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First Person: Racism and the church

By David Hooks, Pastor, OKC, Bryant Ave., Member, BGCO Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee

A wave of TV reports showing African-American young men dying in confrontations and arrests by law enforcement officers has raised the issue of racism to the forefront of our consciousness once again.

Regardless of where we stand on each individual incident, we can agree that there have been too many, and too often.  Now comes the Academy Awards boycott.

But what about racism in the body of Christ? It has often been said, “The 11 o’clock hour on Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.” But many who will make that claim are either unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps to combat that truth. 

Racism has always existed in the world and even the church. In Acts chapter nine, some believe deacons were instituted partly because of perceived racism, or maybe as Lupita Nyong’o said, “Unconscious prejudice.” Perhaps that is a more appropriate term. For it does not speak of overt and obvious hatred, but an unconscious bias based on race which affects our preferences, our decisions, our actions and sometimes our unwillingness to act.

The Apostle Paul declares that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, neither male nor female in Christ.”  But that is in Christ.  The Holy Spirit does not, however, render us color blind, but helps us to see all people as God sees them, created in His image. Nor does the Holy Spirit erase all our past experiences or prejudices, for we still live in this flesh.  We see this truth in Galatians, Chapter 2, when Paul challenges Peter for his conscious prejudice.

Since the possibility of prejudice exists in each of us, what then are we to do, as Christians and as Oklahoma Baptists? First, I believe we must all look within ourselves and then our churches and our convention.

We must ask ourselves some honest questions and be ready to hear the truth from the Holy Spirit. For example, I have found myself rooting for a black boxer only because he is black. Then I had to ask myself, “Does that make me prejudiced” if only in this moment?  What do you think?

Southern Baptists took a giant step forward when Fred Luter was elected our first black president.

Yet even with this great stride, I still feel I must ask, why aren’t there more minorities holding ministry positions at the state and associational level? I do not have the answers to these questions, only questions.

But there is something I do know.  In June 2008, I became the pastor of what was then a predominately white congregation. What I have learned since that day is that there is great benefit in worshiping and serving God alongside people who are not just like you.

When you laugh together, cry together, and do life together, it opens the heart and mind to the truth, that we are more alike than different.

But even with all of our differences, there is a common thread which ties us together in an uncommon bond and with an uncommon love which causes us to look beyond race.

And when I have the opportunity to see your heart and you see my heart, genuine love develops and prejudices automatically begin to disappear, even the unconscious ones. I am not saying that all vestiges of “prejudice” have been eradicated from our midst.

What I am saying is that I have found these people genuinely striving to live out Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “…hence forth know we no man after the flesh any longer” (2 Cor. 5:16).

Author: Guest Writer

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Editor’s Note: This is part one of a three-part series on a new project initiated by the Baptist General Convention...

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