A lot of good things are happening within our church family relating to racial reconciliation. We’ve posted a summary of upcoming conversations and outreach opportunities elsewhere on lcpc.net. My aim here is to explore the deeper questions that have been stirred up since we started talking about race at LCPC.
· What are our goals?
· Is it possible to bridge the left-right divide?
· How does our allegiance to Jesus affect the way we think about reconciliation and ethnicity?
· How can we make a difference?
Throughout our nation’s history we’ve struggled mightily with issues relating to race. The framers of our Constitution argued bitterly over the issue of slavery. The unholy compromise they forged permitting slavery and protecting the institution through the force of law set the stage for decades of conflict leading to the Civil War. The post-Civil War period extending all the way to the mid-1960s was also marked by brazen injustice and intransigent racism. Though millions sustained the struggle for racial equality, anti-black sentiments (not to mention anti-Chinese, anti-Native American, anti-Jewish, anti-Japanese, anti-Irish, anti-Italian sentiments) provided the foundation and rationale for overtly racist federal and state laws.
We’ve made tremendous progress since the dawn of the Civil Rights era. The vast majority of discriminatory laws have been repealed. Even more important, Red Neck bigotry is anathema in most corners of American society. Small, pathetic circles of White Supremacists still exist, but hardly anyone defends or harbors anything but contempt for their cause. Racist behavior is widely condemned.
Most would agree, nevertheless, that big problems remain. The manifestations of racism are less blatant, but America still roils with race-based conflict. Jim Crow is long gone, but millions of people of color still feel the sting of discrimination. They’re still treated as though they were inferior… incapable… incorrigible.
The current iteration of America’s ‘race problem’ exploded with the death of George Floyd on May 25. Even now, as I write these words, a mob of 1,000 is looting and setting fires on the streets of Philadelphia. The pandemic and the election form the backdrop for all of this turmoil and outrage, and they’ve clearly been contributory. They’ve set our nerves on edge. They’ve given us new reasons to migrate into pockets of self-righteous infallibility.
And that brings us to one of scariest problems of our time. We no longer seem capable of engaging in reasonable conversation about the key questions: What constitutes racism? Where it is still a problem? Who’s to blame? What can we do about it? Instead, we ask: “Why should I argue with fools when I can find out everything I need to know from my feeds from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and my partisan cable news indoctrinator of choice – feeds that have been customized just for me?”
We Christians are called to live differently. Our vision of humanity isn’t given to us by political pundits and online influencers. It’s revealed in the Bible, where we learn that we’re all are created in God’s image – we’re all are equal before God – we’re all treasured by God. Our unity isn’t found in ideology, party or faction. It’s found in Jesus, in whom we’re united, one to another, as family.
The Lord wants us to be truth-seekers. He wants us to engage with people who will challenge our ideas and broaden our horizons. When it comes to talking about race, that means going out of your way to hear from smart, well-informed people who have a different take on the issues than you do. It means talking respectfully, with an open mind, about the hard questions. For example:
· To what extent are blacks and Hispanics held back because of their ethnicity?
· Is American society systemically racist?
· Should ethnically monochrome churches set a goal of becoming more diverse?
· Have we said or done anything as a church that has held back or caused harm to people of color? If so, what might we do, in Jesus’s name, to make amends?
· Are affirmative action programs rooted in the “racism of low expectations”? Are they helping?
· How have federal and state anti-poverty programs affected the families of people of color? What does the evidence show?
· What can we do at LCPC to build friendships and shared ministries with churches that are more ethnically-diverse?
· Are large city police departments infested with bigots and thugs?
· Is looting a legitimate (or understandable) form of protest?
· Does it make sense to respond to protests and riots by defunding police departments?
· Millions of people of color have no other choice except to send their kids to failing public schools. How does that fit into our conversations about race?
· What might we do, as a church, to help people of color who are struggling with financial, educational or health-related problems?
· How might I show solidarity with a person of color who has been the victim of racism?
At its October meeting the LCPC Session decided to establish a Racial Reconciliation Steering Committee. I’ll include below the description of the new committee’s purpose and goals. Please take note: Your leadership team is not on a crusade to radicalize the congregation. The committee members that have been appointed bring a wide variety of perspectives on race issues. They’re not going to work behind the scenes to align the church with left or right wing causes. They will promote gracious conversation, deeper understanding, loving outreach and Jesus-centered friendships.
They will encourage us, as the Lord’s ambassadors, to share a “message of reconciliation” with the goal of healing relationships among all ethnicities within Christ’s body (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
In the hope we have in Jesus,
HERE IS THE VISION STATEMENT THAT THE LCPC SESSION ADOPTED IN OCTOBER, 2020 FOR THE NEW THE RACIAL RECONCILIATION STEERING COMMITTEE:
The LCPC Racial Reconciliation Steering committee will provide inspiration and guidance to the church’s efforts to promote Christ-centered reconciliation, friendship and unity among various ethnic groups, especially minority groups that have experienced and continue to experience race-based discrimination in the United States.
· The Committee will report to and be under the authority of the LCPC Session.
· Committee members, appointed by Session, will be mature Christians who offer a diversity of perspectives on racial issues.
· The committee will consist of 6-9 people who are active members of the LCPC family, as well as the lead pastor who will serve without vote.
· Racial reconciliation efforts will include opportunities for education and prayer, as well as outreach to marginalized people in partnership with ethnic churches in Southern California.
· The main purpose of such efforts will not be political advocacy or the promotion of particular organizations or causes.
· We seek to create opportunities, through engagement with our brothers and sisters of color, for the Holy Spirit to bring unity and mutual understanding within the fellowship of believers, driving positive, biblically-based societal change as we serve Christ within our individual spheres of influence.