The Church, repentance, and racial reconciliation

Dr. Catherine Meeks, writing in the Huffington Post, urges Christians to takes steps to reconciliation:

“In Christ there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.” –Galatians 3:28 NCV

This is not a proclamation that was understood by the Arkansas hospital administrator who refused to allow my 12-year-old brother to receive care from that facility. He had to be taken to the hospital for poor black folks, which resulted in his death because it was 80 miles away. It is quite likely that administrator considered himself to be a Christian and thought he was doing his duty by upholding the commitment to segregation. Though the cultural rules have changed now to some extent and such a scene might not occur in the 21st century, there is still too much suffering in America because of the racial polarization that continues to exist, and the church is one of the main places where it is most prevalent.


The same comittment to the status quo that was alive and well in the administrator at the hospital where my father took my brother continues to find those who are on that path. Instead of searching for the courage and faith that their Christian commitment calls them to seek so they can become willing to cross all of the borders of division that they encounter, they console themselves with assertions about the differences that they see in their sisters and brothers of color. When these thoughts are entertained long enough they become quite convincing, and it becomes easier and easier to resort to the old agreements of division and polarization than to embrace the truth that there is indeed a new agreement which has made us all one in God’s eyes.

It is not easy to cross cultural and racial borders that have never been crossed before and to begin to forge new relationships across major differences. But the understanding of God’s support in this matter will be the source of the courage that is needed to take such steps. It seems rather clear that white churches will stay white and black churches will stay black until there is a recommitment to the task of adhering to God’s will for reconciliation. It will call for some sacrifices and they generally need to be made by whites who benefit the most from the privilege of the system and who need to express their willingness to take the first steps to show that they understand the new agreement and its call to reconciliation.

If the church cannot forge the path to racial reconciliation, it will not happen anywhere. This is the place where miracles occur. Whenever whites and blacks build a bridge of love, respect and true appreciation for one another, where genuine equity emerges, it is a miracle.

As Gandhi says, “Be the change you want to see.”

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