Because this conversation seems difficult, it is much easier to maintain the status quo rather than press into relationship and conversation with one another. Because we know that the gospel transcends race and we have the Spirit of God, we should be able and willing to take off the blinders that are hindering us from seeing the problem and the need for reconciliation. The conversation doesn’t have to be difficult.
3. History is easily forgotten or perhaps not known.
Part of the definition of apathy is a desire to suppress emotions. We don’t want to deal with the past, so instead of looking it straight in the face and standing arm-in-arm to deal with lingering hurt or learning from our past to continue a way forward, we want to forget about it. It’s easier that way … the past is ugly. Slavery was an abomination and this country was built upon it. The unjust Jim Crow laws, separate but equal, were disgraceful, and our churches’ history of using Scripture to justify sinful racism is grievous. But this our history, and regardless of the pain and emotion that might rise to the surface of your heart—it’s worth engaging with our history for the purpose of unity and understanding.
We don’t want to forget our shared history, we want to learn and grow from it. We want to understand how our past continues to affect communities today so that we can have informed conversations and equipped churches that are truly pursuing racial reconciliation. This isn’t about guilt. No one should walk around feeling guilty for sin they did not directly commit. Rather it’s about loving our neighbor as ourselves. Remembering the past will inform the future and will equip us for service to others.
Get Ready for Change
It has been widely reported that the United States that we once knew with majority Anglo and minority-majority African American will no longer be. In May 2012 the Washington Post reported that minorities now account for more than half the babies born in the U.S. This change, they suggest, is due to immigration. But this change isn’t only affecting the landscape of our country; it may very slowly change the face of our congregations.
Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay Research, wrote that denominations are seeing greater diversity within their congregations. His report does not suggest that these congregations are multi-ethnic, rather that the percentage of all-white congregations within a certain denomination is decreasing. As the ethnic landscape of the United States continues to change, I imagine there is a greater possibility for more ethnically diverse churches. If the leadership of many of these churches remains white, these leaders need to take note of such changes. If you find yourself apathetic or unknowing, it might be the time to dig in, read and ask good questions.
We all need to reflect on our own apathy and ask the question: Do we really care? And then, we must die to ourselves, break free of our self-absorption and learn about others. This will not only impact our own hearts and souls but also the church. Your congregations may change whether or not you desire it and whether or not you are pursuing it. You will want to be ready. But let that readiness be motivated out of a God-glorifying excitement for the diverse kingdom—that is already present in heaven and throughout the earth—to be displayed and enjoyed within our local churches.