Thank you for submitting your questions on Sunday, September 5th. We had a number of questions come in on racism and mental health issues. Below are the questions that were texted in but we didn't have enough time to answer them in service.
Q1. My roommate is Muslim, and I have family that refuse to come over for this reason. How can I help this situation?
That is a tough situation. There is probably so much nuance to this that it will be hard to sum it up in just one short answer. First, I want to encourage you to continue loving your Muslim roommate AND responding respectfully and lovingly to your family. This is a tough balance I am sure. However, this is going to do a couple things: One, it is going to reaffirm to your roommate that you care about him/her, but it will also show them that you respect and honor your family. Most of my Muslim friends put a very heavy emphasis on respecting their parents and families. This will be a huge witness to your roommate to see you practicing grace and respect for your family. Two, I would try to have meaningful conversations with your family and point them toward times in scripture where Jesus shared meals and homes with all kinds of people that were different from him. (Mark 2:13-17, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, are just a few examples.) This article might be a good conversation starter with your family. Three, above all else, pray for your family, for your roommate, and for yourself to have the grace and wisdom needed to deal with this situation. (James 1 tells us that God gives us wisdom when we ask for it.) I’ll be praying as well.
Q2. How should we speak with those in the church who misunderstand institutional racism and the churches past sins in regards to it, e.g., MLK's letter from a Birmingham Jail?
I have a short answer to your question: With patience and grace. The long answer is: MLK’s letter from the Birmingham Jail is an excellent example of a Christian response to injustice. Paul reminds us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities. I think MLK did a good job of showing the effectiveness of loving one’s enemy and how love really can overcome hate. And the Birmingham letter is a good call out against Christians who were turning a blind eye to the injustice around them. I think another important thing to remember is that while Jesus certainly did express interest at times in changing the world around Him, He was not first and foremost a political activist. He seemed more concerned with the politics of the Kingdom of God than he did with the politics of the Roman Empire. I think keeping the Kingdom of God at the forefront of our minds keeps this from turning into a political conversation—which it often has the tendency to do. I am more concerned with how the Church in America is loving people and portraying justice, mercy, and grace than I am in whether or not American politics reflects my views. Sorry, got to rambling there. I would lovingly remind people that we are all sinners who have a new identity in Christ. Part of that identity is seeking grace and repenting from when we are wrong. A few good resources on this are: Christ and Culture by Reinhold Neibuhr, stuff by William Howard Yoder, Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd, and Reviving Old Scratch by Richard Beck.
Q3. I am half white and half Hispanic. Both sides are racist at times. I promise whites are NOT indifferent to this topic. Just because some are indifferent is no excuse to assume they all are. I have received racism from both sides, but actually I have experienced more racism from blacks and Hispanics since I was the lighter skinned person in the neighborhood. I am not allowed to talk about it. You wouldn't believe the nasty things people have said to me
Sorry to hear this. It sounds like you have experienced a lot of hurt. I can’t imagine what that must be like.
Q4. Racism- it is always spoken about as whites hating blacks. Can this really be solved without acknowledging that blacks show as much racism toward whites as whites show against blacks?
I think you are right. There has definitely been a lot of hurt on both sides. Especially when we look at individual case studies. I won’t go into the broader statistics because, frankly, I am not an expert on them. But I will say that when we start pointing fingers (not that it is happening here), we begin missing the point of what Jesus had to say about loving our enemies and praying for those that persecute us. So the heart of the conversation is not really which group has caused more hurt toward the other—we are all humans, so we are all guilty, but it’s about how we show love, grace, and forgiveness when we are hurt and how we repent when we need to repent. That’s where following Jesus gets tricky!