Friday, 27 October 2023 I’m Still a Christian Despite…the Church’s Racism
For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Reflection Despite often having good intentions, racialised injustices and inequalities still occur within churches.
It is clear from Scripture that this aspect of Church life is indefensible. The Church, which originates from God’s own love revealed in Christ, is to reach out in love to all people. Today’s passages remind us of the inter-dependence of all followers of Christ. Though many and varied, we are one body in Christ and, individually, we are members one of another. Put simply: whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. White racism, the belief that people have certain predetermined behaviours, and that white people are somehow superior to black and ethnic minority people, does fundamental harm to this call for oneness.
By opting to become anti-racist, the URC has commenced a long and painful journey due to racism’s insidious complexity. The power of cultural norms and practices that make whiteness appear natural, normal, and right (which sociologists call ‘white normativity’), internalised positive associations with whiteness, and reductive and negative associations with blackness, are the invisible forces that makes the fight against racism so difficult. To become an anti-racist, the URC will need to seek an understanding of white normativity, and how it shapes certain values, attitudes, and behaviour within church life. Understanding the intersectionality of racism with other factors, including structural privilege dictated by class and geographical location will also assist. It will help to frame injustices and inequality in terms of systems, instead of simply individual privilege, and so help promote the engagement of the wider Church in the fight against racism.
The key issues facing humanity, including the environmental crisis, are dependent on how we deal with society’s destructive systems and operations, including systems of racial and social injustice. I remain committed to the Church, and all my fellow Christians, as I believe that as one body in Christ, we have access to the means and tools to overcome the life-draining tyranny of racism and other injustices.
Prayer God of infinite love and grace, help the Church and its people challenge and overcome the sin of racism in all its forms, both individual and systemic. Help us to see the interconnectedness of all people and to understand that the functionality of the Church requires an acceptance of oneness, and the extension of love, respect and equality to all people at all times. We pray for healing and reconciliation between all people.
Muna Levan-Harris is the Legal and Trust Officer for URC Thames North.