More Than The KKK

What I'm Learning
  1. Why is it necessary to talk about this?
  2. Mourn With Those Who Mourn
  3. More Than The KKK

This is one of a series of posts (intended to be read in the order above) focused on exploring the issue of race and how The Gospel shapes our beliefs and response. Racial reconciliation is a common name for this topic, and although it “is not the gospel or the central focus of it, it is a qualitative application of the gospel in function and practice” (Eric Mason).

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
   Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting!

Before asking the question, “What do I do?” in regards to racial reconciliation, I believe we must first ask, “Can I see?” In this post, we will take a difficult and honest look at some possible hidden areas of our heart. The goal is to see if something is going on under the surface that we may not be aware of. Join me in praying Psalm 139. It is only by God’s grace that we will be able to see our true hearts. Ask Him to help us resist temptation to get angry or say this isn’t true. Please hang in there, and don’t push away. I promise this isn’t an attack. It’s a confession and an effort to walk with other people.

More Than The KKK

Whenever I used to think of racism, my mind would usually jump to the KKK or other hateful people who perform very egregious acts against people of color. To be racist, in my mind, meant that I had to be one of those hateful people.

As mentioned in the previous post, before 2015, I never would’ve thought that I had anything to work on when it comes to race relations. I was always friendly to people no matter what they looked like. I had friends and acquaintances that were not white. I taught in inner-city schools and loved my students. How could I have any racial bias or dangerous beliefs? It wasn’t possible in my mind because, again, I only considered racism to be the hateful acts of people like the KKK.

Most of the people I know who are white tend to think this way as well. In fact, we may get offended if we engage in the topic of race because we may perceive that someone is trying to accuse us of being racist (making us equivalent to the KKK in our minds). It’s not uncommon for a white person’s response (including mine) to be, “Yeah we’re just a bunch of white supremacists over here…are you kidding me?”

However, God has begun to open my eyes to the fact that racism is more than just the hateful acts we’ve heard about. There’s actually a very quiet, underlying racial tension that infects a large percentage of people. It’s not always blatant hate, but it still has devastating effects.

Racial Hierarchy

With this in mind, we are about to take a look at our hearts to see if/where this underlying racial tension exists. As you answer the list of questions below, pay close attention to the deep attitudes of your heart. What’s your gut reaction? Don’t answer the questions with what you know is the accepted, right thing to say, but truly answer them based on what’s in your heart. I know there was a difference between what I knew was right and what I truly felt when I originally answered these.

mixed marriage

  • Is there any tension in your heart when you see the picture above? Would you be okay with your child marrying someone from another race? Would you be okay with your daughter marrying an African American man?
  • If you were looking to purchase a house and noticed a bunch of Hispanic and African American people, would that turn you off to the neighborhood? Would you be concerned about home values?

African American

  • What’s your initial thought when you see the picture above? Do you think he’s dangerous? A criminal? Click here to see the same man in a different setting

hispanic male

  • What’s your true opinion about a person who looks like this?

As God continued(s) to open my eyes, I began to realize that my honest answers to these questions were not what they should be. Again, I knew what the politically correct answers were, but something different was going on in my heart. There were tensions that I couldn’t always put a finger on but knew weren’t right. I believe that these tensions are the hidden, quiet, lesser realized racism that is overwhelmingly present in our culture. Again, I’m not saying that it’s hateful, KKK type racism, but it is extremely harmful when person after person is infected with it.

imago Dei

What does this have to do with God and The Bible? I believe the tensions in our hearts from the questions above represent an imago Dei issue. Let’s look at what that means.

Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Basically, the imago Dei doctrine states that all people are created in the image of God, and this means we are all like Him in certain ways, and we represent Him to the rest of creation. Because of this, every human being is intrinsically valuable, and it changes the way we see each other. If all humans are created in the image of God, then all humans are supremely valuable. We all have souls. We’re more than just bodies. Therefore, anytime a person’s inherit value is taken away or degraded, it is a sin against God and an attack on God’s image.

I believe the best way to describe the tensions from the questions earlier is that there is an underlying racial hierarchy in many of our hearts. If we could truly see the root of it, we’d see that there is a quiet belief that white people are more valuable than African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, etc. people. We’re surprised by intelligent African Americans because we have an inferior belief about their value and intelligence. We are worried about Hispanic males “taking jobs” because there is a belief in our hearts that sees them more as a financial threat than people with souls. We assume danger when we see people of certain races because there is an underlying belief that people of color are dangerous and need to be avoided.

Again, I would never have said that I saw people as lesser than me or that I saw people of other races as not having souls. That would have sounded ridiculous and caused me to push back. However, the deep attitudes of my heart certainly failed to see people of color as my fellow human beings who are supremely valuable in God’s eyes. Image bearers who are like God in certain ways and represent God to the rest of creation.

Please don’t hear me say that you’re a hateful, KKK racist. In fact, in a future post, we’ll talk about the fact that people aren’t the true enemy, but the racial hierarchy beliefs are. Ephesians 6:12 puts it this way, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It sounds a little crazy, but scripture teaches that there are spiritual forces of evil waging war against us. I believe the racial tensions we’ve seen today are part of those forces of evil. Again, don’t see this as an attack against people. People aren’t the true enemy. However, we do have to fight back against this quiet evil that’s infected us, and only God can conquer it. Join me in asking Him to begin conquering our hearts today.

Is this really that bad?

Is this really that big of a deal? We’re still nice to people of different races, and it doesn’t seem like we’re hurting anyone. How is this harmful?

First of all, according to the imago Dei, it’s sin, and all sin needs to be repented of. If we continue in unrepented sin, we are not living by the Spirit, and we are acting as if we don’t believe in Jesus (1 John 3).

Second, this is harmful because the deepest beliefs in our hearts directly impact our actions. If our deepest beliefs include a racial hierarchy, then this will inevitably lead to harmful behaviors that directly or indirectly hurt others. In addition, our individual sin is also combined with the sin of countless others. Our culture is overwhelmingly infected by deep racial hierarchy beliefs, and I’m willing to bet that almost everyone we know has some sort of racial hierarchy issue in their heart.

With so many people infected with this sin, our individual sin combines to form a culture of sin which leads to entire systems of sin. People at all levels of society have these underlying beliefs, and therefore all parts of society become tainted by it. Here are two examples that I’ve directly witnessed.

  • When looking to buy a home, my wife and I had a realtor say that, “people like us don’t live over there,” and he intentionally steered us to focus our search in certain places. This is a common occurrence and can lead to, at minimum, segregation.
  • In the past, I worked in a school district where kids who lived in a trailer park had to pass another high school in our district to get to the one I taught at. The school they passed was the flagship school of the district and had an interest in maintaining a certain reputation. This leads to an inequitable experience that directly harms the education of the students involved.

Let’s imagine other situations (which actually are real). Could belief that people of color are less intelligent lead to less students of color being put in advanced courses and more placed in remedial programs? These are paths that can change an individual’s entire course of life.

Could belief that people of certain races are dangerous lead to prosecutors giving harsher sentences (give this book a read)? Could white people be given the benefit of the doubt in the same scenario where people of color aren’t? Could some kids get the “boys will be boys” treatment while others are seen as criminals for the same actions?

Could a harmless, accidental bump be interpreted differently based on the race of a young boy?

It’s overwhelming to think about the avalanche of destruction that occurs when the majority of society has deep rooted racial hierarchy embedded in its belief system.

Temptations

There’s at least three temptations that I’ve seen in my own life that may surface in yours as well while reading this.

First, we may be tempted to get angry and say this either isn’t true or doesn’t apply to us. If this is you, consider praying and asking God to show you if this really is true. Pray Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” It’s a scary prayer, no doubt!

Second, we may be tempted to feel guilty and pull away. Maybe we already are or will feel convicted and ashamed. Please, please do not pull away. This is not meant to drive you into shame. Shame leads to withdrawal, and withdrawal doesn’t lead to unity and reconciliation. Instead, we need to courageously engage. Remember that God’s grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He has forgiven you of all past, present, and future sin. All of it!

Push forward knowing that we are forgiven by God and are free to fall in pursuit of His will. Step forward and let God’s grace and forgiveness cover us while we seek to repent and reconcile. Be encouraged and assured knowing that conviction is likely evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. This means you are a legitimate son or daughter of God because He disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:4-12)!

Third, and similarly, some of us will feel guilty and because of this, momentarily take positive action only to fade back to our original comfort zone. This may be one of the tougher hurts and frustrations for our minority brothers and sisters. Know that this will be difficult. We will be misunderstood and at the same time, we will need correction and rebuke. It’s going to hurt sometimes, but it will lead to glory for God and sanctification for those involved if we keep eagerly and genuinely pursuing unity. Ask for God’s help to persevere and run the race like a marathon instead of a sprint.

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