, strong relationship with God. I always knew that he cared about me and the things that I cared about and my experience as a black person in a predominantly white world, but I didn’t really believe that the church cared about it. So I just thought, fine. I’ll talk to the people who understand and read the books on my own. I didn’t think the church had an answer or even cared about these kinds questions so I was going to secular sources and getting angry. I’ve learned that God had the answer to this all along and that relationships are where this kind of change and understanding happens.
When we have a monolithic demographic it’s easy to love your neighbor because they’re like you. Loving your neighbor who is completely different from you is harder. God has an answer for this issue and the church needs to come together and be a leader when it comes to this. I wouldn’t have known this without this group. I would’ve just been spouting off on Facebook like I used to. I was crying out for help for someone to listen because I didn’t feel like anyone cared. Now I have this group.
Rachel G: I’ve really grown in this idea of community and understanding and meeting people with where they are. I’m a PhD student so I live with all these high brow, academic terms and arguments all the time. I’ve had to grapple with how to talk about this and think about things outside of academia. I’ve had to wrestle with how it affects the communities we live in. Julie and I both have these big hearts who want to help our communities, but we both have very different perceptions about how our communities are functioning and so that idea that we can listen to each other and think about things differently. Race is something we think we have a grasp on, but we don’t.
Julie: My eyes and heart have slowly been opened to covert racism in my own life and my family’s history. I grew up in a nearly all-white community with only two black people in my high school class of well over 600. Columbia is the most diverse place I’ve ever lived. I welcomed that and enjoyed having black friendships, but sadly was unaware as to the degree of their plight and the daily struggles they often face. I realize now that simply having friends of color does not mean that you are free from racism. I’ve begun pursuing conversations and relationships on a deeper level with people different than myself. It has been so beautiful to see God’s faithfulness in this! When people sense that you really do care and want to understand, the dialogue goes to a whole new level. That’s where the understanding and healing begin. As a white person, I will probably never fully “get it,” but it’s been a beautiful journey on the path of seeking to understand with these sisters (who have shown me a lot of grace and patience, by the way.)
AnDrea: I’ve had a couple interactions and conversations with people that have made me feel like I can’t be black and be a Christian. I’ve felt like I had to choose one or the other, that to be a Christian, I had to stop caring so deeply when I saw injustice happen, that it couldn’t make me angry. This group has shown me that God in His Word tells me that I can. It gave me the affirmation that I can be black and love my heritage, culture, and what’s going on with it and love the Lord. That they happen simultaneously and complement each other and this space gives me the opportunity to process that.
Blake: This group has helped me understand my own white fragility and defensiveness when it comes to these issues. I feel the need to protect myself a whole lot less and I can use that energy to help protect other people.
Brittany: I feel like a lot of times at church I’ve had to compartmentalize myself. I don’t feel like I have to do that here. It helps me to see people who look like me who are doing both (being black and being Christian) well. I entered this space with a lot of hurt from the Church and really wasn’t sure if I could be all of me, that idea of duality that AnDrea was talking about. I wondered if my activism could fit with my Christianity and I’m starting to see how it can and should.
I’m thankful that our group is a good mix of builders and battlers* and we’re able to play a role, to really be the Body of Christ. We really need each other–one small group, many parts.
Ashley: I’ve been very challenged to realize even though I “get it” more than some, I still have a lot to learn. I think I’ve been challenged to pray more. I want to carry the burdens of others every day when I walk out the door. This group really challenges me to live that out.
Rachel J: I think I started in a place of white guilt, where I really just felt guilty and ashamed and unsure what to do with it. I really feel like the Lord has taken that away and replaced it with knowing and believing that His grace and His power are enough and also just the confidence and hope that He is going to help us. I’ve also grown in an understanding that I have influence that I can leverage. I have people in my life that might not understand and I want to carry the burdens of others into those interactions and spaces. When I see things that are unjust, I see it through the lens of my friends. I care deeply about it and want to be an agent of change.
I think I’ve also learned about the power of developing a real friendship with someone of another race. How some of it really is that simple. It takes time, but true friendship changes you. There’s power in that.
Brittany: It makes you feel like there is a place at the table for everyone, especially in the Church.
Guimel: When we read the Old Testament, there is so much talk about setting the captives free, bringing justice to the oppressed. Paul and the first century church because there were all these people from all walks of life coming together to meet with Jesus as their center. So much of the Christian life is about caring for those who are on the margins.
Jesus hung out with all types of people. When you look at the disciples, there is Matthew the tax collector who works for the government and then you have the zealot trying to overthrow that government as an activist. Jesus makes room for Nicodemus and the super religious and he makes room for the woman at the well. Jesus brought them all together and made a place for them with each other. In Jesus we are one body. That doesn’t mean that we’re uniform. We honor each other’s differences and learn and grow from each other.
This group is about caring about people as individuals because they are made in the image of God. They’re my brother and sister in Christ and if they are hurting, that hurts me. If your black brother or sister is hurting, I don’t understand how you can be unwilling to listen or talk about these things as Christian.
Julie: I read this quote by Daniel Darling that really speaks to this. He said, “The Bible is clear that there is no other way to look at your fellow human being other than as someone sculpted by the hands of a loving God. It is this idea of the Imago Dei that informs our ethic. This means that there is no such thing as an “other,” only humans, image bearers of their Creator.”
God cares about it and that’s why we should too.
Rachel G: When we get to heaven, there’s not going to be a black heaven and a white heaven and a Hispanic heaven, etc… There’s going to be one heaven where we are with God. Every tongue, tribe, and nation, together with God.
Brittany: In America we often have a white/European view of God and a lot of walls we’ve built around religion as a result would’ve pushed Jesus—a Middle-Eastern refugee–out.
We care about it because we care about people. People are dying spiritually and physically and the Church has the remedy. For us to not put our weight behind this cause is to not live out the Gospel in its fullness.
(Next week I’ll share the group’s advice to someone interested in being a part of this type of group/conversation. I’ll also share several practical steps that we can take to be part of the healing process, both as a church and as individuals.)
*“Builders and Battlers” are terms that come from the work of Brittany Packnett.