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 exactly as they did in the newsletter, unless specifically noted. Jump to the bottom to access other parts of this series.
Before joining Faithfully Magazine’s team, I was a campus minister on a college campus in Mississippi with a grievous racial history. It wasn’t until 1962 that the first Black student was able to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Due to rioting, it did not happen without the National Guard’s presence, over 300 injuries and two deaths.
The administration at the university is still confronting its racialized past and present. Racialization is the air that the students breathe on campus. During my seven years there (first as a student and then as a campus minister), there were several racial incidents, some of which made national news.
Burdened with the racial divisions on our campus and in our nation, some female students, two additional campus ministers and I started meeting and walking through some biblical curriculum on racial reconciliation.
Some of us needed a place to process frustrations, and others of us needed a biblical framework for racial reconciliation. White students confessed past sins of racism. Students of color voiced the racism they had experienced from White peers or the scrutiny they faced from family members for being “too White.”
These students started new groups in the spring, and God began to soften the soil of students’ hearts on a campus with hard ground to break when it comes to racial barriers.
This series has largely been about personal work, yet racial reconciliation within God’s church and world cannot happen apart from community.
In Divided by Faith, the author writes: “For relatively non-isolated [people], the race problem is neither a creation of the media nor does it persist only because some try to make it an issue. The race problem is real.”
It was relatively easy to live my entire day in isolation. I could navigate my schedule in such a way that I would always be around people who looked like me and lived like me. It took effort for others and me in the small group I referenced to even find one another. But I could no longer deny or dismiss the race problem around me after hearing my Christian sisters’ stories.
I know many believe that discussing race actually propagates the problem. These discussions are oftentimes seen as divisive, especially within the church where we like to emphasize our oneness.
The result is to adopt a colorblind worldview where Christians claim they do not see color. However, I would ask brothers and sisters, particularly White brothers and sisters, to reconsider this notion.
Even if we might not “see color,” the world sees color. More importantly, God sees color. Revelation 7:9 reveals that we will not lose our ethnicities in heaven. If God creates and celebrates our differences, we can do the same.
Lastly, I would argue that confronting race and discussing differences creates unity rather than division. I witnessed God take a large group of Christian students on campus and unify them because they delved into the hard conversations around race.
Does that mean that seasons of division will never occur? No, but conflict is not always bad or sinful. This is especially evident in the Apostle Paul’s letters.
Paul was passionate about unity. He even authored the passage on reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5. But Paul did not avoid conflict in order to promote unity; he did not see the two as mutually exclusive.
We do not have to choose one or the other: debating things that matter or holding on to each other while we hail “colorblindness.” We can choose both, and I believe God will honor that.
Talking about race with others of different ethnicities might sound terrifying when we are new to this conversation, but we cannot empathize with what we do not know. The beauty of the Christian family is that there is a ready-laid foundation of grace through Jesus Christ, even as we speak hard truths to one another.
As we learn and enter these conversations, we should pray. This is, first and foremost, a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but… against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
It is important to remember who is behind sin, and that Satan will not prevail against God’s church. The Christian can step into this process with the hope that God is still in the business of reconciliation.
Some questions to consider…
- Have you had face-to-face conversations about racial disparities and injustices with people who are racially different from you? If so, how did they challenge you? How can you begin or continue those conversations?
- Is it easy for you to live your day in isolation from people different than you? How can you intentionally begin to change that?
- Have you ever thought about the fact that we will maintain our ethnic identity in heaven?
- How can conflict be a good thing?
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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Photo by Tim Pierce