Report on Race

Many have asked how our meetings discussing race went in November. These have been mention here before, here, here, and here. I’d like to take a few moments to report on those meetings. They were, shall we say, interesting.

Several of us at the church have brainstormed ways in which we can expose an uninterested world to a Christian world view. Most people are NOT going to come to us to hear what we have to say. Is there a way to go to them in a forum in which they are prepared to listen?

In as experiment, nearly a year ago, we sponsored a series of four lunch meetings at a location near downtown Bradenton. We spoke on the subject of work, and we did so from a consciously Christian point of view. These meetings were moderately successful as many of those who came were non-Christians who came because someone else, a Christian friend, asked them to come.

This was moderately successful. So we tweaked our ideas a bit and decided to do this again, on a different topic – the topic of race. Realizing that this was a huge topic, we determined to reduce the issue to that of personal racial prejudice. We approached this from the point of view that we all, as sinners, treasure in our hearts prejudice to some degree, judgments of others based upon our own pride or fear or idolatry.

We held these four luncheons for four successive Thursdays in November.

Was this successful? Judged by our objectives, it does not seem so. But judged on the merit of what was done, it may seem that God had other ideas for these sessions, and was producing his own success.

The sessions were well attended – nearly 25 on one day – but not by those we had set out to address. Unlike last time, few who were invited came. Rather, the bulk of those who came did so as a result of a newspaper article in which Pastor James Roberts and I were interviewed concerning our intentions.

The result was one of the most theologically and politically diverse groups of people I’ve ever addressed. We had Roman Catholics and Unitarians, black Baptists and white presbyterians. We had people who have served on local Republican committees and we had members of local Democratic groups. I wondered whether some of those who had come would have stayed to hear me talk if they had known how conservative I am politically!

What drew this disparate group together was a common sorrow over the racial divisions which exist in our world today. Geoff and I, and Pastor Roberts, did our best to emphasize that these prejudices begin in the human heart. They are at root spiritual issues.

Our audience was comprised primarily of those who believed that they had dealt with their prejudices. And, as our culture conceives of prejudice – white vs. black – they had. But we are never fully free from judgments leveled against others because of their color or culture or status. At least two people came to me after it was all over, one of whom had been jailed during civil rights marches in Mississippi in the 60s, to thank us, as these sessions allowed them to realize the depth of the prejudice they hold against others.

I’m not sure what God intends to do with this. We think that this needs to be seen as a first step in a direction. But to this point w are unclear where God would have us take this next.

Thanks for your prayers!