In my previous blogs I talked about the value of reading and gave some details of the general books I read over the Summer. Most of the books I read were from a Christian perspective and I start discussing them now.
Over the last few years I have tried to read as much as I can by Christian authors from different cultural perspectives from my own. Three of the books I read this Summer fit that category.
It was a joy to find a book written by Arab Christians leaders with contributions from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine amongst others. Their reflections on the church in the Middle East and the Western church was challenging and stimulating. In some cases, shocking. I would recommend you read the book. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Church-Disorienting-Times-Prophetically-Adversity/dp/1783684348/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1566292537&sr=8-1
I have written two blogs specifically on this book, so I will not say anything more now. Watch this space.
Another book seeks to identify ways that western Christians have consistently misread the Bible. I found it insightful. Some of the areas it identified were not new to me, but many were. I have also written several blogs based on this book that will be published in due course. It too can be purchased from amazon.
The third book was written by Ben Lindsay, a young church leader from an Afro-Caribbean background leading a predominantly white church in East London. It is called “We need to talk about race”. In many ways it parallels the popular secular book, Why I’m no longer talk to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge but from a Christian perspective.
Ben believes that many people of colour struggle to feel integrated and included in white majority churches and that
Too often minority groups have shied away from expressing the reality of their experiences because they do not want to come across as victims. They do not want to be defined by those experiences and they tire of defending themselves to majority groups who accuse them of self-indulgent navel gazing, and question whether their views, experiences or struggles are real.
He talks about specific challenges that minorities face
I recognize that it is human nature to compartmentalize people. We develop biases and stereotypes based on our experiences or the images presented in the mainstream media. People of colour live with the effects of these stereotypes on a daily basis.
One of the biggest battles for people of colour is to find and then keep our cultural accent – an expression of our cultural heritage.
He defines the privileges that white people have
Privileges such as not worrying about what to wear because you’re not going to be racially profiled by the police or be a victim of mistaken identity. Privileges like not seeing your physical presence as a constant threat to women, who automatically cross the road or hold tight to their handbags on approach. Privileges like not having to overcompensate when finding positive images of your race in books, films and art for your children because of the lack of representation in mainstream media. Privileges like being able to discover your family history and legacy with ease. Privileges like seeing people who look like you in the highest employment and leadership positions. I could go on.
He talks about some of the issues we have spoken about as a church, for example
there is a huge difference between churches being diverse and churches being inclusive. Attracting black people to church isn’t difficult. For many of us, as black people, church is a major part of our life and heritage. Creating inclusive communities, however, where black people feel that they are a valued part of the culture, not just observers, is more complicated.
This is something that is a very high priority for us.
Lindsay’s also speaks directly about the issues of race within the church.
Elevating our togetherness over our differences can result in ignoring the specific issues related to a particular people group. Equally, raising our individuality over our collective identity as Christians can result in tribalism, subcultures and division.
For racial reconciliation to be achieved, for radical solidarity to be realized in the UK Church, black forgiveness of white racial wrongs cannot be the only answer. White confession and repentance also need to happen. Confession and repentance for denying racism exists. Confession and repentance for a lack of impetus to correct racial inequality in the Church. Confession and repentance for ignoring the repercussions of overlooking white privilege. These racial wrongs have to be recognized and addressed. Whether it’s the white church member who constantly forgets or mixes up a black person’s name on a Sunday or banter that is actually racist, many have gone straight to the forgiveness and reconciliation responsibility of the black aggrieved and failed to acknowledge the obligation of the white offender to repair the relationship.
I recognise that this speaks directly to me, I have been guilty of issues remembering names and banter that I subsequently realised was racist. I suspect we all have things to repent of.
He reminds me of the greater cost for minorities.
While structural and organizational issues can cause integration fatigue for people of colour, subtle micro-aggressions from white majority culture can make leading in a church environment even more difficult for a black person.
Amongst his many recommendations are
With the rise of the far right globally and the spike in hate crime nationally following the vote to leave the European Union, now is the time for the Church to shine a light on the darkness of racism.
Does church growth, slick worship, generic social action programmes, a cool website and overseas mission/church planting trump making local connections, listening to the needs of local families and developing projects/programmes in partnership with the local community? I believe the Church can be a major force for societal and structural change, but we are going to need to engage with and listen to the people who are suffering injustice.
I can just say amen to this!
I would recommend you read the book, it is available on our bookshelf or via link below.
Or if you do not have time to read the book, try this blog that he has also written.
Written by Tony Thompson