#FMFieldNotes 3: Listening and Learning from People of Other Ethnicities
Field Notes on Racial Reconciliation
Faithfully Magazine’s Lanie Anderson shares her experiences as a White woman regarding how the Christian faith informs racial reconciliation.
Editor’s note: If you’ve ever visited our Staff page, you’ll know that Lanie is pursuing a Master’s in Christian apologetics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She also writes and edits for Be the Bridge, a nonprofit that provides resources for Christians pursuing racial unity in their churches and communities.
This series was first published exclusively via the Faithfully Magazine newsletter. Each of the six parts, in addition to the introduction, were made available on faithfullymagazine.com and appear as they did in the newsletter, unless specifically noted. Jump to the bottom to access other parts of this series.
The law of attraction states that “like attracts like.”
In the world of social media, heart- and thumbs-up-shaped buttons take the law of attraction further: like literally “likes” like.
Oftentimes, our social media accounts reveal the extent of our awareness of others.
I can remember the time a friend told me about the hashtag #BlackTwitter and its larger implications that a White person’s social media feeds and a person of color’s social media feeds often contain completely different content and concerns.
Research supports this. According to the American Psychological Association, 68 percent of “[B]lack social media users say that some (44 percent) or most (24 percent) of the posts they see on social media are about race” as compared to “only 35 percent of [W]hite social media users [who] say the same.”
Although our world is not homogenous, our social media feeds, podcasts, news outlets, music and books might suggest otherwise.
This was true for me. God challenged me through a hashtag to reevaluate who I listen to and learn from, not only when it comes to social media but when it comes to my spiritual formation.
Who and what outside of Scripture inform my thoughts about God, others and myself?
My worldview was largely informed by whiteness.
While I am thankful for the contributions of White brothers and sisters in Christ to my discipleship, I realized that I was not experiencing the fullness of God’s image nor His church.
In Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives, Walter R. Strickland writes, “[W]e are self-interested creatures. Said differently, people ([W]hite and nonwhite alike) are interested in issues that are most pressing to them and are not as likely to contemplate deeply the circumstances of others.”
I can “amen” to this. Left to my own sinful nature, I am indeed self-interested.
As a good friend tweeted, “I am made in God’s image; He is not made in mine.” One of the ways I become self-interested is by denying–intentionally or not–the truth that those different from me equally bear God’s image. Furthermore, I actually miss out on beholding the beauty and fullness of the imago Dei when I do not listen to and learn from people outside of my ethnicity.
One way a Christian can immediately work toward racial reconciliation is by asking God’s help to resist his or her own inner law of attraction and learning and listening to people of different ethnicities.
I am a lover of books, especially books that pertain to my faith, but I realized in college that I had a very narrow theology of God: one that only applied to my White American context rather than the whole world.
If it is true that God is the same in all places and at all times, my theology needed an overhaul. Philippians 4:13 had to apply to more than my basketball games and good test grades.
I started to intentionally read books and Bible studies written by Christian authors who are not White and began to experience the Body of Christ in its fullness.
My favorite Bible teacher right now is a Black woman, and I say that, not to treat her as a token, but to admit that if I had not laid down my colorblind ideology (what I thought was a good tactic at the time) and intentionally started listening to different voices, I never would have learned so much from her God-given teaching abilities.
If we take a hard look at our social media feeds, news outlets, podcasts, books, friendships, everything and realize they are homogenous, we should make some changes.
It will be uncomfortable because it will not always make sense side by side with our personal stories, perspectives and suffering.
It will be messy because politics will no longer be black and white.
It will be painful because God will expose and convict us of deep-seated stereotypes and prejudices.
It will be purifying because God will sift out our biblical Christianity from our cultural preferences.
It will be costly because some people will not understand our resistance to the law of attraction.
But it will be worth it because making these changes will give us a small glimpse of the imago Dei—represented in its fullness in heaven as “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
The immediate response to cognitive dissonance is often to retreat. Ask God to help you and teach you today as you sit in the discomfort of exposure to different experiences and perspectives.
Some questions to consider…
- Do you sense the “law of attraction” at work when you look at your social media feeds? Do you follow people or organizations of different ethnicities, worldviews, politics, etc.?
- Expand this law of attraction beyond social media. What books do you read? What podcasts do you like? Does you surround yourself with people who are different from you?
- In what areas might your theology need an overhaul? Does your theology focus more on your individual experience rather than a collective experience within the body of Christ? Is your theology true for all people in all places at all times, or is it only true for your context?
- When confronted with different perspectives or experience, we often experience what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance,” a feeling of discomfort due to new information that contradicts previous beliefs, ideas and values. As you have wrestled with racial disparities, have you experienced cognitive dissonance?
Share your responses with us using the hashtag #FMfieldnotes!
Field Notes on Racial Reconciliation:
- #FMFieldNotes: Introducing ‘Field Notes on Racial Reconciliation’ Series
- #FMFieldNotes 1: Confronting Our Sins of Racism, Prejudice and Bias
- #FMFieldNotes 2: Doing Our History Homework
- #FMFieldNotes 3: Listening and Learning from People of Other Ethnicities
- #FMFieldNotes 4: Embracing Racial Reconciliation as a Gospel Issue
- #FMFieldNotes 5: Resisting a False Dilemma Between Systemic Problems and Poor Choices
- #FMFieldNotes Part 6: Starting or Joining the Conversation of Race
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