Responding to racism as Christian believers
The death of Geroge Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25 has sparked worldwide outrage. Protests even reached sleepy Henley-on-Thames this week. In a world already reeling from Covid-19, suffering inflicted by human beings upon other human beings for nothing other than their race beggars belief. It has given serious pause for thought on the extent to which this brutal act is part of wider societal trends of racism and discrimination. How should Christians respond?
First, we should weep. The value and worth of every human being is foundational for Christians. We are all equally created in God’s image. We are all equally fallen and broken by sin. And we are all equally loved and valued through the precious blood of Jesus, who considered us valuable enough to die for us. How much is a human being worth? The breath of God in creation, and the blood of Jesus in redemption. We should mourn when any human life is undervalued. And if that happens to a group of people in a systematic way, we should mourn all the more.
Second, we should examine ourselves. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, famously wrote in The Gulag Archipelago:
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
It’s tempting to point the finger, and isolate ‘the good guys’ from ‘the bad guys’, and do everything you can to signal you are with the good guys. However, it’s never that simple. The Bible makes the same point as Solzhenitsyn: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21). None of us is immune to racist or other discriminatory attitudes. None of us is immune from failing to stand with those who are facing such discrimination. Before pointing fingers elsewhere, we do well to examine our own hearts, ask God to reveal any areas of discrimination, seek his forgiveness, and ask that the gospel of Christ might powerfully change us. The death of George Floyd sadly highlights just how deep the sinfulness of humanity can go. We must have the humility to confess this is a humanity we are all a part of and be humble and sober-minded.
Third, we should listen. Those of us from white majority backgrounds may find it hard to appreciate the experience of those from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds. We can assume there is no problem, when there may be. We can go a long way to better understanding the real issues, by speaking with, and listening carefully to, the experiences of friends and neighbours from those backgrounds, and especially with brothers and sisters in your church family.
Fourth, where appropriate, we should act. The apostle James challenges us on this point:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
The situation he imagines is a fellow believer in social need met with a pious platitude rather than concrete help. But the same principle applies more broadly: where we encounter racism or any other forms of discrimination, we sho
uld avoid pious platitudes, and actually let our faith lead to action.
For a helpful Christian reflection from an American perspective, read this article.
For some helpful reflections from a minister in London, read this article.