The Common Good
November-December 1998

Does Racial Pride Hinder Reconciliation?

by Spencer Perkins | November-December 1998

Or does diversity enrich our new 'creaturehood'?

Is there a need for racial/ethnic loyalty and pride among Christians in the new era of reconciliation? And what do we do with the old patterns, systems, and institutions that were created to accommodate our racist history?

Of course we don’t stop being red, brown, yellow, black, or white when we become Christians. But if I understand the scriptures correctly, the new reality in Christ means that our identity as Christians is now more important than our racial/ethnic identity. Therefore all of us "new creatures," regardless of racial or ethnic identity, should band together to, for instance, right injustices.

Idealistic? Sure. But shouldn’t we be idealistic about where we are going and practical about how to get there? We should be heading for a time and place where our racial/ethnic identity is only important because it helps to identify how and why we are what we are. Our life’s experiences and cultures bring a wealth of diversity to this new "creaturehood" that should be celebrated, not assimilated.

This issue becomes practical when we think about minorities who are a part of a majority group. The thought of whites insisting on white-only groups in order to worship in their own style and for cultural expression raises all kinds of red flags. Not nearly as many red flags go up when blacks and Asians make this same claim. Does this play into our old selves and not our new creaturehood? Are we adjusting ourselves to what is instead of pushing for what could be?

If we aspire to live out this new creaturehood and if, as Peter says, "We are a new race," then the best use for same-race groups would be as a means of maturing each young Christian, shell-shocked from America’s race wars, into a mature body part. If the leadership can’t move these raw recruits to a mature status that contributes to the whole, not just to their own racial/ethnic group, then we must question the validity of their conversion or the maturity of the leadership.

What about the church, both black and white, in America? Both were conceived in the sin of racism. Is our Christianity so impotent that we must continue these institutions, merely because we have grown accustomed to them? Or is our gospel powerful enough to begin moving toward the one body that Jesus so dearly wanted to represent him?

I believe that ethnic pride should play a role in the new reconciliation era, as long as it is used to enrich the whole. And it is definitely time for the new creaturehood to assert itself and break free from some of the old relics of racism that continue to restrain it.

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