“When this country gonna love us?” he asked. “I don’t know, bro,” I said.
– Danté Stewart
We don’t like talking about this subject: white supremacy at church.
As a white person, we don’t usually see white supremacy.
Because we’re white.
If we really want to know if it’s there, we need to ask a Black person instead.
If you don’t know a Black person to ask (or you’re not comfortable doing so), read Danté Stewart’s new book, Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle.
Stewart was a rising Black preacher in a predominantly white space. Until he no longer wanted to be there.
“As I looked around the church, it wasn’t just that I didn’t see people who looked like me. It was that I didn’t see the sadness, the anger, the rage that was crying out in my body. I didn’t see us, I didn’t feel us, I didn’t hear us. We were invisible.”
How can we do better than this? What can we do differently? How can we bring the invisible people out of the shadows?
The first step is to come clean. Get out of denial.
“The message became clearer: White supremacy was still our greatest sin and our deepest delusion.”
Another author, Robert P. Jones, shares 7 things white Christians can do to recognize white supremacy at church.
If you want somewhere to start, choose one of these 7 things. (Read Jones’ whole article here. He’s also written a book, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity; I have not read it yet.)
1. Examine your church building and grounds for ways it communicates whiteness (white Jesus? white Advent characters? only white groups meeting there during the week?)
2. Look at your church website and social media. Does it convey solidarity with Black and Brown people in your community, or just whites?
3. Look at the children’s curriculum. Are the pictures of only white people who lived in Bible times even though they were from the Middle East and Africa?
4. Read your church’s history. Ask questions about why and how it formed.
5. Examine the words of the songs sung during worship. Do they associate white with good and black with bad?
6. Listen to the sermons. Are they silent about issues of racial justice?
7. Look at the church budget. The money follows the heart.
Jones concludes his article with this:
“One sure sign of the continued presence of white supremacy is the outright resistance you will inevitably encounter from some and the protests of discomfort from others. But this is also evidence of the importance of the work.”
I don’t have the answers to solve this problem. But I recognize the importance of the work.
Let’s keep learning. Let’s keep changing.
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My thanks to NetGalley + Convergent Books
for the review copy of Shoutin’ in the Fire
- Stay in the Light to Bloom
- One Word 2021 Linkup for October