9 Ways to Move Away From Privilege
There is no easy way around it. As a white man, regardless of what I do or say to support my minority brothers and sisters, I am enmeshed with a cultural system that does them harm. This strange mix of guilt and confusion tends to cause myself and those like me to stop, get quiet, and retreat from acting on the problems that impact my darker hued spiritual family.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve listened, I’ve read, I’ve retweeted, I’ve had hard conversations with white folks around me, I’ve been a part of a multi-ethnic body, I’ve repented, I’ve written, I’ve stood up to some institutional bias/racism, I’ve prayed, I’ve given, and yet, the problem remains largely unchanged. The question I now face is how can I, as a person who is a part of the systemic problem, become a part of the solution? Here are 9 ways we can begin carrying a larger portion of the burden of inherent bias, racism, oppression, bigotry and discrimination that weigh on our minority brothers and sisters.
Pray, like David, for God to search you and know you, and then expose you (Psalm 139). I am ingrained with inherent bias, since childhood. My neural networks have been flooded by a highly-racialized culture. Like weeds, these biases and racialized beliefs will continue to sprout up when I least expect them. When they are exposed, confess and repent, turning away from them and towards actively loving your neighbor as yourself. Do this individually, and as a congregation.
Support minority-led ministries through your finances (2 Cor. 8:1-5). It’s good to like and retweet, but the folks who spend the greatest part of their lives studying, praying, and fighting for the rights of minorities need sustenance. Give to their ministries.
I also know many minority men and women seeking Seminary education. If we want church leadership to have a range of voices, we need more minority trained and equipped leaders. Call your denomination’s seminary and ask how you can support individual minority students. If they don’t know, tell them to figure it out and call you back.
Be subversive to the majority culture you a part of (Matthew 10). Introduce books written by minorities into your sermons, bible studies, blog posts, and small groups. Do the same with who you quote. If your first thought is ‘But there’s no qualified minorities who can speak on ____’, check your implicit bias. Just because their work is not promoted by the powers that be, does not mean they are less qualified. Introduce new voices to your circles, and then make space to hear from them.
Become uncomfortable (Rom. 15:5-7). For those seeking to be in a diverse or multi-racial church body, try to feel more unnerved with your worship style than those minorities you are inviting in. Something I admired about my former ‘multi-ethnic’ church was how I would always be annoyed by at least a couple of the songs they chose, primarily because they didn’t fit with my preferred style. You can give up style without giving up substance, and in fact, you can often enhance the substance by trading in some of your preferred style.
Counseling is an essential resource for folks who have suffered race-related chronic trauma and toxic stress (Isaiah 61). I implore counselors to set aside a couple of sessions per week specifically for this reason and openly advertise it. Churches, set aside funds for this purpose and make it available to those in need – even, and especially, if they are not a part of your local body. Everyone else, offer to pay for weekly sessions for those minority leaders you hear in podcasts, blogs, and preaching. If they don’t need it, ask them to connect you to someone who might. I would suggest you find a counselor trained in EMDR and/or treating trauma to work with.
Ask for more diversity. If you are an alumnus of a Seminary, Christian college, or Christian private school, start writing letters to the current leadership asking (demanding if you have the clout) that they intentionally seek to fill teaching and leadership positions with qualified minority persons (Acts 15). Keep after them until they do. Ask for a timeline and publicly hold them to it. It should take no more than a year to begin making concrete changes to the leadership structure.
Encourage your church leadership to engage in the fight for unity in the body of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). Offer to pay for them to go to conferences led by minority leaders or focusing on race relations in the church. Keep their kids while they are away. Buy books, send article links, and share a mean to talk about what you’ve been learning.
If your church leadership is pursuing racial unity, then give them grace as they stumble along. For many of us, this might be new, and as with doing anything for the first time, they probably won’t be great at it. Cut them some slack and encourage them to keep moving forward, no matter the set-back.
Move into the spiritually impoverished areas of America (2 Tim. 3:16). Take a call to the small church in rural America. Go and plant (or replant) churches in areas that have been too long deprived of healthy expositional preaching. Then let the Word do its work. If you are truly faithful to preaching Scripture, then you will necessarily be faithful to working towards justice for the oppressed. As you preach and teach, don’t shy away from the passages that will confront the inherent bias, and sometimes straight-up racism of your congregation.
Give away your power and position. If you believe Paul’s command to be like Christ in Philippians 2, then seek out ways to give up your places of power. Bloggers, speakers, pastors, priests, authors, editors, theologians and all others who have a platform, remember: like all things in your life, your platform does not belong to you, but to our Lord.
Be a good steward of the position you have been given, and step aside in order that we might have greater unity in our diverse body. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus put off his rights as God, to be made a servant for our good. I implore you to at least put off your privilege, for the good of your spiritual family and the glory of God.