David Platt read from Amos 5:18-27 to begin his message at this year’s Together for the Gospel conference. The problem God addresses in this passage, Platt says, is that people were content to worship God while ignoring injustice around them. Indeed, God said he hated the people’s hypocrisy. Platt said this is happening today in the church, with racism.
“The glory of Jesus Christ shines most clearly when different groups of people come together and he [Jesus] is the only explanation for why they’re together,” Platt says. However, he spends his hour-long message arguing the American church is far from this.
We Need to Look at the Reality of Racism
Platt admits he was tempted not to use the word racism because when we use that word, “we immediately think of the extreme. We immediately think of a white supremacist marching in Charlottesville.” Many white people think very few people are racist, Platt says. However, he defines racism as “a system in which race profoundly affects people’s economic, political and social experiences.” He gave an example from his own life of subtle racism. Arthur Price is a pastor in Birmingham that Platt has referred to as an “African-American pastor. However, Platt says, “I’ve never introduced John MacArthur as a caucasian-American pastor. He’s just a pastor.” Why the difference? Platt believes it is systemic racism that is different and more subtle than “blunt prejudice.”
Platt shared some alarming statistics, which he admits is painting the situation with a broad stroke. The facts he shared include:
There are two unemployed black people for every one white person.
Income inequality between white and black people is close to 50 percent wider today than it was 40 years ago.
African American babies are twice as likely to die in infancy than white babies.
African American mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.
African American males are six times more likely to be murdered than white American males.
The bottom line, Platt said, is that white Americans are far more likely “to get a quality education, to have a high-paying job, and to live in a more affluent neighborhood with less crime” than African Americans.
“This is a broad stroke,” Platt reiterates. He’s not trying to equate African Americans with being “poor and uneducated.” He doesn’t want to create an artificial sense of pity for African Americans, as this could potentially contribute even more to racism. However, this is his conclusion: “Race—specifically white or black skin color—affects one’s life in our country.”
“We cannot deny this. These are not opinions; these are facts. This is not fake news. This is real news.”
The Church Is Aggravating the Disparity
We in the church want to see an end to racial disparity and racial tension. But despite our best intentions, the church today is one of the most segregated institutions in our country. Over 95 percent of whites attend white churches, over 90 percent of African Americans attend African American churches (a point Derwin Gray discusses). “Right now the church is actually a force for continuing [racism],” Platt says.
Platt encourages the crowd to stop looking outside for the reasons why racism exists and to start looking “in here.”
“I don’t want to presume there are easy answers here,” Platt says gravely.
We need to “think Ephesians 2” as we seek to address this disparity. Platt says the way to move forward is to pursue truly multi-ethnic community, which the cross makes possible.
Platt says he looks at his own life. “In many ways, my world has been so white.” Platt asks why the churches he’s been a part of and led have been so white and why the IMB, which he leads, is so white. While he says he asks the question respectfully, he also asks, “Why is this conference so white?”
Let’s listen to and learn from one another. Specifically from others who don’t look like you and think like you. Use James 1:19 as a guide, Platt says, which encourages us to be slow to speak.