Lamentation, Repentance, Dissent – Baptist News Global
White supremacy is the mistaken belief that white people are superior to people of other races or ethnicities and should possess power and control in all areas of life.
In fact, “race” was socially constructed centuries ago to ensure white dominance. Today, white supremacist structures remain deeply entrenched in America.
White Christians are in the best position to oppose the sinful ideology and practices of white supremacy. After all, the myth of white supremacy has been embraced by many white people, to their advantage. Additionally, given the power dynamics that exist in society, white Christians have a unique role to play in dismantling white supremacy.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vanity, but in humility regard others as more important than yourself. Everyone should not care about their own interests, but rather about the interests of others. When it comes to white supremacy, white Christians must willfully look to the interests of their brothers and sisters of color.
Here are three specific things white Christians can do to oppose white supremacy:
To lament is to express grief, grief, disappointment or mourning. There are many biblical examples of lamentation. In the Bible, lamentation is often presented as a form of worship practiced collectively by God’s people, through which they share in God’s grief for sin. Throughout American history, white supremacy has given people of color a lot to cry about. In responding to Jesus’ call to love one’s neighbor, white Christians must join in the lamentations of people of color. Romans 12:15 tells us, “Weep with those who mourn.
“White Christians must come alongside their brothers and sisters of color and strive to see and feel the effects of white supremacy.”
Empathy is essential to lamentation. White Christians must go with their brothers and sisters of color and strive to see and feel the effects of white supremacy. A practical way to do this is to set aside space for people of color during times of corporate worship. Pastors and ministry leaders in predominantly white contexts should provide opportunities for people of color to publicly share their experiences, as well as offer guidance on how their faith communities can best support them. Centering people of color communicates the idea that they are no less valued than the white majority.
The real lament involves white Christians openly acknowledging how wronged people of color have been by white supremacy. A tendency exists on the part of many white Christians to downplay or rationalize behaviors rooted in white supremacy. Instead of being defensive, white Christians need to focus on actively listening to people of color as they recount their experiences with white supremacy. Rather than accusing people of color of “playing the race card,” white Christians should show them deference, sincerely seeking to grow in understanding.
Many white Christians are quick to say, “I’m not a racist,” without engaging in any soul-searching. But white supremacy is so pervasive that it’s impossible for white Christians not to be affected by it in some way. As white Christians identify in themselves aspects of racism and white supremacy, they must repent. Basically, biblical repentance requires a change in thinking.
Romans 12:2 mentions the “renewal” of the spirit. Repentance involves renewing the mind to align with the will of God.
White supremacist views, as innocuous as some of them may seem, are contrary to the will of God. Romans 12:3 says, “Do not esteem yourself higher than you should”.
“A changed mind is the garden where a change in behavior blooms.”
A changed mind is the garden where a change in behavior blooms. That said, such repentance does not occur in isolation, it occurs within a community where there is loving responsibility.
Given this, white Christians should humbly submit to the advice of their brothers and sisters of color regarding white supremacy. Christians of color know all too well what white supremacy looks like. Therefore, they can draw the attention of white Christians to any blind spots they may have in this area.
White Christians can engage in repentance by exposing themselves to writings and scholarly materials that address the subject of white supremacy. They should intend to listen to voices outside their “tribe” instead of relying on voices that confirm their biases and keep them in their comfort zone.
A major aspect of repentance, as revealed in the scriptures, is restitution. Restitution involves restoring something lost or stolen. Second Samuel 21 provides biblical precedent for restitution. In this passage, God asked David to make amends for Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites. Although David was not personally responsible for Saul’s sin, he still reaped the benefits of that sin. Therefore, it fell to David to make things right with those who had been mistreated.
The concept of repair is closely linked to that of restitution: restoring what has been damaged to good condition. Throughout the history of American Christianity, much has been taken from people of color in the name of Christ. What was taken includes money, material goods, labor, land and, in the case of Native Americans, their children.
Damage continues to be done to people of color due to the pervasive presence of white supremacy. The damage is extensive and multi-generational, and also includes psychological trauma. Wherever damage has been caused, restitution and repair are necessary.
“Wherever damage has been done, restitution and reparation are needed.”
Today, a plethora of white-run Christian institutions continue to benefit from the seeds of white supremacy planted long ago. These institutions include churches, seminaries, and entire denominations. In accordance with the precepts and principles of Scripture, these institutions rightfully owe reparations to people of color. In the book Reparations: A Christian Call to Repentance and Reparationco-authors Duke Kwon and Gregory Thompson say reparations are about “truth, wealth and power.”
There are several ways to pay for repairs. For example, white-run Christian institutions could invest funds in African-American-run Christian institutions to facilitate their operations, and there are many non-monetary means by which reparations could be paid. It costs nothing for a white-run Christian entity named after an unrepentant slave owner to change its name to symbolize institutional repentance.
White Christians must voice their disagreement with white supremacy. This requires calling him by his name. White Christians can do this in their families, friendship circles, workplaces, and religious communities. They can also express their dissent at demonstrations and public demonstrations. White Christians should act to oppose all policies and practices that threaten the flourishing of communities of color.
“Apathy is the enemy of dissent; it allows white Christians to remain silent about white supremacy.
Apathy is the enemy of dissent; it allows white Christians to remain silent about white supremacy. After the killings of the “Emanuel 9,” Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, the most prominent white Christian leaders have said nothing about the role white supremacy played in those deaths. Sadly, many have kept silent about the massacre of black bodies in Buffalo, NY by a white supremacist.
The silence of white Christian leaders in the face of white supremacy makes them complicit in its perpetuation. Such silence shows complete disregard for the imago Dei (“image of God”) in people of color. Essentially, silence sends a deafening message: “You don’t matter to us! »
White Christians can no longer let the gross evil of white supremacy oppose primarily people of color. It’s not a “black problem”, it’s a human problem. White supremacy must be fought by any true follower of Christ, as it negatively impacts all image bearers, regardless of background. White supremacy even has a detrimental impact on those who perpetuate it.
Beware, anyone who takes a stand against white supremacy will be criticized, marginalized and rejected. They will be mislabeled and misunderstood, even by their loved ones. Some who take a stand will lose friends, connections, positions and even income. Nevertheless, Jesus’ words are just as true today as when he first spoke them: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Joel A. Bowman Sr. is a Detroit native and is the founder and senior pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky. He also maintains a practice as a licensed clinical social worker with nearly 30 years of experience in the field of Mental Health. His commentaries and poems have been printed in numerous publications. Joel and his wife, Nannette, have three children, Kayla, Katie and Joel Jr. Follow him on Twitter @JoelABowmanSr.
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