Making a Difference Requires Purpose

Dismantling Racism & the Role of the Church…

Week 1:  Making a Difference Requires Purpose

Purpose. If you go to a store looking for “nude” shoes, what color do you expect them to be? If you buy a band-aid called “flesh-toned” in the drugstore, what color is it? These are two tiny examples of subtle nuances of systemic racism which privileges whiteness as normative. Over the next few weeks, I want to talk with you about an urgent need the church uniquely has the power and responsibility to change. That need is this: dismantling the systemic racism that still plagues our country. The church uniquely has the power to effect this change because the church played such a significant role in upholding and even re-enforcing the racial narratives that led to our current malaise. The other reason the church is in a unique position to take leadership in this is because, the church holds up and works toward a unique and compelling vision of how the world can be – the Kingdom of God – where all God’s children have a place at the table. It’s God’s vision for the world. We are impoverished by not living closer to that vision. Because I am writing out of the experience of being white, I admit this series is necessarily addressed more directly to the white church in which I was raised. And, as Willie Jennings, Yale professor and author of The Christian Imagination; the Theology and the Origins of Race, urges, “The white church needs to do the heavy lifting on this one.” So I want to talk about what that heavy lifting might look like through purpose, posture, place, presence.

If the church wants to make a difference in the deep racist structures that still define our culture (no matter where you live in this nation) it needs to display purpose or, better said, it needs to be purposeful about it. This can’t be a one-off training or event, or sermon. It must become part of the sustained work of the church. Having an impact on something so intractable and multi-layered requires focus and consistency over years. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” Martin Luther King reminds, so get ready for the long haul. It’s the work of a life time. And one worthy of it.