race relations

Image via RNS/Danielle Thomas/Washington National Cathedral

After quietly removing panes bearing the Confederate flag from its stained-glass windows, leaders of the Washington National Cathedral are now wondering what to do about remaining images of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

"How can you justify having those windows in a house of God?" challenged Riley Temple, a former board member of the Washington National Cathedral's foundation.

Jim Wallis 12-23-2014
paul prescott / Shutterstock.com

paul prescott / Shutterstock.com

Hope is not a feeling. It is a decision — a choice you make based on what we call faith or moral conscience, whatever most deeply motivates you.

I have said that for many years, but this Advent and Christmas season tests my words — even in my own heart.

This is not a time that many of us are feeling a great deal of hope. I hear that from many friends and allies as well.

In fact, many events this year feel like they have sucked the hope right out of us.

And yet, even in the midst of terrible events and stories, the possibilities of hope still exist depending on what we decide to do for reasons of faith and conscience. In fact, people of faith and conscience are already making a difference in the most difficult situations and places.

And that gives me hope. This season of Advent, in the Christian tradition, is a call to patient waiting.

Christmas is the celebration of God literally coming into the world in order to change it.

A Hatmaker family photo. Photo courtesy of Jen Hatmaker, via RNS.

A Hatmaker family photo. Photo courtesy of Jen Hatmaker, via RNS.

Before she and her husband adopted a son and daughter from Ethiopia, popular evangelical blogger Jen Hatmaker said she had a different view about race in America.

“A couple years ago, I would’ve said we’re moving to a post-racial society because I was so under-exposed to people of color and the issues they deal with on a daily basis,” said the white Christian author, whose home renovation to make space for their growing family of seven was recently featured on HGTV.

As evangelicals have turned their attention toward adoption in the past decade, families like the Hatmakers are grappling with race relations in a profoundly personal way, especially as national news spotlights racial tension in New York, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.

And evangelicals aren’t alone: A new Gallup poll found that 13 percent of Americans believe racism is the country’s most important problem, the highest figure since the 1992 verdict in the Rodney King case sparked riots in Los Angeles.

And, as Gallup noted: “After barely registering with Americans as the top problem for two decades, race relations now matches the economy in Americans’ mentions of the country’s top problem, and is just slightly behind government (15 percent).”

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right. Photo via Adelle M. Banks/RNS.

“African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, in this country are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed.”

It’s the kind of statement that’s often cited by black clergy and civil rights activists. But hours after a grand jury on Dec. 3 chose not to indict the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner into a fatal choke hold on Staten Island, those words came from none other than white evangelical leader Russell Moore.

With back-to-back grand jury decisions that white police officers will not face charges in the deaths of unarmed black men, white Christians, including evangelicals, have grown more vocal in urging predominantly white churches to no longer turn a blind eye to injustice and to bridge the country’s racial divides.

“It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Other white evangelicals issued similar pleas.

Lilly Fowler 8-15-2014
Police march in Ferguson. Image courtesy RNS.

Police march in Ferguson. Image courtesy RNS.

On the fourth morning after Michael Brown’s death, residents from different parts of the region came together to pick up the pieces.

Some were young, some old. The majority arrived as part of the faithful. Others trickled in after spotting volunteers marching up and down West Florissant under the hot sun. Carrying brooms and large garbage bags, they collected whatever they could find: rubber bullets, broken glass, liquor bottles, tear gas grenades.

“I needed to come out today just to get some stability,” said Gary Park, 34, an auto mechanic who lives near the area in Ferguson where Brown was shot and protests erupted. Close by is the looted and burned QuikTrip that sits as a symbol of the severity of the unrest that resulted from an unnamed cop fatally shooting an unarmed 18-year-old.

“I wanted some encouragement,” Park said.

Park is a member of Passage Community Church in Florissant, which together with a few other local congregations, organized the Wednesday morning cleanup. Pastor Joe Costephens said that although the trash-collecting effort was a last-minute plan, more than 100 people joined the endeavor.

It was a simple act but not an insignificant one, especially since authorities reported two shootings only the night before. In fact, the continued violence has put future volunteer efforts on hold, Costephens said.

 
Kathy Khang 9-27-2013

So, here is the dilemma. Do I think so highly of myself to think that Warren’s apology and reference to an email is actually about me? That is ridiculous. I know there were others who emailed him. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Warren is talking about my email, which I re-read. I never say “I am offended.” I had a lot of questions because I wanted to understand. I wanted to hear and open up dialogue because I didn’t understand Warren’s logic, humor, or joke. I really didn’t understand why Warren’s supporters would then try to shut down those who were offended (and I include myself in the camp of those hurt, upset, offended AND distressed) by telling us/me to be more Christian like they themselves were being.

There is no “if.”  I am hurt, upset, offended, and distressed, not just because “an” image was posted, but that Warren posted the image of a Red Guard soldier as a joke, because people pointed out the disconcerting nature of posting such an image — and then Warren told us to get over it, alluded to how the self-righteous didn’t get Jesus’ jokes but Jesus’ disciples did, and then erased any proof of his public missteps and his followers’ mean-spirited comments that appeared to go unmoderated.

I am hurt, upset, offended, and distressed when fellow Christians are quick to use Matthew 18 publicly to admonish me (and others) to take this issue up privately without recognizing the irony of their actions, when fellow Christians accuse me of playing the race card without trying to understand the race card they can pretend doesn’t exist but still benefit from, when fellow Christians accuse me of having nothing better to do than attack a man of God who has done great things for the Kingdom.

Mark Charles 2-18-2013

It was one week ago that I received the email I had been dreading. On Feb. 6, 2013, while in Washington, D.C., for the National Prayer Breakfast, Richard Twiss suffered a major heart attack. He remained in a hospital in the D.C. area for several days as friends and family rushed to his side. But on Feb. 9, at the age of 58, Taoyate Obnajin, he Stands with his People, crossed over to meet the Creator. He is survived by his wife Katherine and his four sons Andrew, Philip, Ian, and Daniel.

If you ever had the privilege of meeting Richard Twiss, chances are he invited you somewhere. Richard was an incredible host. I remember last summer I attended a symposium for the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies, of which Richard was a board member. No sooner had I walked through the door when I was greeted by Richard and asked if I would like to join their drum circle up front to start the next session. I felt extremely honored by this invitation and gladly accepted. I am not a trained theologian nor am I a prolific powwow drummer, but this small gesture immediately made me feel at home and communicated that I was welcome there and was given a voice should I have something to contribute.

Richard was involved in many conversations. As a follower of Jesus, president and co-founder of Wi

Stephen G. Marsh 1-17-2013
Stephen G. Marsh

Stephen G. Marsh

Editor's Note: This column is part of a duo of posts commenting on racial reconciliation in light of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Read the accompanying piece, "A Convenient Truth: I Am White."

I am black in the United States of America. It is quite inconvenient to be black in the United States of America. It has always been inconvenient to be black in the United States of America.

My African ancestors were brought to the United States in chains against their will, taken straight to the plantations, and forced into slavery. They did not pass through Ellis Island, as did most of the ancestors of my white counterparts. My ancestors who fought in two world wars were not allowed any advantages of the GI Bill, schooling, the trade unions, or the opportunities of corporate America that white veterans had; therefore, as a black baby I am more likely to be born into a family who is mired in systemic poverty than a baby who is white.

I am much more likely to live in an impoverished neighborhood, receive an inferior education in a neighborhood school, and not graduate from high school than white students my age. Those are inconvenient truths.

Wendy Tarr 1-14-2013
Photo: Community image,  Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Community image, Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock.com

"I expect and am willing to be persecuted, imprisoned, and bound for advocating African rights. And I should deserve to be a slave myself if I shrunk from that duty or danger." -William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist (1805 - 1879)

With Black History Month coming up in February, many of us will remember the civil rights struggles that have brought us to where we are today. I recently read a fascinating book about that movement focused on the role of women in those efforts called Freedom’s Daughters. It highlights past generations of women activists, both black and white. They led in the struggles for abolition, desegregation, civil rights, and women’s suffrage. These movements carry with them the roots of our contemporary work for justice.

As I considered the lessons from that book I found myself resonating with many challenges, failures, and victories these women experienced, much of which was based on the race and gender dynamics of the day.

As an educated white woman who began my foray into community organizing though a summer internship in my early 20s — like many of the young women in Freedom Summer coming down from the North — I had not yet delved into the complicated nature of race relations in the United States. I started my summer feeling competent, a person who could learn and adapt to changes as I had on many previous international mission experiences. I carried with me an overly simplified belief in the romantic “beloved community.” The beloved community would come about as we worked together, prayed, and marched. 

Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

As the Christmas season draws to a close, I am reminded of the star that directed the three wise men away from their homeland and into the foreign but welcome presence of baby Jesus. Perhaps this reminds us all that the Divine is constantly moving us into new territory, as stars of all sorts continue to illuminate our path and reset our orientation. The New Year is a wonderful time to search the skies again and see where God is leading us – to check the progress of Church, society, and self, and also see when a new course needs charting. Such a pause allows us to live in our prophetic selves.

As you plan this year – and especially the month of February – remember that the role of a prophet is to, when necessary, provide faithful interruptions or disturbances to the fragile balance of our complex (and often incomplete) frameworks. (That is ONE role of the prophet, anyway). At any given point in the history of civilization we find each of our systems broken – by definition – because humans and not gods have created them.

And while these machinations and paradigms were created to solve society’s most pressing problems and questions, they often serve as coping mechanisms, “band-aids,” and gas canisters that fuel us only to our next checkpoint. You can think of many of these unfulfilled solutions, none of them mutually exclusive: they plague all the sectors of our common life. 

The month of February sheds light on one in particular. In the quest for racial justice, we have reached not the finish line but a checkpoint, and we need more prophets. 

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images

 

Southern Baptist leaders will investigate whether their top ethicist and public policy director plagiarized racially charged remarks about the Trayvon Martin case that many say set back the denomination's efforts on racial reconciliation.

Richard Land, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, was accused of lifting remarks for his radio show that accused Democrats and civil rights leaders of exploiting the case of the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a volunteer neighborhood watchman.

Even though Land has apologized for both the remarks and not attributing their source, the commission's executive committee said it was obligated “to ensure no stone is left unturned.”  An investigatory committee will "recommend appropriate action" to church leaders.

Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images

Dr. Richard Land testifying in 2010. Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images

The Southern Baptist Convention's top public policy official has apologized for controversial comments he made about the Trayvon Martin case, and the New Orleans pastor who's widely expected to be named the Southern Baptists' first black president has accepted his apology.

Richard Land, who leads the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote to SBC president Bryant Wright to express his “deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding"  his comments may have caused.

Diana Fishlock 3-13-2012
RNS photo courtesy Carl Silverman

Atheist-sponsored billboard erected in on of city's most racially diverse neighborhoods. RNS photo courtesy Carl Silverman.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The billboard is down, but the issue's not gone.

A billboard erected in one of the city's most racially diverse neighborhoods featured an African slave with the biblical quote, "Slaves, obey your masters." It lasted less than a day before someone tore it down.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is investigating the destruction to this billboard put up in one of the city's most racially diverse neighborhoods. RNS photo courtesy Carl Silverman.

Now, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is investigating and is meeting with both the atheists who sponsored it as well as leaders of the NAACP who found it offensive and racially charged.

The atheists behind the sign said they were trying to draw attention to the state House's recent designation of 2012 as "The Year of the Bible" -- an action by lawmakers that the atheists have called offensive.

But there were concerns that erecting such a billboard is playing with fire.

 

 

 

 

Edward Gilbreath 7-30-2010
The Shirley Sherrod incident, the latest stumble in our nation's clumsy dance with
Johnathan Smith 7-23-2010
The NAACP recently roared into the national spotlight when, during the organization's 101st Annual Convention, its delegates unanimously passed a http://www.naacp.org/blog/entry/why-we-pas

The issue of illegal immigration in the United States requires an anti-logic of radical love. (The anti-logic I propose is not fallacious logic. The distinction is a topic for another essay.) Christianity is a counter-intuitive religion.

More Than Equals, co-authored by Chris Rice and the late Spencer Perkins, is considered one of the pivotal books in the Christian racial reconciliation movement that found its greatest momentum in the early and mid-1990s.

Edward Gilbreath 4-22-2009
This week's issue of Newsweek features a compelling article about the evolution of race relations at Princeton University ("

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