Let’s talk about the church and racism

The Third Leg of the Pandemic

By June 2020, it became apparent that America was inside a storm from three different directions, possibly all three caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Certainly, it played a huge factor. The three legs of this storm were 1) the pandemic, 2) the shutdown of churches and businesses causing economic losses, lifestyle living restrictions, and homebound isolation, and 3) the protests for civil liberty for Blacks. The church is comprised of people who live in the community, and who themselves were affected, or they have children who were affected. We are not an island. Like businesses and houses of worship all across the globe, churches were affected by these events.

By April 9, 2020, a pattern had begun to emerge. CDC Released Demographic Data that showed that Black Americans, older people and men are among the hardest hit by this pandemic. This information may have played a significant part in what was yet to come. Experts began to say that the large numbers of Blacks who suffered the worst from this virus may be caused by civil problems that led Blacks to less health care and lifestyle. Blacks are now learning that they are dying at a higher rate than whites are, possibly because of an injustice imposed upon them by the white majority.

Loving your neighbor is not political and should not be seen as such in this post. This is a hard blog to write because of the intense emotions that arise, and as Christians, there may still be within us a lack of complete surrender to loving our neighbor.

If we say that we are a pro-reconciliation, anti-racism church, we must choose every day to be who we say we are. That means not only standing up, but speaking up and acting in solidarity without fear.”—Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Chalice Press (the publishing arm of the Disciples of Christ) says: “As disciples of Christ and Disciples of Christ, we share a common goal – creating an anti-racist, pro-reconciling church. We also know there are as many ways to reach that goal as there are Disciples congregations.”

Disciples were actually late to the game, like the majority of churches. They did not start the pro-reconciliation, anti-racism church. Jesus did. Christians of all varieties fall short of what Jesus taught. But, like the General Minister and President says, we are involved in making that a reality for all peoples. It is necessary that we look at our nation. It is particularly so, since this part is the third leg of the pandemic.

Love your neighbor. Who is my neighbor?

 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” John 13:34 (NRSV)

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:29-37 (NRSV)

When Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, it sounds so simple. Hearing the story as children and even as adults, we often miss the intensity Jews felt against their Israelite cousins. Jews would not even go through Samaria if they could help it. For a Jew to deliberately go through Samaria was unusual, such was the hatred. They had found a way, even though it was inconvenient and added miles to their journey, to avoid Samaria. They thought they were better than these poor cousins, the Samaritans. Any Samaritan among them was instantly recognized as being out of place. Knowing how the Jews felt against them – for how could he not? – the Samaritan bent down and helped the Jewish man.

This was a complete reversal of roles. It took them by surprise. You would expect Jesus to tell the story of how the Jewish man came upon a Samaritan lying in the road and the Jew, out of the goodness of his heart, helped the Samaritan. But it didn’t happen that way. His countrymen left him lying there, dying perhaps.

To finish this racial story, we must look at the account of the Samaritan woman at the well.

This story of the woman at the well is found in John 4:4-42 and begins by saying, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It is best translated that “he purposed in his mind” to go through Samaria. There was something in Samaria that Jesus needed to do in order to complete his earthly work.

Jesus made a personal appearance to tell the Samaritans that the Messiah had come. It was a Samaritan woman who received the news that he was the Messiah, whom the Samaritans were also expecting, since they claimed theirs was the true religion of the ancient Israelites. This is critical news to them, and it was delivered personally by the Messiah himself.

Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered it by saying, “The one you think less of.”


About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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