A Transparent Struggle

I’ve come to value openness about struggle in faith communities. The drive to have it all together, or at least appear to, is strong, but intimacy with God and others demands honesty.

Our sharing of joys and concerns at Falcon Heights is a case in point: Every Sunday, we pass the microphone so people can share prayers of all kinds that include events in the wider world—and it’s remarkable how raw and emotional some of the sharing is. It’s literally a whole other sermon in addition to mine, a declaration of who we are as a church.

Yet, I know that what gets shared is only the tip of the iceberg. People will only share in a community setting if they know it’s safe, and/or if things are on their way to resolution. Being in over one’s head is not always received well, even in our church.

Not that I want church to be like Oprah, where confessions of people’s deepest secrets become the centerpiece. Church is not therapy and should never be.

But reticence sets the stage for a growing silence about matters which ARE beyond our control and should be brought into the light of God and congregation.

Like race.

In a March 9 article, “A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches,” Campbell Robertson reported on how this exodus started in 2012 with the Trayvon Martin shooting and the churches’ relative silence about it. When people like Tamice Namae Spencer of Kansas City brought it up at church, white members accused them of being divisive.

And of course, it all ramped up during the 2016 election.

The article is part of the New York Times’ “Race/Related” series, which you can subscribe to online.

It would be easy for liberal Christians to say this is a problem white evangelicals need to face and leave it at that. But racism and segregation are a problem nearly every church in America must confront daily, even those that have been making progress for years.

Racism, like any sin, is persistent. It’s not like other problems that can simply be solved with more faith, prayer, and even therapy. It’s America’s original sin, Jim Wallis of Sojourners’ Community has said.

Repentance means bringing it up, becoming comfortable talking about it, admitting one’s part in it, and addressing it with the gospel. And not always leaving it up to black people to bring it up.

Discomfort with the way things are is the main motivator for change. When the pain required to stay the same becomes greater than the pain required to change, then and only then will we change.

Are white churches of all stripes ready for more pain?

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