Racism in the Church
Since I am a half White and half Mexican, but mostly look White, I had never really noticed racism amongst churches before. I always looked at the pastoral staff and found someone who looked like me, talked like me, and didn’t ever begin to question it. Even the congregation was full of people who looked like me and spoke like me. I was around my own culture all the time, and I had failed to look beyond it. I have come to realize in visiting other churches that minorities aren’t equally represented in the realms of the church. The pastors that are well-known are predominantly White males. There is nothing wrong with White males, the problem is that they don’t represent the diversity in our world today. If I am being honest, the first thing that comes to my mind when someone says they are a pastor, is that they are probably a white male. But that isn’t true. Pastors can be any race and gender, but for some reason when I look at certain churches, the person that represents them is a White male. If our church can’t actively represent the diversity in God’s creation, then how are we really sharing the gospel? We are missing something when we fail at being racially diverse. All cultures are important, and need to be fully represented within our churches.
I began to realize racism existed in churches when I took a Race and Ethnicity class at Biola University. Each person in the class had to present a topic to all of us. One of my classmates decided to look at the authors of every book from every Bible class he had ever taken. Every single author was a white, older, male. No women, or other races. It was as if Christianity depended on being shared from a White man's perspective. The issue with this is that we can learn so much from other cultures and perspectives. Yes, we are all one body, and believe in the same God, but hearing the gospel preached from a different culture can bring in so many new ideas and thoughts. I realized that there was a lack of diversity at the church I had grown up in. Because of this, I realized that I had begun to create my own “Christianity goggles” if you will, and I began to see Christianity only preached from a White man’s perspective. Again, let me say, that there is nothing wrong with White male preachers, it simply shouldn’t be the only thing we see.
A church that is actively pursuing racial diversity, is showing other Christians how important all cultures and viewpoints are. Without racial diversity, we are actually missing out on the fullness of God. I’m not just talking about the people on staff; racial diversity should be active in the congregation. We miss out when we aren’t interacting, bonding, and sharing life with people who are different from us. Sometimes we don’t even know we are living with “White Christianity goggles” but we are. For years, I didn’t even realize it. I had no idea that I had been missing out on a a big part of Christianity.
Jesus talks a lot about loving those that have different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. The church should be the place where all of this is occurring, yet so often it is the place where we exclude ourselves the most. I realized this when I started attending the church I am a part of now. 6 years ago, they put on an Easter production and the person who played Jesus was Black. My whole family and I got in the car and discussed how cool, yet foreign this was to us. Looking back on that memory and all of the things that I have learned this year, shows me something. It was foreign to us, because to us Jesus had always been white. In every play, picture and interpretation, he was a White male. For the first time, I saw Jesus as a Black man, and it was beautiful. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I felt like I had failed to see the truest gospel. Jesus doesn’t have to be portrayed as a White man to be Jesus. He is in creation, and it made the message so much more real to me that day. I guarantee I am not the only one who was surprised to see and hear about a Black Jesus. Maybe while reading this, you too, were surprised. That’s the problem here. We are surprised when we see other cultures represented because it is so rare in our churches today, but it shouldn’t be.
Let’s move forward. Now that you are the least bit aware that racism is real within the realms of church, do something about it. Go visit a church that is an entirely different culture. Invite friends to church, who are different from you. Maybe even talk to your Pastor about hiring different cultures or bringing in different speakers who can speak and share from their culture. The truest gospel, is showing the love of Jesus to ALL. Jesus didn’t just die for the White male, he died for ALL of us. So, engage with people who think differently, talk differently, and look differently. It is a beautiful thing when the body of Christ represents the diversity of the world. We are all one body, and we need to start acting like one.