The Wrong Christian Response to Racism
Bernie Sanders is speaking at Liberty University this morning and I’m catching quotes from people on Twitter since I am not listening. Apparently, Sanders stated that racism is a problem in America (thank you SO MUCH, Black Lives Matter protestors, for interrupting him after he said it was over because Barack Obama is our president) and needs to be fixed.
Sanders: It is unacceptable to judge people on skin color. Apparently, the crowd just warmly applauded that line. Sad.
Sanders: “Sorry to have to say this,” but nation was founded on racist policies. I see that Sanders has been reading Ta-nehisi Coates’ articles and books, and Deray McKesson’s tweets.
Sanders: “Whether you like Obama or not,” President Obama’s election was a step forward for America, but “we all know” racism still “remains alive.” What a difference two months make for a man. (The crowd awkwardly murmured over his comments about Obama’s 2008 win.)
Sanders: Must confront racism. “We have got to stand up and say in America we’re not going to do that. Racism is unacceptable.”
Moderator: “It’s not a skin issue, it’s a sin issue.”
Whet?! Hold up. Stop. Pause. Go no further. Cease and desist.
I hate that (conservative) Christian response to racism. I always have hated it. I heard it growing up in my ultra-right-wing Christian school and hated it then. Why do I hate it so much? Because it tacks racism as a sin problem; something you just pray for and largely ignore even if you’re in the race that passively (or actively) benefits from white supremacy. There’s no “teeth” to calling anything a sin problem. It’s just chalked up to a larger issue that’s just indicative of the sin-state the world is in with no active plan to combat, tackle, and erase racism as a huge stumbling block for America.
To compare, if someone says they have a problem with lying and they want prayers for change, prayers are one thing, but actively working on it is another. You’ll be led to people who will keep you accountable for the stories you tell and the life you lead. They’ll stay on you to ensure that you’ve stopped lying and that you’re making changes. They’ll check in. They’ll keep you accountable.
When it comes to racism being a “sin” problem, unless you’re willing to admit that you are racist, there is no active engagement with a supportive community to help you overcome racism. There’s no change of heart, which is required for racism to end. It’s looked at as a large societal problem in which we all don’t play a part, but it just “affects” us. No, we make up the whole. The problem is micro-level and impacts the macro-level. You don’t get to say that something is a “sin problem” just to absolve yourself of any culpability in the mess in which you actually live (but don’t want to admit that you live there). That’s the equivalent of blaming someone else for something you did wrong.
While racism is indeed a sin problem, the way to work on it is to not just give it over as a cliché and refuse to think about it anymore. You have to actually engage others in prayer and work together to actively change. Otherwise it’s no more helpful than watching a Twitter hashtag die because it didn’t motivate people into action to make a change. As Christians, we should do better than that. Wouldn’t it be great if we led the charge to erase racism? Stop being scared and just get to work doing it, and stop denying that you’re not a part of it, Christians. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus. He won’t do too much without us, so let Him use you.