By Mark A. Taylor
Many thoughts have threatened my internal comfort zone since I attended a daylong conference on racial unity outside Baltimore, Maryland, last month*.
I came face-to-face with the reality of racism that still flourishes in my country.
I came to understand the privilege that comes automatically, systemically to white people in America. And I was forced to consider how that privilege has benefitted me and hurt others.
I came to see that Jesus’ prayer for unity will not be answered when Christians of different races distrust or blatantly denigrate each other. (Nor will it happen when members of the same race, separated by socioeconomic status, stand similarly apart.)
And I realized that I, like most of my white friends, can easily look at other people and other situations to claim, “I haven’t done that. I haven’t said that. I would never tolerate that.” But such self-justification never rings true when I accept or ignore or explain away injustice toward or suffering among blacks in my own community.
And so I’m left to decide, “How can I love blacks in my city the way God does?” Such love will not be a theory or an idea or a philosophy. It will not be defined by what it does not do, but by proactive initiatives it takes against poverty, fear, or discrimination.
“Breaking Down Racial Barriers” is already listed on CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s theme list for this June. We will say more about this challenge then, but certainly not enough. More than words and pictures are necessary for white Christians to understand and destroy the barriers. We hope not only to publish essays but also to include accounts of simple steps toward racial unity led by Christians in Jesus’ name. In fact, I would be pleased for readers to tell me stories we should share.
But, for now, I’ll pass along one principle I’m working to put into practice. Travis Hurley, vice president for development at Ozark Christian College, enunciated the idea in Maryland when he said, “We must get rid of the wrongheaded but well-intentioned notion that ‘I don’t see color.’ Such an attitude stunts reconciliation and prevents restoration.”
Don McLaughlin, preaching minister with the North Atlanta (GA) Church of Christ, amplified the principle: “To suggest that we be color blind suggests that I have to know you less to accept you more. I believe God is calling us to be color full. Unity is the expression of how people live with difference.”
I must confess I’m all too content to live in the comfort of sameness. What will I do to celebrate difference and extend justice to those whose difference has left them disadvantaged? That’s what I’m wrestling with after confronting truths about my country, my church, and myself one day in Maryland in November.
* “Addressing Race and Racism within the Church and Society” was the theme of a daylong conference at Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland, November 14. The program was organized by Ben Cachiaras, senior pastor at Mountain, and Jerry Taylor, assistant professor of Bible at Abilene (Texas) Christian University. It included presentations that have been a part of meetings sponsored by Racial Unity Leadership Summit. The Maryland event was sponsored by the Stone-Campbell Dialogue, an effort to express and experience unity among three “streams” of the U.S. Restoration Movement: a cappella churches of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and independent Christian churches and churches of Christ.
Read more details about the meeting, including a list of speakers, in our full news release.