“Race/Racism is More Than a Church or Religious Issue”
Arguably, the Christian church in America is part of a wider national problem: race relations in the American society. It is important that we should hold other institutions and systems of domination (i.e. the University, the Judicial system, the Police Force, the Military, the Financial system, Public Education, Religion) in society equally accountable to America’s racial crisis. As a social institution, the church can certainly contribute to both democratic and racial progress in society. Yet it is not the only solution to America’s racial dilemma.
The racial crisis in the American culture is more than a religious or spiritual matter. Racism is more than a problem of the human heart, contrary to what most christian pastors traditionally believe. The race problem needs more than a spiritual solution. When we examine the nation’s race plight only through the lens of the Christian Church, especially in reference to the church’s moral standard and contribution to race dynamics, I believe we are asking too much of the American church that it is able to deliver in society. In fact, the American Church is very racist and racially segregated; unfortunately, the doctrine of racial difference is a fundamental characteristic of the Christian church in America. However, while the Christian Church is part of the racial crisis in America, it is certainly part of the solution to the race concept–only if American Christians desire it to be so or contribute to this end. The Christian church in America has more than a moral obligation to the race problem.
Moreover, we should remember that race is ideological, legal, economic, educational, and also involves class and gender issues. In other words, if we desire to improve racial problems in society, we have to have a deliberate conversation about how other institutions and power-structures in this nation have also contributed to where we are right now in society. For example, we have to address the critical issue of equity both in public schools and higher education in this country. The issue of gender, ethnic, and racial representation in the nation’s institutions, companies, or workplace is more than a church problem. Further, we have to make our legal system work for everybody and challenge its racial and gender bias so that justice would be fair and equal to all, both men and women. We must also tackle the structures and systems in society that favor the rich and disfranchise the poor and the economically-disadvantaged populations; it is important to ask this vital (economic) question: why does 1% of the American population own 46% of the country’s wealth? Also, urgent questions about income distribution and inequality in wages, health issues, and living conditions are important matters that transcend the religious aspect of our racial problem. Finally, we should be thinking about how various ideologies continue to fuel and sustain the American government and its political systems, as well as the great divide in the nation’s political parties. These matters are beyond the scope and responsibility of the Church; they need to be treated in their own terms.
When we consider race as an integral feature of the American society–not just a church, spiritual, or religious issue– like other equally important matters of gender, economics, or class, we would certainly have a better idea on how to improve race relations in this country. In the meantime, we should remember that race is more than a theological or religious problem. The Christian church is not the end of race prejudice in America; yet the Christian church must make reparation for its role in sustaining chattel slavery and racial segregation in the American society.