I recently read a book that encourages readers to think about the present as if it were the past. The premise has proven helpful as a thought experiment. To give just one example, it's simple now to look back at Germany in 1933-1939 and wonder why more good people didn't stand against Nazification. When we wonder such things, perhaps we forget how difficult it is to effect large-scale change as an individual.
Then we turn on the news, and we remember.
Lately, the news has been nothing but a nonstop juggernaut of awfulness. Aside from political and international concerns, here in the U.S. a sudden uptick in police shootings against unarmed black men has led to cultural upheaval and, in extreme cases of backlash, the execution-style killings of police officers.
Yes, our country was founded on principles of deep racial inequality, the aftershocks of which persist through this day. The magnitude of the problem feels paralyzing. It's hard, as an individual, to know what I can do to address such large-scale issues.
Unfortunately, from the outside, that paralysis can look like apathy.
I'm not apathetic about this, but I'll admit that for many years, I have been passive. I thought it was enough just not to be a racist. Although the analogy is not perfect, this could be likened to the German citizens of 1933-1939 thinking it was enough just not to be a Nazi.
If we were to consider the present as if it were the past and look at this season through the eyes of our children's children, what questions would we find them posing? Would they wonder why more people didn't actively effect positive change?
Passiveness does not effect change. The opposite of racism, therefore, is not passiveness.
For four good points on active places to start, I defer to Trevor Atwood of City Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee:
1) Pray. Pray for hurting families of victims. Pray for police officers. Pray for God to open up your eyes to injustice and to beg him to take away your hard heart.2) Weep with those who weep. If you are numb to this, then find someone who isn’t and have a conversation.3) [Put] yourself out of your comfort zone to start a relationship with someone of [another] race. Its hard to stereotype and hate when you know someone by name and you know their story. Start [in your] church. Start in your neighborhood. When is the last time someone of a different race or culture was around your dinner table?4) Stop talking about this on Facebook and start talking about it at your home. If you have posted about this on social media but haven’t brought your kids into the conversation, see if your priorities are more about preaching to our culture than showing the next generation the beauty God has created in our diversity.
To that list, I would add three more points:
5) Attend an ethnically-diverse church. A church should be a reflection of its community. If you live in a diverse area but attend a monoethnic church, you're cut off from the full Body of Christ. (This is also true if you're a minority who attends a monoethnic minority church.) If your area does not have a single multiethnic fellowship, ask yourself why. If you're already rooted in a monoethnic church, pray for grace to effect change from the inside out.
6) Actively and vocally condemn all forms of racism as anti-gospel. Throughout American history, self-proclaimed "Christians" have actively participated in racist speech and actions while misappropriating Scripture to defend their sin. This is heretical to the true gospel of Christ and should be condemned as such.
7) Pay heed to your ministry. In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds believers that we have been charged with the ministry of reconciliation. As the Holy Spirit uses our gospel witness to draw people to Christ, their lives (and ours) are progressively changed from the inside out. When women and men are reconciled to God, they also become reconciled to one another. Therefore, we are charged not only with participating in the reconciliation of the world to Christ but also in the reconciliation of brothers and sisters in Christ to one another.
That would include racial reconciliation.
If we can't show the world what that looks like, we're not really Christ's church.
From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:16-21, emphasis mine).