Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted via social media by a group of white supremacists. They are extremist, hateful, and attack with no understanding of who they are attacking. Their threats are alarming, but not all that surprising. And to be honest, it’s almost easier to understand extremists—they’ve potentially been given over to their sin (Romans 1). But what’s confusing for many of us are the numerous people who seem to ignore racism, who sweep it under the rug, or who have categorized racism as a lesser evil than other evils.
Welcome to the 2016 election year.
Unfortunately, when I reflect on what I’ve experienced and what I’m seeing, I think I fear a pendulum swing. It was reported that 81 percent of evangelical voters cast their lot for what many of us deemed as an unacceptable candidate because of his racist and misogynistic views, words, and/or actions. Although the 81 percent report has been rejected by some, even a slight majority vote by evangelicals in the president-elect’s direction has been disappointing for others. As I’ve mentioned before, I was for neither candidate. And what’s done is done. Now we are left with questions.
The pendulum swing-perspective, however, would be to assume that all white evangelicals 1) voted for the now president-elect and 2) are racist. I enjoy a unique proximity to different ethnicities. Proximity isn’t just good for white people. In other words, it’s often encouraged that white people get to know people of other ethnicities because proximity helps with understanding different perspectives, experiences, and viewpoints. This is so very true. But, you see, my proximity is to that of a white male. My husband is white, which gives me a unique view into the culture at large.
Broad Sweeping and Generalizations
If my husband didn’t have skin and you heard him speaking about culture, race, ethnicities, and the general election, you wouldn’t be able to figure out his ethnicity. Perhaps you’d even assume he was African American. He would speak with sadness that our president-elect has appointed a racist as his second in command of the White House. He would lament that there is so much divide in the church. He would hope that there would be reconciliation in our country and he would not be ignorant that this work of reconciliation takes more than simply saying hello as someone passes you in the street. He would share about times he stood up against racism in college. He would tell you about defending his wife after someone said something inappropriate. He would tell you about how he protects his family. Actually, he wouldn’t tell you any of those things because he is modest, humble, and simply not active on social media. Instead, he is living and serving us as an average, everyday citizen of the United States. He is a Christian. He is white. He loves people.
But, if he looked at social media, he might feel a rebuke. Wait, your friends and those who you follow…liberal, conservative and everyone in between, they know I’m with them, right?, he might think. Of course, his biggest concern is me. But my point is, there are many, right now, who strongly oppose racism, although you may not see it. They are the men and women found in the shadows on their knees before the Father. They are the men and women serving alongside people from every tribe, tongue and nation, and weeping with those who weep. They are there. They are the few white men and women evangelical leaders who have taken hits from every side for speaking out strongly the past two years and who now feel a weight of defeat. So in these tense times, we all need to beware of broad sweeping generalities that pit us against each other. What I’d like to say to those on the front lines but operating behind the scenes, as well as to those who are on the front lines and in the public, though we are disheartened we are better together.
There are still many of us who desire reconciliation—real reconciliation. Let’s not throw the baby out of the evangelical bath water. Let’s keep pursuing one another. Let’s keep speaking up. And I’m confident, although it’s a confidence that is shored up by begging and pleading with the Lord and filled with many tears, that in this tough season we may even be able to grow in understanding, even with those whom we thoroughly disagree. Everything is in the light. This is a good thing. My prayer is we wouldn’t waste this season arguing with those who are with us and we wouldn’t waste this season shaming those who are not. Instead, let’s keep speaking truth in love and pray for God’s work in the hearts of his people.
(picture by Michael and Megan Harrington)