How to Minimize Black People and Hinder the Spread of the Gospel

As a person of color living, serving, and leading inside and outside the body of Christ, I am deeply wounded by the responses I’ve received—particularly from fellow gospel workers—to my grief over the gross injustices perpetrated against ethnic minorities. I’ve heard that “we’re already doing so much” or, even more offensive, that “this isn’t central to the gospel.” God deeply loves and values all people, but this truth is not being communicated, and it’s this disconnect that grieves my soul.

Black people are in pain. We are sad. We are weary from the constant threat of ostracism and unwarranted violence in communities of color. But because mass media perpetuates polarization and fosters fear, and because our pastors and leaders follow comfort, power, and money instead of the crucified and risen King, conversations about our pain, sadness, and weariness turn instead to logistics, priorities, and the allocation of resources.

It is excruciating to have my pain turned into an undone task on a to-do list, slide off an agenda, and be left out of a strategic plan. Somehow, modeling reconciliation for students, faculty, congregants, and non-believers is seen as superfluous compared to the more integral parts of following Jesus like prayer, studying the Bible, and evangelism. But reconciliation and biblical justice must be central to our Christian witness because the gospel of which we are called to bear witness is the only cure for racism and injustice.

When systemic racial issues arise, how quickly I am turned from an individual into an issue and my pain and needs put to a vote as part of a proposal which meets the three criteria for effective evangelism. I am not a ministry goal and my people are not a project. I desire to be seen and heard, and my pain felt. Instead, my pain and I have been explained away to maintain comfort, order, and the status quo for those in power.

But if you want to hinder the spread of the gospel by minimizing the significance of my ethnic identity, here’s how it works:

  1. The next time (God forbid) another unarmed Black man is killed by police (or a Black church is burned, or an ignorant statement is made by a peer or leader, or…), don’t let your first response be that of empathy or compassion.
  2. Respond instead with apathy or animosity, which will undoubtedly make me feel invisible and hurt. My pain will be minimized and my perspective dismissed.
  3. Naturally, I will then feel unsafe sharing my whole self with you. I’ll begin to change my posture toward you. I’ll stop sharing honestly and openly.
  4. It’s important to keep acting this way. Repenting, confessing, asking for forgiveness, and the like will only serve to reverse the trend. Instead, allow the insensitivity to continue unchecked; I will close off more and more.
  5. To protect myself and others from the same pain and frustration, I will share my experience with my community and let them know they won’t be heard by you.
  6. As this narrative runs its course, the love to which we are made to bear witness will be drowned out by division and discord.

Fortunately, when Eric Garner was killed in New York City, the above narrative did not have the opportunity to run its course. Three senior leaders in InterVarsity modeled what it looks like to be sensitive to the four Black male staff in my area. Space was made for us to share and be heard—not fixed, redirected, or given tissues as we cried. We were listened to by our multiethnic staff team. One of the leaders checked in with me daily. I had the sacred space to feel pain and then propose changes that were integrated into our ministry in the winter and spring. For the first time in my life, I was seen for all of the gifts I have and the burdens I carry. I was seen and heard by those who worked alongside me.

For the first time in my life, I was seen for all of the gifts I have and the burdens I carry. I was seen and heard by those who worked alongside me.

I believe it is the chief work of ministers of the gospel of Christ to do evangelism daily, reflect shalom, and in word and deed invite others to confess sin and follow Jesus by modeling a surrendered life daily. I am on staff with InterVarsity and long to see students of every ethnicity, race, and culture grow in love for God, God’s Word, and all people. I am deeply committed to the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us by Jesus, and I am deeply grateful that I serve on a team that wants the same thing.

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Comments

I think every Caucasian in America should read this. One of the things I do in the ministry is racial reconciliation. Unfortunately, many White Americans don't think racism exists. Many of them don't believe that White privlege exists.

Convoluted, surface, subjective, legalistic. The logic is flawed and the theology is worse. There are writings that are actually thought through that would better serve every Caucasian in America (and Black, Asian, African, Hispanic, etc) in approaching the sensitive issues surrounding racial reconciliation and the church's role in it. While I sincerely appreciate Mr. Walton sharing his personal experiences and his grief about racial brokenness, I don't find the string of sound bites or the sarcastic "what not to do" approach helpful in understanding the extent to which personal interactions generate systemic change or what the universal church's response should be. I do agree that this is a "gospel issue." The gospel should be preached, the word should go forth and racism should be called out and condemned from every pulpit. AND as the Holy Spirit works in his people progressively, and as they sin and fall in their desire and ability to empathize, grace and forgiveness should also be demanded of all, including, no, especially those who hurt. That's gospel.

Thanks, Anonymous, for your words. Could you connect us to the other writings you mention? I at least would be very interested in looking into those.

Hi kbullis, I don't claim to be an expert in this area, but I will try to offer a few suggestions. For framing the problem, establishing a biblical basis for how to think about racial reconciliation, and practical suggestions for moving forward, you could start with Jarvis Williams' One New Man. He points out that in Christ, we are one new race, members of each other. I don't see this spirit in Mr. Walton's article. I see an approach that makes the "victim" the measure of all solutions. In his tone, I also sense some bullying in place of scriptural argumentation or gracious pleading with those who haven't arrived at his conclusions or experienced his personal pain. This, I would think, could alienate white people who may sincerely want to enter the discussion, or who may need to be brought in slowly. Not framing a well processed argument, or pointing us toward one, is scary as Mr. Walton is engaging young minds. I feel strongly that the approach he takes above could result in alienation, more questions, self-fulfilling prophecies, division, and heartache for some who want real answers on either "side" of this issue. For articles on unfolding events, their impact on the church, and possible responses from the church, the blogs associated with 9marks, gospel coalition and desiring god may be helpful. Thank you for asking. K. DonTyler (Anonymous)

Grace and forgiveness is demanded,and given. Especially from those that hurt. But what of apology from those that did the hurting,and change from those that carry the torch of oppression onward? The Hurters are merely gone, we won't get that. Justice works two ways, and all white people systematically demand that we skip 1-change and apology,and jump right to two-forgiveness and grace(forgive and forget you are still being done wrong.)as well as realizing that black people (African Americans born here) should be the richest and most powerful people on the planet ,just from what we've been through alone. Not being insulted on top of injured,then forced to deny what happened even to us now,not just our grandparents and ancestors. This is a country that polices other countries,but will not solve the problems of slavery even 500 years later,and this is why america has hijacked the greatest country title,and everyday, new immigrants find out the startling truth,before they are amazingly treated better than blacks.But when we do exactly as whites have done,take over a country and minimalize the people already there, then decide who can and can't come here,while forcing others to enslavement,then we will have your full respect, and don't half to disappear under your cloak of cowardice,reading the book that Jesus said never to change,so you change his olive color(black ,not green.) And,until you take white responsibility for the actions whites have done and still continue to do, don't expect blacks to take responsibility. As a matter of fact, in order for us to become universal,our responsibility must be to produce justice. That is the only way we are ever lazy, because we are killed anytime whites get an inkling of us trying, so we half to look as if we are only hurt,or don't care. This makes every white person in our circle an agent,squealing on us to a more powerful white anytime we want justice. Consider this the voice of every black pastor, imam, and every black on the face of this earth. And when you look at us,don't pity. Feel guilty. Every crime committed by a black was installed by a white. Like a baby,they started from early,early slavery. Black women saw their protectors ripped in half by the 4 horses and horsemen, and are now crazy. Black men don't have power enough in the u.s to fight the oppressor, so they fight each other out of frustration and lack of knowledge. Understanding supremacy vs everything you know or was ever taught will just confuse you,that's why you all ask a lot of questions when we bring it up,because you know that's what trips us up. Its not a secret hidden in plain sight anymore,all blacks know it and see it. We can hang our coat on it. Look how patient we have been. What you see is us getting frustrated because like for example if your father owed me money,but you want to keep coming around me flashing money your father gave you,even take my son to the icecream truck and by him an icecream, and your father owes me a heck of a lot of money,you demand that I not bring it up, when if the shoe was on the other foot, you would no longer be allowed to play with my child,and your father would see me in his representative government court. And admit it, whites hate the presence of a black president, and demand that we not use our brains when we see and hear their open discrimination. Finally,we still don't know for sure where we come from. Is real,Egypt,Sudan,west Africa,all we know is that Jesus was black,and whites did us a great injustice,and the tribes those occupied white faces symbolize are still black outside the cameras. Gentrification, everything a system to benefit only you,and what are we?

Thanks for your comment "anonymous". I appreciate your thought and want to suggest that every article or post is not made to communicate all things at all times. It would be very helpful for me to know exactly what lines or trains of thought were "convoluted" to you. Additionally, some of the articles that you point to for resources have been sources of some pain and alienation. Arguments like, "All lives matter" and "it's a sin issue, not a skin issue" are common sound bites propagated by those you suggested which are hurtful, not gospel centered and further minimize already marginalized people and follow the narrative that I shared in this piece. Lastly, I would like to know why it is "scary" to you and where you feel "alienated" by this piece. That would further help me understand where you're coming from. Thanks!

Thanks. Great article, will share with my fellowship. It can be discouraging to share your thoughts like this but just know it is appreciated.

Is there something wrong with posting "anonymously"? I know it can be frustrating when you can't Google a name to see who you're talking to, what color they are, where they went to school, or of they are worth a response. But thank you for responding. I am willing to discuss this further and explain again what I find convoluted and scary. But first, would you be willing to show me exactly where the resources I listed (in response to kbullis, as an act of fair play) make the " all lives matter" and "sin vs skin" arguments in context? If you could also demonstrate how the sources I sited are not gospel centered, I would be more than happy to rethink them. Again, I'm willing to clarify and expand anything I've written. If you give specific citations of "further marginalization" from my sources, we can move some of the discussion in that direction. Thank you.

Happy to dialogue! 1. Posting anonymously allows us to do and say things we wouldn't normally do and say. It's what the internet allows us to do. Personally, that's why I have a problem with it. It's why I believe comments can turn into cesspools of invisible people hurling arguments instead of building genuine relationships. 2. I have not read the book that you cite but the idea what we are "One Race" is contrary to Revelation 7 where "every tribe, tongue, and nation" will worship. We may be one new family, adopted in via the blood of Christ but on this side of Glory and the next, race, nation and ethnicity surely exist. 3. On a different note, what I don't believe from your communication is that you're willing to engage with this on a non-intellectual level. This is not an argument or something that you'll grasp because the pieces clasp together. It is the revelation of God that we are all created in His image and when we disregard the pain of another, we crush the image of God within them. This is not primarily a piece about "agreeing" with everything, this is about the pain of another part of the body of Christ being acknowledged by another part of the body. I pray that you are able to enter into genuine conversations with marginalized people, ask questions, listen and enter into their pain and suffering without needing to be convinced of their sincerity or validity in your daily life.

Daniel 10:6, Deut 28, Christ is black my brother. The Hispanics, So called Negroes and American Indians are from the 12 tribes of Israel. Look into it.

I appreciate your courage and honesty, Jonathan. I've seen my brothers and sisters hurt by such minimizing responses in the past, and I'm grateful that you are speaking into this.

Thank you Jonathan for sharing. These words are so powerful and necessary to think about how the Church continues to sideline issues that should be paramount: grief, pain, fear. I think we are guilty of one of the greatest coping mechanisms that exists: intellectualizing. As white people faced with injustice and hurt, we don't want to feel those emotions and we turn away from the pain of our brothers and sister lest we might feel some guilt or anger or shame (all things needed on the road to reconciliation). We perpetuate these problems when we try to make people not human but "arguments" and "issues" and "theology." We should all be called in to this deeper, difficult work of the gospel: the work that says maybe we don't have all the answers or understand all the things. By doing this, we will feel hurt and pain and shame as well. And we should. Maybe we HAVE to listen and be broken to be whole again. This is indeed difficult work: to turn off the need to intellectualize and debate and "project", and actually allow space to feel and listen and be broken. It is our liberation as well. God's greater dream for His people and His church is this: a step back from our defense mechanisms and a real reconciliation with the radical love Christ calls us to give.

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