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Follow-up to Race and the Emerging Church – Conversation in Atlanta

Very intense conversation tonight.
We opened with this passage from Randy Woodley’s book, “Living in Color.”

Most of us want to avoid the discomfort we face in interracial and multicultural situations. Here are two of the classic lines often heard in these uncomfortable moments: “I don’t look at the color of a person’s skin” and “I’m so glad God is colorblind.” Let’s get this straight: If you don’t see my skin color, then you are not just colorblind; you are totally blind! And if God is colorblind, He sure did some good guess work in His creation, especially with the rainbow!

Honestly, I know what people mean by these statements. What they are trying to say is, “God doesn’t judge a person on the basis of race or culture, but rather on what’s in his heart.” The truth of that statement is commendable. but the stark reality is, our colors and cultures differ one from another. Statements like “I don’t even see your skin color” lead some people to act as if they should be ashamed of their ethnicity, while our ethnicity is part of how God made us. It is a gift to be celebrated, not a handicap to be hidden.

We shut the place down and talked for an hour and twenty minutes past closing. Here are some bullet points:

  • The feeling of White privilege is very palpable and visceral to those who are not White.
  • Whites individually are often unaware of White privilege and its benefits– this is a prime symptom of being the dominant majority
  • The systemic nature of racism creates insidious properties where individually no one fully understands where a sense of responsibility begins and sense of helplessness ends
  • People of color are sent the implicit message that they are less valuable than dogs, specifically, Michael Vick’s dogs. Have you heard media coverage of the Jenna Six? Didn’t think so.
  • People of color are often pitted against one another (ie. Asians seen as model minority – whose model? for what reasons?)
  • White privilege is not something that people of color expect Whites to forfeit necessarily, but to wield justly for those who are underprivileged
  • People of color perceive Whites to be threatened with the loss of control and in their transition from dominant majority to minority
  • Historically in America, the church has massaged the public conscience between the capitalist manipulation of people of color and the lofty ideals of the Constitution to create a just society
  • We as people in the church have long lifted up the ideals of Scripture but live far below them. We live as though  God excuses us from the brokenness rather taking part in the actions to repair and restore.
  • The church has laid down its subversive role in society, but must take it up again
  • Diversity in the church is not seen as a high value by people of color, but rather that social justice be implemented from Monday thru Saturday –we need a deeper theology of shalom (PDF of paper written by Jimmy McGee)
  • Honest and safe conversation is part and parcel of the solution–it was liberating for people of color to speak in front of White people how they really feel despite how uncomfortable the conversation got
  • Racism is both oppression and repression – we have come to hate ourselves, we long to be white, and do so with great expense to our great heritage and the redemptive analogies that exist within our mother cultures.

Some follow-up thoughts as I drove home:

  • With regards to my own Asian American identity, I must wrestle with the fact that my self-loathing must not turn into self-worship.
  • We must strive to reverse the process where we have co-opted White privilege and White views of others and of ourselves
  • We must dispel the myth of the Asian American Dream and be brave enough to expose our dysfunction
  • We must work immediately to build bridges within and without our communities. Ethnocentrism is only constructive when we find the redemptive qualities to add to the greater community of believers.

Finally, Jimmy McGee assembled the following reading list for further exploration in the intersection of race and faith. The comments following the book listing are his. Enjoy and thank you to the EmergingPhoenix Cohort in Atlanta for the space and courage to host this conversation.

  • Your God is Too White by Columbus Salley & Ronald Belm
  • Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith
    A great book that finally have white men articulating what Black folks have been saying for some time.
  • Yellow by Frank Wu
    Mr. Wu is not a Christian, but he does an excellent job articulating a Chinese/Asian perspective. He really articulates that our country’s racial conflict is not simply Black and White.
  • Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents
    Understanding perspective is necessary to resolve conflict and build coalitions. I thought this is a good book to understand the dilemma within young adult from various Asian cultures struggling to follow Jesus and love their family
  • A Different Mirror by Ronald Takaki
    Ronald Takaki is one of the leading Ethnic Studies professor in the country. He is retired now. This book offers a wonderful multi ethnic history.
  • Living In Color by Randy Woodley
    Randy is a dear friend who is Keetoowah Cherokee. He offers a thoughtful reflective book on issues of multi ethnicity.
  • Why are all of the Black Children Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel-Tatum
    I really believe this is one of the most powerful books written on race in the last 10 years or so.
  • Silent Racism
    I have read only smalll portions of this book. I really think it’s profound. Many progressivde and/or liberal whites don’t want to be perceived as racists. she presents case studiies that helps whites to see that they are, though they hate the perception.
  • Being Latino in Christ by Orlando Crespo
    Orlando is another good friend. He really does a wonderful job of articulating the need to understand the significance of his ethnic identity as a Christian. He also addresses the issues of division between non-Spanish speaking Latinos and Spanish Speaking Latinos.

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

8 responses to “Follow-up to Race and the Emerging Church – Conversation in Atlanta

  1. danny ⋅

    thanks david, for the detailed summary. i really wanted to go, but was on campus for IV stuff (an interesting organization with respect to reconciliation).

  2. Dan Ra

    david, what an intense and amazing night. Glory to God for allowing this conversation.

  3. daniel so

    David — Sounds like an amazing conversation. If only more of these discussions could take place! I think you could elaborate on any of these points and have a very robust and meaningful conversation. Thanks for sharing.

  4. David – Great stuff! Glad the conversation is still moving forward.

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  7. elderj

    Great recap… I wish I could have been there. Th challenge of engaging these issues within the framework of what is termed evangelicalism is significant since “we” have tended to cede ground on these questions to those who have less than orthodox theology.

    It is time for more conversations of this kind, within the church, but such conversation is shunned obstensibly because it is not central to the gospel but really because it is just painful. Also… I don’t need to go to church with you. Sunday is not the prime issue – Monday through Saturday is

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