responding to reacism

Responding to Accusations of Racism: Confessing the Sins of our Fathers (And Our Own)

The news and social media seem to be all about race these days. Comments (not necessarily conversations!) range from criticism of police to criticism of the Black community. And surely there are plenty of reasons to criticize. And notice how it is so easy to identify and name the sins of those who are not us! And when others point out our sins, we tend either to get defensive or tell a story. Neither response gets us to where we need to go!

Pointing out the sins of others (individuals and groups) fails to promote healing and reconciliation. As Jesus calls us, we must start with our own log before removing the speck in the eye of the other (Matthew 7:3f). And our own log exists beyond our own specific misdeeds. We must also acknowledge the ways we have participated in and benefitted from the sins of our “own kind” (culture, ancestors, etc.)

Being Nehemiah

By all accounts, Nehemiah was a godly man. I suspect he was born in captivity and so therefore not culpable for the sins that got Judah carried off to Babylon. He was suffering, a servant to a foreign king). And yet, he was moved to confess the sins of his “ancestors” (v. 1:6) as his own. Later, when Ezra reads the law, Nehemiah and the rest hear it then confess the sins of Israel starting with the failures to obey God in the wilderness (chapter 9). They do not call out the sins of their captors (which are evident) or even their detractors but choose to stay focused on their own failings. Not content just to confess, Nehemiah and the returnees sign a covenant and make promises for specific and objective changed behavior going forward (chapter 10).

How might this apply to our current situation? Can those who are white (no matter the economic class) confess benefits of privilege not available to many of our brothers and sisters of color? Can we do so without deflecting to the flaws and sins of those who respond sinfully to racializations?

Can we acknowledge the massive impact of hundreds of years of discrimination and why it makes sense that resulting poverty, destruction of families, and hopeless still show up today? Can we own our sins with the detail shown us in Nehemiah? Can we covenant to be different? Will we call our families and communities to be different?

Maybe then we might be free to point out the sins of those who are “other.” Until then, let us let the Holy Spirit be the one to teach “them” about following Jesus.


0 # Carine 2014-08-25 23:21
Wow Dr Phil - a small group of church members and I just had a really healthy discussion tonight about race and diversity. And the issue of privilege came up and was discussed at lenght. Thanks for this article. So glad that Christian leaders are starting to speak publicly about it so that it's not just "a black/brown issue."
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0 # Philip Monroe 2014-08-26 10:18
Glad to hear this Carine. It is so difficult but necessary to have these privilege conversations if we are going to really understand "the other"
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0 # Jason Hill 2014-10-14 01:39
Dr. Monroe:
I came across you Musings of a Christian Psychologist blog and wanted to ask you a question. I couldn't figure out how to do so on the blog site so I looked you up here.

I am an active duty Army chaplain with an MDiv and working on my DMin in counseling at Westminster in Philly. I have been studying PTSD in combat vets in an attempt to integrate psychology and the Bible into the development of a treatment approach that I can use and teach to other chaplains.

Throughout the course of my studies I have been more and more intrigued with what I am learning about the psychological side of things and am wondering the steps I would need to take or should take to pursue a career change into the world of full time counseling and/or psychology.

I am an ordained teaching elder in the PCA and realize that leaving full time pastoral ministry may cost me that title but I am really considering if the Lord is leading me into this field. I am 40 years old and am wondering if even making a switch at this point in my life would be detrimental. However, I want to do a thorough investigation in seeking wise counsel in order to see if the Lord is leading in this way.

I am wondering what the path would be in becoming a psychologist? Or should I pursue an MA in mental health counseling and just counsel? Will a DMin suffice or do I need a PhD or PsyD?

I need your wisdom and advice.

I apologize for the lengthily e-mail but look forward to your reply.

Very Respectfully,
Jason Hill
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