Celebrating Black History?

Why would a White man write an article celebrating Black History?

...thats a fair question, but I think the answer is obvious enough.  A better question, however, is why would anyone want to read an article from a White man celebrating Black History?

Hopefully that question is answered in the next paragraphs.

Permit me an observation.  Some of the most articulate African-American voices I interact with are often given a platform to speak to White people about issues of race and racial reconciliation.  White culture, and in particular, White Christian culture, is coming to terms with the fact that the gospel demands that we share meals with Christians of every cultural background (see Galatians 2).  In light of this, articulate African American voices are sought after by some White Christians...  but those voices are quite often only invited to speak about one thing: race and racial reconciliation.

The White Church will have a panel discussion around issues of race, and invite a multi-cultural group to speak, or will have an event focused on the issue and invite an African-American scholar to present some ideas the topic.  In and of itself, this is a good thing.  We need people of all cultures speaking to the issue of a reconciled and reconciling church.  In particular we need the voices of the Black community to share their perspectives and their pain regarding the racial history of our world and the Church.  The problem lies, however, in the fact that this is often the only space where White Christians are willing and able to hear Black voices.

Back to Galatians.

Paul's argument is not that Jews and Gentiles must resolve past hurts for the sake of the gospel, but rather, that Jews and Gentiles must eat together for the sake of the gospel!  Indeed, the entire point of resolving past hurts is precisely so that we can enjoy fellowship in Christ!

What this means to me is that, while it is indeed vitally important for me to hear Black voices explain the history of race from Black perspectives, it is equally, if not more important, for me to hear Black voices speaking about worship, poverty, Christology, prayer, Ecclesiology, discipleship, addiction, Missiology, evangelism, technology, leadership, business, philosophy of ministry, socio-economics, etc. from Black perspectives!

The Church needs the wisdom of the Black community's voice, not just on issues of race and racial reconciliation (although this is one of the great gems that the Black community has to offer the global church!), but on all issues.  The Body of Christ needs every member healthy and fully engaged for us to be healthy as a whole.  If we belong to Christ, then we belong to each other.  While this must be asserted when one part is suffering, it should also be asserted when there is no suffering!  Should we only give attention to our hands when they are injured, or might we consider using them for work, and play, and art when they are healthy as well!

So... back to the question at the top; why would anyone read an article celebrating Black History that is written by a White man?

Simply put, if we are to ask for the African-American voice to speak to every facet of life in God's good creation, then we ought to expect to hear the White voice speak to issues of race and reconciliation.  If I have asked African-Americans to speak about the breadth and depth of life and ministry, then perhaps I ought to speak to the issue of race and reconciliation.

Admittedly, this article has not actually been much of a 'celebration' of Black History or Black culture, so much as a push in the direction a multi-cultural future!  So I will end with a few practical thoughts that might help:

1) Recognize our failure at a multicultural church as a failure at believing the gospel (Galatians 2:14); as a failure at Christian maturity.  We must begin to talk like this and think like this.  "I won't eat at the table with 'them' because I won't trust in the power and truth of the gospel."

2) Start with eating together with those different from you.  Jesus scandalized his contemporaries precisely by who he chose to eat with.  This is because table fellowship builds intimacy.  Let us learn to eat the bountifully diverse fare of the Lord's Wedding Feast!

3) Look for collaborative projects with Christians of different cultures and traditions.  The word conspiracy literally means "to share breath with another."  This is the definition of intimacy.  Let us find conspirators amongst Christians of all cultures!

4) Move towards giving away control, power, and influence.  This means you will get things that you dislike and disagree with.  Do so anyway, for the sake of the gospel.

5) Be true to who you are in Christ, don't hide yourself or pretend to be something you are not.  But be humble and accept others as they are in Christ, allow them the same luxury to be themselves!

6) Expect this to be a painful process.  Don't be afraid to communicate your pain, but be even more attentive to the pain of others!  Think of it like a poodle dating a gorilla, it surely requires a great degree of sensitivity and creativity!

No comments: