Challenges to Racial Integration: Politics (Et Al.)

This is the sixth of a multi-part series on racial integration in the church. Be sure to read the rest of the posts here: #1#2#3#4#5#7.

Politics get in the way of racial integration more often than white evangelicals are willing to admit. Oftentimes, black people feel like whites are insensitive to the privileged position that they enjoy as part of the majority culture. They see whites as blind to systemic racism in America and calloused to the social needs of black Americans. This leads many (though by no means all) African Americans to align with the Democratic Party.

On the other side, white Christian conservatives often feel like the Democratic Party panders to blacks, exploits them, and keeps them dependent on the government to secure their votes. They also have a hard time understanding how African American Christians can ignore social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Many white evangelicals (again, not all) question how anyone could align themselves with a party they see as inherently anti-God.

There isn’t an easy answer to this dilemma, but the discussion needs to happen. The differences in politics are real differences with real consequences, and the road to reconciliation will not happen if we ignore politics. Instead, this is an opportunity for evangelical churches to lead in civil public discourse. It is an opportunity to show the world that as much as we care about politics, we care more about unity in Christ.

Combine politics with cultural preferences, and you have the lion’s share of practical challenges to racial reconciliation. A myriad of other factors could be added. For instance, in some areas, only one racial group predominates. How are you going to have a multi-racial church in an all-white rural Texas town? It may not be impossible, but it will be a distinctly different type of challenge than in most urban areas.

Or consider language. Even if you desire to have a multi-ethnic church, at some point you will have to speak! So what language are you going to use? Most of us think of this pretty rarely, but especially in communities with a lot of Latinos, an English-only church is not very inviting. It can help to have translators available, or to have parts of your service in Spanish. But even this does not completely dissolve the barrier. It is one of the lingering effects of the Babel curse that even our native language tends to divide us.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it intended to be. Ultimately, the largest challenge to reconciliation will always be our sin, though it will manifest itself in different “issues.” That is why beyond merely applying clever methods or avoiding certain mistakes, we must look for a theological solution. Our attempts at overcoming racism and moving towards integration must be founded in the one life-changing and revolutionary power: the gospel.