Race Conversations are Deadlocked. Here’s Why That’s Good for Christianity (and the World).

I had the day off this 4th of July and was able to do anything I wanted with my freedom.

I ended up wasting hours perusing Twitter. It’s what Ben Franklin would have wanted.

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But this perusal unearthed some lingering frustration within me.  It started with Lecrae’s controversial tweet.

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And then Alton Sterling was shot. Then Philando Castile. Then police officers in Dallas.

I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time reading Twitter comments in the wake of this week’s events, and as I continued to read I realized how frustrated I have been with race rhetoric.

I’m not frustrated because race is being talked about, even though I do identify with the very unpopular white middle class cisgender college graduate suburban males. (I’m not even Irish, so my “historically disadvantaged people group” batting average is .000).

No, my frustration was over the fact that a deadlock has been reached.

This deadlock has arisen because, oddly enough, the race conversations are filled with nothing but conversation stopping arguments. The responses to the deaths this week reinforced that conclusion. (Yes, I’m basing this on Twitter. And yes, I agree that Twitter is littered with nasty little self-appointed socio-historical experts who can’t spell. But regardless, Twitter represents the zeitgeist). The slogans and hashtags represent the prevailing thought patterns, which boil down to these general viewpoints:

“Historically oppressed people groups still face the ripple effects of the past. Racism continues because the system has not been corrected.”

Or

“Society is not to blame. Everyone is responsible for their own actions.”

Or

“I have nothing to contribute but feel the deep need to share a thought anyway so can we not make this about race?”

Race dodgers aside, the two warring ideologies aren’t budging. It’s not because US history is oversimplified when it’s convenient. Both sides do that. It’s also not that tragedies are pounced on for political narratives before all the details are known. Both sides do that, too.

The fact is that the facts are not the problem.

So while I was horizontal on the couch ignoring Ben Franklin’s disappointed ghost I realized that the current dialogue is futile because both sides are right.

Systemic injustice does exist, and certain racial groups are not playing on an even field. They won’t be without a correction to the socioeconomic arena.

Yet everyone is personally responsible for their actions. No society can function when people are blamed for something their general ethnic group did. The solution to injustice isn’t more injustice.

However, because both sides are paradoxically right their arguments are non-negotiable. I mean, how do you convince someone that their position is wrong when it is actually right?

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YOU’RE FREAKING RIGHT IT’S IMPOSSIBLE, FRANKLIN!!!!

But here’s where my frustration gave way to the hope that this is good news for Christianity.

The racial deadlock can’t be broken through.

It can only be transcended.

And that’s where the gospel fits in.

The racial deadlock is the product of a worldview autoimmune disease that will eventually take down the whole organism. This means that it will become increasingly clear that Christianity is the only worldview that affirms the validity of both sides of the debate while also denouncing the evil within both.

On the individual level, Christianity affirms that we are individually responsible for our actions. We have died with Christ and have been raised to new life. In other words, we have been set free from the past. We are accountable for our own sins, and the finger of blame can only be pointed at ourselves.

However, the “rulers, authorities, and powers” we wage war against (Eph. 6:12) include the systemwide evils that have oppressed and continue to oppress. Corrupt societal forces are an enemy of Christ. The church must treat them as such, because, like the resurrected Christ, many people still bear the nail holes of historic injustice. The past must be continually put to death.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. Racial unity is built into the fabric of Christianity, and racial integration was one of the earliest victories in the church (even though global circumcision was a proposed solution). And Christian communities today can and do model interracial relationships well. In my hometown of Reno, the One Cry organization has united churches of all ethnic backgrounds in our region without watering down ethnic distinctives. That’s because Christ doesn’t offer middle ground, but higher ground.

In this current racial deadlock, the church must make it increasingly clear that Christ is the only solution while fight evil on both the individual and societal level. That involves affirming the truth on both sides.

The state can’t embody the solution. Only the church can.

The question is, will the church continue to feed the deadlock or transcend it?

Christian, husband, pastor, father. Occasionally, I try to arrange words into sequences that make a difference.