For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither slave nor free, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.
"The church is a whore, but she is my mother"- St. Augustine
I love the church. Growing up it was my home away from home and the place where I made many lifelong friendships. It has also been a place where I've felt the most awkward and out of place because of my race.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Growing Up In Black and White, I grew up attending a Pentecostal church full of predominately white families. For the most part, I loved it, and I never heard a racist comment from the pulpit.
But I did become very fluent in the Biblical passages that pertained to race. Every couple of years, a Sunday school teacher or a peer would dust off the old curse of Ham passage (Genesis 9:20-27) and create an uncomfortable half an hour for me.
The last time I heard that Genesis 9 passage taught, I was 25 years old at a single staff retreat with a Christian organization I worked for at the time. My staff partner's mother and grandmother used it in their lesson to the single women. I was the only black person there, and no one seemed realize what they were saying. I said nothing.
Now there is a general consensus that slavery was wrong and needed to be abolished as an institution. But the Biblical passages used to justify slavery are still deeply ingrained in the psyche of American Christianity. While the passages are no longer used to justify slavery, they are still used as justification for the "inferiority" of the formerly enslaved.
My husband and I spent the first few years of our marriage attending a PCA church in Montgomery, AL. Before we were married (I'm married to a white Southerner), a former pastor and a few of the elders advised him not to marry me. They did this before they had even met me because they learned that I was black. We were married in 2009.
Thankfully, there were also elders who encouraged him to openly defy any racist advice he received: regardless of the source. There were also many families whom we loved and who welcomed me into the church with open arms.
The church ought to be a place where every man and woman regardless of their class or race can stand as an equal before their Maker. But the church has been polluted; it became polluted when Christians began to use the the Bible to justify slavery. This justification made it difficult for believers in Southern churches to support the civil rights movement of the 1960's, and it makes it hard for them to accept black people into their church communities today.
"The unfortunate reality isn't that evangelical theology in the South was muted when it came to racial justice, it's that it was actively used to undermine justice and to perpetuate a demonic system. And that's the cruelest historical irony of it all: those who loved the "old rugged cross" were often also those who torched crosses in protest of desegregation."- Michael J. Hall (Ph.D., University of Kentucky, dean of Boyce College)
There is real animosity between the white community and the black community. At the bottom of it all, I don't think it's about culture or worship styles. I think it's about unresolved issues that no one wants to talk about.
Our culture desperately needs to see a place where repentance and forgiveness bring about real change. They need to see a place where groups who have long been at odds can find real justice and true reconciliation.
The Church in America has forfeited much of its place as an agent of social justice. In many instances, we are known not for championing the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the oppressed, and the physically and mentally disabled, but for using political clout to mandate morality and our "Christian" schools to protect our children.
It is time for judgement to begin with the house of God. It will not be easy, but I believe it's time to intentionally desegregate our churches.