FWIW

For what it is worth, here is this month’s Bradenton Herald column from Saturday’s paper. Obviously it is the fruit of our race discussions on Thursdays. These have been very helpful to me.

By the way, the editors of the Herald were either a) so impressed with the column or b) so desperate for front page copy, that they referenced my column on the front page. No doubt that doubled readership – from two to as many as four, I surmise.

In case the link does not work, here is the column (with their headline):

Hear a pastor’s black-and-white confession

It’s time for some confession. I’m white. A quick glance at my picture will confirm this. I’m a white boy who grew up in the ’60s, isolated from the racial struggles of that time. I was so insulated I can name for you all the black students with whom I graduated from high school. All three of them. Freedom marches and race riots were things on TV, not things that mattered to me. In my town, all was white with the world.

More confession: I’m conservative. I’m a part of a church that falls within the conservative, evangelical spectrum of American Christianity. My tradition has had a narrow and limited social conscience. I’m appreciative of the spotlight this tradition has aimed at some serious social ills and grievous sins of our society, but our blind spots have been serious as well. Issues of justice, poverty and race have been overlooked or downplayed. Now we must play catch-up with those in other Christian traditions who have long championed these concerns.

Being so white, so insulated and so distracted has made it hard for me to appreciate the seriousness of racial sin. That former Secretary of State Colin Powell traveling with his new wife from Virginia to New York could find no rest rooms open to him is like something from a different universe. I’ve never experienced such exclusion. Friends who grew up being taught never to look a white man in the eye introduce me to a world that I never visited before.

Things have changed, yes. But I’ve been on the outside and only occasionally looked in. Black and white can use the same rest rooms now. Black and white go to the same schools now. Black men no longer have to look down in the presence of a white man. It’s all cool now, right?

It’s easy to think so. But I know that it is not for me. Racial prejudices are born in the heart, and until the heart is cured of its pride and idolatry, we will always struggle with the temptation to stereotype and exclude others who differ from us. Perhaps it was once blacks and Chinese, Italians or Poles, but our hearts, unless changed, will always move in the direction of separation and exclusion from those who differ from us.

Whenever I have prejudged a black man as unequal to myself simply because of the color of his skin, I have sinned against all black men. Whenever I have made questionable judgments about Hispanics as a group, I have sinned against each individual Hispanic man I meet (one of whom is about to become my son-in-law).

And whenever I have done these things, no matter how subtly and with what sophistication, I have sinned not only against these men and women, but against the God who created them and gave his son for sinners such as me.

Racial prejudices linger within the proud and idolatrous confines of the human heart. I repent, and ask others to repent with me, of the sin that such prejudices produce. And I ask, and encourage others to ask with me, the Savior who forgives me to root out the remaining vestiges of favoritism and mistrust.

I can never stop being white. I long for that day when all that matters is that we are creatures created equal in the image of God.

One thought on “FWIW

Comments are closed.