What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?
At our panel on race and Fellowship North (see video here) we took up questions but didn’t have time to get to them all. We hope to cover each of them soon: Harold will address some of them in his sermon Sunday, and Sarabeth Jones wanted to write about one in particular that came in.
What are you giving up to go to church here?
This is one of those questions that you might answer differently based on the color of your skin. As we heard at the panel on race Sunday night, Inés is giving up the chance to sit in a church that speaks her first language. Other people of color are giving up pieces of their culture that are connected to church, or perhaps the only space in life where they aren’t the minority.
But what about if you’re white? What are you giving up?
After we talked through this with the panel, we received this question from the audience: Based on previous responses, it seems as though white people don’t sacrifice much to be a part of a multi-ethnic church body but expect other races to sacrifice; what can we do as a church to balance that scale?
I’d like to look at some answers to this, because it’s a great question. Part of the difficulty of being a white person engaged in racial unity work is that it is simply difficult for us to see the issues, much of the time. We aren’t forced to think about race, so we don’t unless we choose to. Asking questions like this is the beginning to finding some places we can change, and that’s exciting.
First of all, as a church we are trying to balance the scale by encouraging people to go through Mobilize, where we seriously work at awakening people to these issues. We also work at intentionally representing people of different races in the ways we communicate – from the photographs we use to the people on stage. And, we try to incorporate elements from various cultures in our services.
But to go further, there are also things you can do as a white person to balance those scales. There are sacrificial choices that you can make. Let’s talk about some of those.
Give up the assumption that your way is ‘right.’ There are so many things that we do in church that are cultural. Think about it: the Bible doesn’t tell us how to dress for church, how to respond when someone says something we agree with, or what kind of music to sing. Those are cultural choices, and often our reaction to something different is to think that it is wrong. Next time something like that happens, try to understand and celebrate it as an expression of diversity instead (like Craig talked about in his sermon Sunday morning). This doesn’t just work at church; you can try it as you walk around your everyday life as well.
Ask questions to a safe person. If you don’t already have a friend of a different race that will engage in these conversations with you, find someone. You could try one of our panel members or someone on staff. Start with: There are some things I would like to understand better. Would you mind talking with me?
Listen. And then listen some more. And then ask another question and listen again, without interrupting. Seriously, most spaces in our culture are dominated by the voice of the majority – one of the best things we can do to further unity is to really listen to the voices and experiences of those in the minority, and to make space in our mind and heart for someone to be different from us. Listening can be a sacrificial choice.
Invite someone to the table – or even give up your seat. Is there a place in your life where you have influence? The ability to make decisions? Try to figure out ways to invite minorities into that space and give them space to lead. It might feel like it is at your expense – that you would be giving up your seat or your way of doing things – but making sacrifices to serve others is at the heart of what Jesus calls us to.
Stand up. You wouldn’t let your child endure an injustice simply because they didn’t have the voice or power to stop it, would you? In the same way, we should not passively watch as injustices happen to people of color, or to those who are disadvantaged. You can choose to sacrifice your comfort and silence. Ask God for eyes to see injustice and the courage to stand up against it, with or on behalf of others.
Keep at it. This is a process, a journey. Craig gave us a great list of things to start with (and stay with) last Sunday in his sermon, remember?
- Help make this church welcoming
- Invite people of different ethnic groups
- Celebrate diversity
- Read the New Testament, looking for racial unity: John 17, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Revelations
- Invite someone into your home who is of a different ethnic background
- Ponder the Cross
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, there are so many great places to start. Let’s pick one, or a few, and get going! I’ll leave you with a great 10-minute video that addresses many of these things with lots of hope for racial unity, in our church and in many others.
Sarabeth Jones is a part of the Arts team at Fellowship North; she loves all kinds of art – writing, directing, acting, design, photography, dance – and is so glad that she gets to work with all of them (and wonderful artists, too!) as a part of her job. She’s married to Bryan, mom to Elizabeth, Jonathan, and Will, and she’s grateful that they still all make her laugh.