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Race and Churches of Christ

The race theme continues...There's an interesting opinion piece from The Christian Chronicle by Barclay Key titled "Opinion - When it comes to racial reconciliation, our churches have a long way to go." Some excerpts:

[During the civil rights movement of the sixties] Despite claims of theological purity and uniqueness, churches of Christ were remarkably similar to the surrounding culture in their approach to race relations...Many congregations taught "spiritual equality" on Sundays but practiced inequality the rest of the week. When racial identities were subordinated under the guise of Christian unity, blacks and whites interacted with surprising frequency in the segregated South, based on their self-perception as the "true church" vis-à-vis "the denominations." While other Protestant churches formed what amounted to racially exclusive denominations or administrative districts, churches of Christ did not because they understood themselves as the only authentic expression of Christianity. This perception partly explains why blacks and whites within churches of Christ, even during the Jim Crow era, interacted with some regularity. These interactions, however, were in no way an expression of racial equality or even unity, since churches practiced and even taught racial segregation. A few instances demonstrate a level of association that was uncharacteristic of that era. For example, black preacher Marshall Keeble sometimes baptized whites, even though riots resulted from "mixed swimming" in some parts of the country. The confluence of ecclesiology and race relations raises significant questions about common conceptions of sin and salvation in churches of Christ. Many Christians have chosen to think that keeping women out of pulpits and pianos out of church buildings are more important than how we treat people. Replicating these "marks of the New Testament church" has taken precedence over those issues often labeled "not a matter of salvation," including our treatment of, associations with and thoughts about people who are "different" from us. As a fellowship, we have taught that having women preach or using a piano in worship might jeopardize one's eternal salvation, while racism has been relegated to the realm of custom or personal opinion, as if racial reconciliation were optional. While some positive changes have occurred since this era, in a collective sense, churches of Christ have failed to recognize and repent of their past racial sins. Rather than actively and consistently pursue racial reconciliation over the past 40 years, churches of Christ have mostly acted as if legal reforms absolved Christians of any responsibility in facilitating interracial dialogue, understanding and community. In many places today, we have reached a standstill. Our leaders have not developed the necessary fortitude to preach racial inclusion and make it happen. We have chosen to ignore rather than to discuss and resolve the sources of distrust among blacks and whites within our fellowship. Instead of seeking and maintaining meaningful, cross-cultural relationships, we find it more convenient just to affirm "unity." We have discovered that excuses - "they don't want to worship like we do" - are easier than working to make Christian unity a lived reality. Pursuing racial reconciliation invites controversy. It requires sacrifices of will, control and power. Yet sacrifices are necessary if churches of Christ are to be credible. Young people are increasingly perplexed by the racism of their parents and grandparents. Concerns about interracial marriage, for example, that often characterize older Christians, both black and white, seem irrelevant to youths who have interacted with people of other races for all of their lives. Racist stereotypes gain little traction with students who learn in biology and anthropology classes that concepts of "race" have no scientific justification. Historically, churches of Christ have reflected, rather than molded, the racial mores of the surrounding culture. Now, if churches wish to be respected and valued in the 21st century, they must actively include "every nation" as the gospel has always demanded.

Black. White. Week 2.

blackwhite.jpgLast night's episode was pretty painful. The white girl rap...ouch, that hurt. It's remarkable how negative, critical, insecure, and judgemental The Sparks seem to be. There's something poisonous there.

Black. White.

blackwhite.jpgAn interesting new TV show premiered on FX last Wednesday at 10 PM, "Black. White." It will air weekly at that same time. Not that I'm a fan of reality shows, but after one episode I like this one. It seems like it may be a worthy successor to FX's previous reality show 30 Days which I really liked (I'm glad to hear that a second season of 30 Days is coming this year). In "Black. White.", a white family and a black family find out what it's like to switch lives. The main conflict in the first episode is that the white dad who is in black disguise thinks that the black dad is obsessed with the subtle signs of racism and sees them everywhere. The black dad who is in white disguise thinks the white dad can't recognize the subtle signs because he doesn't have the experience of a lifetime spent as a black man in a white society.

A King's Ransom

Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., died recently. A hornet's nest of controversy was stirred up by the speech-ifying at her funeral (Malkin, Franken). On a side note, I thought the article in the Miami Herald by Leonard Pitts Jr. was interesting. He pointed out that MLK's family has kind of let him down by commercializing his legacy:

I interviewed Coretta Scott King once. It cost $5,000. There was majesty and grace in Coretta Scott King, a strength of heart that was displayed nowhere more clearly than at her husband's death. Like Jacqueline Kennedy before her, she mourned inconceivable loss with awesome dignity. Since then, she has been a tireless defender of the dream her husband articulated in August of 1963. She shielded it against racism, pessimism and defeatism. She was less successful against commercialism. And I don't mean the piddling $5,000. That's a small symptom of the larger malady. I refer you to the King family's 1993 lawsuit against USA Today for reprinting the I Have A Dream speech and their subsequent licensing of King's image and voice for use in television commercials, one of which placed him between Homer Simpson and Kermit the Frog. Then there's the attempt to sell his personal papers for $20 million. Perhaps most galling was the family's demand to be paid to allow construction of a King monument on the Washington Mall. Yes, it's all legal. But if Dr. King's life taught us nothing else, it taught us that legality and morality are not necessarily the same. I don't mind the King family making money. But not at all costs, and certainly, not at the cost of Martin Luther King's dignity. Granted, dignity is subjective and you might draw the line in a different place than I. But I suspect most of us would agree that when a martyr, minister and American hero becomes a TV character hawking cellphones with Homer Simpson, that line has been well and truly crossed.


Most Segregated

Apparently, Detroit is the most segregated metropolitan area in the U.S.  "More than 80 percent of Detroit's population is black; in the sprawling suburbs that surround it, less than 4 percent of the population is, according to the most recent surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau. In a region so polarized by skin colors, race is almost inescapable."


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