Race in America: 

A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON HEALING

 

In 2016, the issue of race in America surfaced as a hot topic. Problems related to race in America date back to the founding of the country. However, a series of tragedies of the past years, such as the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the killings of unarmed black citizens at the hands of police, the killings of police by civilians and other concerns along racial lines that gained national media attention have led many citizens to serious conversations about the problem of race in America. Fall 2016, Rev. Jim Wood substituted the Sunday morning sermon in all three services at the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk for a dialogue with Dr. Antipas L. Harris on race in America. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Antipas offered a one-hour class on a Sunday morning at the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk. Nearly 100 people attended the class. The energy was great; the attendees desired more discussion. February 2017, Dr. Antipas and Dr. Grayson Bryant led a 4-lesson course on Race in America. The information below outlines the 4-lesson series.

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

The issue of race and racial reconciliation is a hot topic these days. Do you have questions about race? Why can't we all get along? Do you want to be part of the solution for racial reconciliation in America? 

What really is race, and why has this issue resurfaced in the American consciousness? What can Christians do to settle this issue once and for all? 

This course offers 4 1-hour deep conversations about race, the implications of the problems of race in education, religion, economics/poverty, criminal justice, and more. We will discuss, and suggest ways in which all Christians can advance a Christ-centered racial reconciliation. 


LESSON 1  

WHAT IS RACISM? AND,

WHY IS THIS DISCUSSION IMPORTANT?

  • Welcome

  • Introduction of instructors

  • Overview of goals and objectives of course and outline of 4 lessons

  • Scripture basis for discussion: Luke 10… Who is my neighbor? Jesus explains the neighbor as the downtrodden as well as the “other”, irrespective of ethnicity, race, gender sexual orientation, class, and those who are historically at odds, etc. 

  • Narratives Matter

Thought: How can we get philosophically and biblically from the subjective to the objective. This is kingdom work. This is the gospel. This is loving our neighbor. 


LESSON 2

IMPLICIT & EXPLICIT BIAS

HARVARD IMPLICIT BIAS TEST

In this class, we discussed implicit and explicit bias in the public square as well as in our personal lives. We invite you to participate in Harvard University's implicit bias project. Please feel free to read the FAQs before proceeding, as they do shed a bit of light on Project Implicit and its methodology. 

1. Review definition of race
2. Implicit bias discussion
3. Implicit bias definition
4. Impact of implicit bias
        A. Social
        B. Societal
5. Conclusion and looking forward


LESSON 3

PRIVILEGE AND THE LACK OF PRIVILEGE

In Lesson 2, we discussed implicit and explicit bias. Connecting to this discussion, we will advance the concern for the ways in which systems and social structures deliver advantages and disadvantages in various areas of life, i.e. in terms of belonging, in education, in criminal justice, and more. The ramifications related to being part of the privileged or the underprivileged are profound.

Let's talk about it!

1. Review definition of race
2. Review definition of implicit and explicit bias
3. Let's discuss the meaning of privilege in our society

Colossians 3:11: "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

Blaise Pascal's Pensées, is a seminal work that consisted of 923 fragmentary philosophical and theological meditations. 

The following two distinct sentiments are insightful on the essentiality of engaging the "other's" narrative with compassion. Pascal says,

1. "When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true."

2. "People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others."


LESSON 4

Where do we go from here?

Several attendees have asked, "So, what do we do to heal the racial divide? How can the Church be the "City on a Hill" that Jesus expects, modeling something like what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the Beloved Community?"

Tomorrow, we will discuss ideas and opportunities to work together, putting our feet to the pavement on the Christian journey of racial healing. 

There is no quick fix, and there is no single prescription. Yet, we must trust God's leading to do something. It will take lots of commitment and intentionality. Grayson and I are fully confident that God calls the Church to lead in God's work of social justice. 
What wonderful opportunity to be part of the Church!

As "City on the hill," we believe every church should be an "urban renewal center," of sorts.

These are some broad practical directives to address the racial divide and bring renewal:

  • Pray for the city's shalom
  • Work toward stronger community relationships along racial lines
  • Seek out ways to empower people through education
  • Facilitate neighborhood economic development and community investment