As a Christian, churchgoer, and Asian American, I wanted to take some time to respond to what took place at the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC2017) in Phoenix, AZ earlier this week. I carefully contemplated writing this post, deliberating whether or not it was wise to do so, and I decided that now is definitely not the time to remain silent. To be honest, I’m insecure about putting my opinion out there, but to me, the thought of contributing to a passive view on the discussion of racial reconciliation far outweighs my insecurities. Writer Jasmine Holmes said it best in a tweet yesterday: “Sometimes we are more worried about precision of language than the outcry of a hurting heart. Often, the demand for precision masks apathy.”
If you haven’t read the link above, you might be a bit lost as you continue to read, so give it a quick read. Here are some of my takeaways:
1.) The initial decision by the SBC to not consider the original resolution was unquestionably hurtful to all minorities, especially African Americans.
The decision was unquestionably hurtful to all minorities, especially those involved with an SBC church, for what I believe are obvious reasons. The unwillingness of an organization’s leaders to release a statement condemning an overtly racist hate group that hates a large portion of its membership because of some less-than-perfect penmanship in the proposal document is offensive. I can only imagine what it would be like for an openly vocal sexual assault victim to be told by his or her boss that the company is going to start hiring ex-sexual assault criminals as part of a rehabilitation program. The idea isn’t evil in and of itself, but it’s immensely ignorant and insensitive to that employee. Plain and Simple.
2.) The initial decision does not mean that the SBC leaders are fanatical racists.
On the flip side, I do not believe that the leaders of the SBC are overt racists themselves. They made a mistake that should be taken extremely seriously, but I believe they know that. I do not personally believe that any SBC member would openly and willingly support something like the alt-right movement, but I do believe that a greater understanding of structural racism versus personal racism is needed. For example, when middle-upper class people (myself included) hold fast to the belief that we deserve everything we’ve “worked hard” for while lower class people simply lack the motivation to pursue greater opportunities, we lack an accurate understanding of structural racism. Although hard work is essential and lacking motivation can be a reality, the structural advantages that the middle-upper class (especially white people) get to enjoy cannot be ignored.
3.) The revised resolution is encouraging.
I believe the wording and the stance of the revised resolution is very encouraging, and I’m grateful for those who took the time to revise it.
4.) We have a long, long way to travel down the path toward racial justice and reconciliation.
I think we have a long way to go down this path and that this is just the most recent example of that reality. I’m not one to say that “we’ve made no progress,” or “we’re worse off than we were sixty years ago.” However, I believe it’s when the non-marginalized begin to believe that we’ve “arrived” and that having discussions about race is unnecessary that we all find ourselves focusing on the wrong issues.
5.) The discussion about racial reconciliation, especially in the church MUST be taken more seriously.
It’s never going to be the easiest topic to bring up. Regardless of race or ethnicity, it takes initiative, deliberation, humility, and patience to have these conversations, but they must be had. When we consistently prioritize other issues above the race discussion, especially in the church, the cycle perpetuates itself. How much more willing are you to openly take a stance on abortion or the legalization of marijuana than you are to on racial issues?
6.) Moving forward, we each have a responsibility to educate ourselves and to listen to each other.
Last, the ball is in our court. We each have a responsibility to seek out new information as we trek down this path. The most helpful option in my opinion is seeking out in- person conversations with the people around us, but I’ll also leave you with a few suggestions that have been helpful in my pursuit:
- The book Divided by Faith. This book gives a detailed history of the historical problem of race in America, especially as it pertains to the church, and does a phenomenal job putting things into context for every reader.
- The book United. This is written by Trillia J. Newbell, and is a short, easy read if you’re looking for something a little less intense. Trillia does a beautiful job of furthering discussions about racial reconciliation and does so in a personal way.
- The TV show Blackish. I actually just decided to binge watch this show because I heard it was hilarious, and IT IS! But each episode is also incredibly informative and I have gained some very helpful perspective from watching this hysterical sitcom. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this one.