Lately, our society has witnessed increased attention and concern for matters of racial justice. Of course, as Christians, the equitable treatment of others aligns with our deepest moral convictions. However, many in society, including some Christians, have raised an alarm around this racial reckoning. Other Christians experience frustration or despair, interpreting this reaction as an attempt to hijack and derail progress on race. Where are Christians to begin when so many are given over to hysteria, hostility, and apathy? And how might the Bible and a Christian worldview lead us to a better alternative–namely, racial solidarity?
The following is a list of discussion questions composed for a CrossWay Community Church small group, Christ & Culture, for use throughout February 2019.
Defining terms (my best attempt):
Race– A grouping of persons which is (1) socially classified and perceived by certain select physical characteristics, (2) conceived of as an entity distinct from other groups of the same sort, and (3) viewed as an identity which is inherited and passed down generationally (note: a uniquely U.S. conception of race).
Racism– Prejudice, partiality, or mistreatment of another individual or group of people based on their race.
Racialization– The condition of a society in which significant disparities exist along racial lines wherein race matters profoundly with respect to life experiences such as relationships, opportunities, advantages/disadvantages, and outcomes.
What does the Bible have to say about race? Does it? Racism? How does it apply to racism?
What might the Bible have to say about how we evaluate the concept and proposal of the existence of systemic racism (raised below)?
How does Christ and the gospel in particular provide a solution to racism and racialization?
Ideological & social-cultural analysis:
What is racism? Racialization? What’s the difference?
Does racism exist today?
Is our society racialized?
Does systemic (or structural) racism exist? What is it?
Is “white privilege” real? If so, what does it mean?
What is “reverse racism”? Is it a reality?
Is there a danger of emphasizing race or racism too little or too much?
What’s wrong with racial segregation? Is there a problem with it?
Intersections: How does race relate to the following subjects in our current dialogue, and how do we evaluate these connections / intersections?
Evaluating expressions of activism:
How do we evaluate current movements attempting to curtail or shed light on what they perceive to be racial injustice?
What do we make of contemporary activist movements such as #BlackLivesMatter? What’s good in them? What’s less than desirable, or faulty? (Or, likewise, seeming counter-movements such as #BlueLivesMatter?)
Ecclesiology & missiology:
What is the church’s role in fighting racialized- (or race-related) injustice?
What is the church’s role, or what should the church be doing, to help address racialization or race-related disparities and/or injustice?
Is there something wrong, or unhealthy, with an ethnically homogeneous church? If so, what can / should we do about it?
What does it look like to model racial unity in the church?
How does the church’s response to race and racial tensions relate to its witness?
Contextualization & application:
What issues does our particular setting/context (i.e., Milwaukee) pose with regards to issues related to race and racialization?
What can we do to be agents of change / difference-makers / “Christian neighbor-lovers” with respect to race-related issues — in our immediate context, or more broadly?
How can I resist and/or help change systems or realities that privilege me and disadvantage or discriminate against others?
How can I better listen to and understand those with different experiences than me on account of race?
Do I harbor any known or unknown racial prejudice or bias?
Thesis – “The experience of poor, inner-city blacks represent the influences of more than just race.” Their responses and situation “stem from the linkage between new structural realities, changing norms, and evolving cultural patterns.” (pg. 131)
Wilson’s critique – The politically liberal tend to focus on structural realities to the neglect of cultural realities. Arguments based on culture tend to be taboo for them. The politically conservative tend to focus on individual responsibility and cultural realities to the neglect of prevailing structural realities built into America’s history of racial tension and segregation. Both of these approaches are inadequate.
Wilson’s assessment – Wilson addresses both structural and cultural realities and discusses the relationship between the two as he seeks to assess the situation of the inner-city poor black community in America. On structural realities relationship to culture, he states, “Culture mediates the impact of structural forces such as racial segregation and poverty.” (pg. 133) And on cultures relationship to structural realities, he states, “The behavior generated by these autonomous cultural forces often reinforces the very conditions that have emerged from structural inequities.” (pg. 134)