Guest post by Bob Bixby, Pastor of Redeemer Church Fremont, CA. Originally posted here.
Seven Ways Many White Evangelicals Dodge Any Complaint about Racism
1. General corruption is the problem. “Well, there is sin all over the place. We all have sinned.” “Everybody is a racist deep down.”
Rebuttal: The best of Christian leadership in the past have chosen to focus on the particular sins of their own nation and church. John Owen, the famed theologian/statesman of the 1600s said, “It is the duty of faithful ministers or of the Gospel to consider diligently what failures or temptations their flocks are liable or exposed to, so as to apply suitable means for their preservation – John Owen (1616 – 1683). This is why I don’t rant and holler about the abominable practice of FGM (female genital mutilation), but if I were in the country of my childhood I would.
2. Moral equivalence. “Well, the media is wrong to stir up the pot.” “Blacks are racists too. I’ve heard them say some horrible things about whites.” “But they’re stealing.”
Rebuttal: This dodge is most offensive morally AND intellectually! It seems that people from legalistic religious structures are most inclined to employ it in the most egregious way. A hypothetical that is too close to real life: A girl gets molested by a Christian leader and people clamor for the resignation of the perpetrator. Christians respond with almost-reluctant agreement that the molestation was wrong but that we should not forget that the girl was dressed quite immodestly and had actually attempted to lure the man. Supposing this were actually true, it is irrelevant. The fact of immodesty and seduction are “related issues” but they are not “mitigating issues.” To bring them up when molestation is being denounced is completely irrelevant because “related issues” distract from the major issue and even imply that they are therefore “mitigating issues”.
3. Immediately find a token black person to quote (usually out of context and with no appreciate for the nuance that the black person may want to insist upon).
Rebuttal: It is ignored that finding a token black person is difficult enough. It ignores the fact that all people deeply invested in the conversation of race, understand that some blacks can enjoy white privilege, depending on their particular situation. People ignore the complicated nuance of the issue and gladly use their token black person as support for something that the black individual would categorically denounce. It is also conveniently ignored that now the matter of general corruption could apply here. Perhaps the token black person has ulterior motives, may be blinded to the sufferings of most of his own race, may be unable to resist the lure of personal flattery.
4. Claiming to have a black friend.
Rebuttal: Racism is a social issue. It is not a relational issue. There is no doubt that relationships help, but the solution is more in immersion in relationships with people of other ethnicities. And, certainly, having a child of color in one’s own home can help open one’s eyes to the issue, but relationships are not the panacea to racism. I grew up on a missionary compound in black Africa, and I saw white missionaries who deeply loved their black servants and the black villagers outside the compound, but reserved deep imperialistic superior sentiments regarding black people generally.
5. Reductionistic blame-shifting. “The breakdown of the black family is the main problem.” “They should stop killing themselves in black on black crime.”
Rebuttal: Even if the above statements are true — and many in the black community would agree that these are problems — the shifting of blame by pointing out their flaws is classic deflection that minority groups have to deal with all the time. It reminds me how as a student I opposed the administration of my college over an egregious moral issue and they silenced me by focusing on the fact that I was not performing as well academically as I should have been and that my attitude was immature. This did not change the fact that they were harboring a child molester and I was vindicated shortly thereafter when the person was caught, convicted, and imprisoned.
6. Decrying the politicizing. “The liberals are just trying to fan the flames of racism and score political points.”
Rebuttal: This statement is actually a politicizing of the matter!
7. Fake Peacemaking – “Let’s not focus on what divides us.”
Rebuttal: This is a form of spiritual abuse. A form of social shunning. Many of us have been in the situation of a broken relationship when one party refuses to talk about the matter.