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Aug 13, 2015 | Carole A. Pinkett

OH! That Awful Sin of Racism.


One reason could be because we have failed to fully recognize how deeply embedded racism is in the structures of society and the church. Besides the national recognition of Black History Month, Absalom Jones, or even some horrendous criminal acts to a black, how often do we sit down to discuss our inner feelings and how to improve the  concept of being a full-time Christian?  Do we develop measures so that we don’t repeat the same sinover and over again?


“Seldom” is the answer! Even when we do, we don’t seem to know what to do, how to identify the terms used, how to express ourselves in a meaningful—yet harmless way.


One could say our society is doing a better job than the church in mitigating the effects of institutional racism. Yes—we have blacks with high earning capacities, more elected officials, even have a black President of the United States:  So what’s the problem?  Is this not integration?  Is this not what many have fought and died for?  The church is a central institution for many, yet the church is unable to enforce remedial legislations and disciplinary measures to regulate the conduct of its members. In fact, I believe (as a cradle Episcopalian) many do not even see the need to dismantle the race-based organizations within the church.


Could it be that we have not realized that racism is actually a religion that repudiates all of the essential doctrines of Christianity?  Perhaps a correct understanding of the religious nature of racism may help us to see the urgency of doing something about this sin—NOW!  Could it be that racism is not simply an ideology of supremacy or an ideology of power?  Could it just be a religion?


WOW!  I’m sure that could be a debatable discussion topic for an interracial group.


There is an interesting article written by Christena Cleveland, “Everything I Know about Racism I Learned in the Church”—having a sub-title—“Racism is Taught.” The article is somewhat humorous, yet offers some insights of why and how our church society considers this sinful topic.


Many national churches have doctrines that affirm resolutions that racism is a sin—citing that “all racist theories are contrary to Christian faith and love.” These affirmations have been on the books for years. Yet—in sharp contrast to the growing awareness of human dignity, racism still exists and continually raises its head in different forms, often ugly. It is a wound in humanity’s side that mysteriously remains open.


All Christians must make special organized efforts to respond to it with great firmness, patience and respect. Respect for every person and every race is respect for basic rights, dignity and fundamental equality. This does not mean erasing cultural differences. Instead, I see this as an important opportunity to educate all of us to embrace appreciation of the complementary diversity of peoples, the new term being Reconciliation.


You know, this shouldn’t be a major topic today—the 21st century. We spend enormous time and energies (and even money) “defending our positions.” Episcopalians—we have a challenge, and we must recognize that we must bring more to the table than just self-acclaimed priorities.


Our priority as a Christian, as an Episcopalian, is not to commit the sin of racism.


Pinkett is chair of the diocesan Commission on Black Ministry.