Dialogue on Racism

I enjoy watching the news and I do have an interest in politics. I generally keep it to myself (which is probably where it belongs; I am far from well informed on most of this). But from time to time what is happening seems to require a more public stance.

The events surrounding the racist signs and gestures that appear at some Tea Party gatherings, the response from the NAACP, and the response from Mark Williams, a prominant Tea Party spokesperson have prompted me to place this post on my blog. Additionally, since St. Paul’s mission statement takes a stance against racism, I thought this to be appropriate.

I am amazed that the kind of blatant racist postures have become more acceptable and are gaining prominence in our public discourse. One of the dynamics making this possible is the shifting nature of racism. The older in your face kind of racism is still real for sure. But more often now people who would never publicly disparage a person of a different racial or ethnic heritage, who would be deeply offended to be called a racist, are amazingly blind to, or in denial of, the racism that inhabits the ideology and systems that they otherwise defend. They would say: “I am not a racist, but…”

It strikes me that this is what is underneath the comments by Mark Williams in the dialogue that has been ongoing around issues of race and the Tea Party.

Here are three links for you to go to, if you would like to read some of that dialogue:

http://www.naacp.org/news/entry/naacp-delegates-vote-to-repudiate-racist-elements-within-the-tea-pary/ will bring you to the NAACP web page that speaks to the resolution. (please copy and paste, or write this address in your browser. I do not know why it is not providing a direct link)

http://www.marktalk.com/blog/?p=10387 will bring you to Mark Wiilliams’ blog, in which he responds to the NAACP and tries to explain his position. He is one of the spokespersons for the Tea Party. To what degree he represents them, I do  not know. I read it as his opinions and statements.

http://www.patheos.com/community/mainlineportal/ will link you to what I think is a solid response to Mark Williams by Philip Clayton, a Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Claremont Graduate University and Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology. He is primarily known for his work in constructive theology and the religion-science debate.  He is the author or editor of over 100 articles and eighteen books, most recently The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science, Adventures in the Spirit, In Quest of Freedom, and Transforming Christian Theology.

I think you will find these links very interesting. I hope you read them.

As Christian people we cannot and should not accept racism in any form. We need to be clear and public about that. And I am proud to be a pastor in a church that has made breaking down the walls of racism part of its missional identity.

Pastor Bill

11 thoughts on “Dialogue on Racism

  1. I have been frustrated and sometimes astounded for the past 8 – 10 years with the Christian right’s stance on many issues. They seemed to cop–op the term Christian in many people’s minds and turn it into something I didn’t want to be affiliated with. I’m sure there are well meaning conservatives, who simply disagree with me politically, but its hard to see how they can read the gospel and come away with their views. Before the tea party movement started I was somewhat encouraged that some in their faction began being more concerned with the poor and environmental issues, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside now. I think some of this racial ugliness may be the result of lack of personal experience with peoples of other races. One of the things that I’m most thankful for in our church and even in my children’s school is the opportunity they had to build close personal relationships with all kinds of different people. People fear the unknown and if they haven’t had an opportunity for positive interactions with those different from themselves, they are left at the mercy of the old stereotypes the hate mongers continue to produce. This all makes it more imperative that we integrate our churches, work places and neighborhoods.

  2. Linda, Amazing how good minds think alike. There are divisions among conservative Christians. There are some like Ron Sider and Jim Wallis who remain deeply committed to justice issues. There is another that confuses patriotism and faith, and often seems not to have attended closely to what Jesus taught or the entire prophetic/justice side of scripture. (my opinion), It does make it important to articulate a more complete vision of what our faith embodies. – Bill

  3. Growing up in the South I was more than familiar with the term race and thereby racism but in my opinion those of two of the most ill-defined misused words by people who speak the language of words. I am of the belief that as far as race there is only one and as far as I can tell the word has nothing to do with the color of ones skin it has to do with lineage…and again the truth is we all come from the same line down through the ages do we not? Politics is just what the name implies a “divisive” tool used for “divisive” means where men draw imaginary lines in sand in a attempt to confine and enslave the masses into battling each other while one would vainly imagine reaching above the highest star. If a house is divided it will indeed fall. Just thankful my roof was created and not invented by mere men.

    • It’s true. There is really only one race: the human race, which is composed of a wonderful diversity. It is interesting how the concept of race and racism evolved. And how sad a history. Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate your insights. – Bill

  4. Another one of your dear and thoughtful posts, Bill. Thank you! I plan to come back and take advantage of the links you were so considerate to include.

    I seem to be one of those obnoxious creatures with an opinion on everything. So here goes: I’m not worried about this issue in the long run. What we’re seeing is the last gasp of the traditional white-anglo-saxon protestant. They make a lot of noise, but the population trends are simply not working in their favor … Unfortunately, this form of racism will probably be replaced by some other until we get to that place where we see only “one” not “other.” That’s a spiritual evolution, not a political revolution … which is your implicit point, I think.

    • Hi Jamie,

      Always a delight to be in conversation with you. The demographic trends are very clear. At some point in the not to distant future, at least here in the US, there will be no one majority ethnicity. I love it, and I know too many people who for reasons I cannot get inside of, fear and resist it.

      Some have argued that the rise of fundamentalism around the globe and in its many different forms, Christian, Islamic, political, etc. is a response to globalization and the expanding diversity. I think they are right.

      Racism is a spiritual issue. More than that of course. One of the strange and sad historic realities is that the most segregated hour in the US begins at 11 AM on Sunday; that’s when most Christians go to church. Less than 2.5% of mainline Protestant churches even approach being multicultural or multiracial.

      There is a movement pushing against that. I would like to believe I am part of it. I requested to be assigned to a multicultural and multiracial church. I am delighted to be serving in one. – Bill

      • Yes! I saw the stats on your church and applaud the diversity, your commitment and example as well as that of the parish members.

        2.5% is far less than I might have imagined. It is strange and sad.

        Keep on keeping on … So proud to know you, Bill.

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