Social Issues, Theology

The one sin we can’t fess up to

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For Black History Month, I’m making more of an effort to read books by people of color (something I should be doing more of anyway). In rereading I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown (because it’s just that good), this passage stood out to me:

White people desperately want to believe that only the lonely, isolated “whites only” club members are racist. This is why the word racist offends “nice, white people” so deeply. It challenges their self-identification as good people. Sadly, most white people are more worried about being called racist than whether or not their actions are in fact racist or harmful

I’ve seen this reaction a lot on social media. I can understand the hurt feelings when one’s status as a “good person” is questioned. But I’m confused when I see this reaction from white Christians in particular.

As Christians, our chief identity is no longer “sinner,” but as victors in Christ. At the same time, our salvation and redemption does not mean we stop sinning altogether. I would assume that Christians, more than anybody else, would be intimately familiar with our capacity for evil, whether we’re the ones committing it, enabling it, or turning a blind eye to it.

Most of the time, the consequences of this are not immediately apparent. But if we say or do something to harm a black brother or sister, and they call us out on it, suddenly we are incapable of doing anything wrong. Why? Because our hearts were “in the right place” (that, and we have plenty of black friends, so we can’t possibly be racist).

But Christians, more than anybody else, should know how easily our hearts can be deceived. The “intent of our hearts” is, many times, part of the problem. It requires a lot more than good intentions to actually BE good, but if you follow Christ, then you know this is not possible to do on our own.

So why are so many white Christians mortally offended at being called racist? Why are we so quick to condemn our black siblings in Christ for being “angry” rather than praying about our own blind spots? We believe in confessing our sins, but for many of us, naming the sins that stem from ignorance, a lack of self-awareness, and of benefiting from a system built on prejudice go unnamed.

As a white Christian, recognizing those sins deeply embedded in my own heart is just one way I am trying to do better in 2020.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

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