The R Word

The fact that our nation remains racially segregated, especially on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. (recalling Dr. King’s words in this regard), is also an unrecognized dimension of our “liturgical system design.”

My friend and colleague Jacqui Lewis has been a national multi-faith leader in anti-racism work for many years. And over the last several years, I too have been speaking more directly and passionately about race than ever before. (All this was intensified for me in August 2017, when I joined Charlottesville clergy as a witness for peace and against bigotry during the alt-right rally there.) We’ll mention Jacqui’s recent book (written with her husband, John Janka) later in this intensive, but it’s worth adding to your library now, if possible.

Jacqui and I talk often about the intersection of race and church life, and we have reached this conclusion: if American churches (and their counterparts around the world) don't get race right at this pivotal moment, we won’t get anything right. To paraphrase, what would it profit our churches to grow in numbers, money, satisfaction, and influence - if we fail to address America's "original sin" of racism?

The white sheets are now off white supremacists, and the Nazi and Confederate flags are now carried openly together on American soil. They tell us something that has been true for a long time but too seldom acknowledged: whether through active collaboration or silent complicity, the mainstream Christian community in America has almost always reflected and sometimes actively supported the racism inherent in American society.

It’s time for that to change, and it’s time for us to face America’s racial illness - including white American Christianity’s racial illness.

Complete and Continue