Racism, the PCA, and White Privilege
Friday Greetings Rock Creek Fellowship,
My roommate at Furman’s father was the first black graduate of the College of Charleston. Think of it.
It wasn’t all that long ago.
It’s true, that in ways many of us don’t suspect, or even have to think about, many folks of color live under what Dr. George Yancy of Emory University called a “yoke of whiteness.”
Yancey presses us to consider in an article that begins:
“Dear White America,
I have a weighty request. As you read this letter, I want you to listen with love, a sort of love that demands that you look at parts of yourself that might cause pain and terror, as James Baldwin would say. Did you hear that? You may have missed it. I repeat: I want you to listen with love. Well, at least try.”
It’s a worthy invitation for folks who have been welcomed in by Christ to consider deeply. Are we listening and considering issues of race, the cries, the anger, the protests, the criticisms, with love?
“Listening with love” if nothing else implies a willingness to suspend our own natural reactions. To let the words of another alter us. To hear with the heart.
Of course that is easier to do when you know individuals and their story than if you only think about this on social media.
But even with media help, we can suspend our judgments and hear alteringly what might feel unwelcome. Yancey continues:
“As you reap comfort from being white, we suffer for being black and people of color. But your comfort is linked to our pain and suffering. Just as my comfort in being male is linked to the suffering of women, which makes me sexist, so, too, you are racist. That is the gift that I want you to accept, to embrace. It is a form of knowledge that is taboo. Imagine the impact that the acceptance of this gift might have on you and the world.”
Scott Saul who has reflected on these matters in profitable ways insists, rightly I believe, that if another our vocation of love demands our ears be perked to attentiveness when, “we suffer” is uttered by another.
PCA Action on Racial Sin
Last month, our denomination overwhelmingly considered these sentiments and our common complicity in many ways to the “yoke of whiteness” foisted on so many to their disadvantage for so very long with benefits that have accrued to so many of us even to this day. And they adopted a resolution of repentance with an aspiration for re-doubling our denominational efforts at reconciliation since we are, after all, adorers of a Savior who has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation. He loves to bring together estranged parties.
Hopefully the formalized language doesn’t obscure too much:
“Therefore be it resolved, that the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of corporate and historical sins, including those committed during the Civil Rights era, and continuing racial sins of ourselves and our fathers such as the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race; the exclusion of churches, or elders, from membership in the Presbyteries on the basis of race; the teaching that the Bible sanctions racial segregation and discourages inter-racial marriage; the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations; and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that “love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10); and
Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly does recognize, confess, condemn and repent of past failures to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires, as well as failures to lovingly confront our brothers and sisters concerning racial sins and personal bigotry, and failing to “learn to do good, seek justice and correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:17); and
Be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the gospel task of racial reconciliation, diligently seeking effective courses of action to further that goal, with humility, sincerity and zeal, for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel; and
Be it further resolved, that the General Assembly urges the congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America to make this resolution known to their members in order that they may prayerfully confess their own racial sins as led by the Spirit and strive towards racial reconciliation for the advancement of the gospel, the love of Christ, and the glory of God; and
Be it further resolved, that the 44th General Assembly call the attention of churches and presbyteries to the pastoral letter contained in Overture 55 as an example of how a presbytery might provide shepherding leadership for its churches toward racial reconciliation; and
Be it finally resolved, that the 44th General Assembly remind the churches and presbyteries of the PCA that BCO 31-2 and 38-1 provide potent and readily available means for dealing with ones who have sinned or continue to sin in these areas.”
Let’s be praying, pondering, and searching about these things. I don’t know specifically what we on Lookout Mountain are to do yet at this moment. But it does occur to me a worthy consideration. And it also gets me thinking about what John Perkins called “poor white trash, ain’t nobody love ‘em.” Our divides on the mountain are based more on income/class than race.
But I’m confident we can certainly begin to listen more, search more, consider and empathize more, and opine less. And of course, ask our Lord to introduce us to ourselves and to him more deeply so that we are compelled to move outward with listening, compassionate love toward the image of God however he or she may appear.
Glad to consider these things with you.