Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why We Can't All Just Get Along

Martin Luther King, Jr. lamented, “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning.”

This remains true nearly 50 years later. One reason for the racial divide in America is due to self-segregation. An article in The Atlantic reported that 75% of white Americans have entirely white social networks. On the other hand, 65% of black Americans have entirely black social networks. In our era of desegregation, equal opportunity and a dark-skinned President, we still choose to separate ourselves by race.

The church, to whom God has entrusted the ministry of reconciliation, may be the chief offender in this area. Self-segregation is actually taught in church growth seminars. The father of the church growth movement, Donald McGavran, called it “the homogenous church growth principle.” He taught that people are most comfortable in a church where they don't have to cross racial, linguistic or class barriers. This has led to rapid growth of first generation churches but has failed to address the racial divide that is hurting our nation.

The Multiracial Congregations Project found that 92% of American churches are predominantly mono-cultural (with 80% or more of its members representing one race). The usual explanation for self-segregation in the church has to do with worship style but that is a thin excuse. The Project found that Catholic churches, which are more likely to be multiracial than Protestants, had little socialization and interaction between ethnic groups.

This racial divide causes blacks and whites to view the causes and cures for racial inequality differently. It fosters distrust and denial and stifles meaningful dialog.

The church is God’s answer to racial and ethnic strife. It is to be an agent of healing and a witness to the world. The church was born in the multicultural milieu of Jerusalem where God-fearing Jews of many nations heard Peter’s message, each in his own native language. (Acts 2)

Christian radio preacher, Tony Evans, says, “It is especially critical during these days of tension and uncertainty that we in the body of Christ intentionally seek to bridge that gap.”

He admonishes us to work together so that greater manifestations of God's Kingdom will be experienced in our churches and our nation. “Pray that the differences endowed upon us by our Creator will not divide us, but rather in embracing them, they will highlight Almighty God’s ability to use diversity for His glory and our good,” said Evans.

It is time to for Americans who are followers of Jesus Christ to reach out to one another past personal preferences, past hidden racial bias, past fear, past anger, and past whatever excuse fits the moment. A nation where racial inequality exists (for whatever reason) cannot be one nation under God.

The underlying problem is sin and the ultimate solution is Jesus. Racial bias and all types of inequality demonstrates an absence of love. It is an issue that Christians of all ethnicities from the entire social-economic spectrum must address together.

First, we must fellowship; we must share meals; we must work together on projects of mutual interest. Then, we talk about deeper issues as friends, as true brothers and sisters in Christ.