Beyond Political Correctness: Hope for transformation
Updated: Feb 20
If you are a professional in America these days, you most certainly have attended some mandatory racial awareness training. I am actually in favor of such training, but I also understand some White folk's frustration with the mainline approach. "Don't say this, don't say that." It seems that they can make people paranoid about not being politically correct enough. Such training can raise the anxiety level without offering the mechanism for transformation. There is so much anxiety about being labeled a racist that we are actually rendered less capable of establishing healthy relationships across the racial divide.
There is a better way, filled with hope.
In the context of the Gospel, conversations about racism are filled with hope because there is a path through hard things like racism into justice and redemption. This is true because, according to the Gospel, very often the way up is down -- and not in some superficial way like political correctness requires. Jesus' way costs us everything, but there is hope. Jesus said going to "death row" (taking up your cross) is the only way to live.
Talking about unfair prison sentences, disparate mortality rates, the surge of White supremacy, and the hard evidence emerging around unconscious bias can be depressing topics to be sure, but good things can come out the other side of this bad news. Night is what happens on the path to morning. Bad news comes before the good news. An existential crisis pre-dates a meaningful life as far as God is concerned. The race conversation is fundamentally an identity conversation, and if we White people are willing to put our identity on the altar, God will provide himself a lamb.
The bad news of racism is coupled with the good news of transformation. The best soil for growing things is in the low valleys. The number of metaphors is almost infinite, but I think you get the point. The Gospel empowers me to talk about hard things because I know there is good news on the other side of my brokenness. This is what gives me energy for the conversations about racism.
St. Paul said it this way, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Romans 5:20b)
Lately, I have noticed this concept all through Scripture.
Without noticing the pig's tasty food, the Prodigal wouldn't find his way home (Luke 15)
Without climbing a tree and giving away his fortune, salvation wouldn't have come to Zacchaeus' house (Luke 19).
Without selling all his possessions, the man would not be able to have the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46).
Without truth, we are not set free. (John 8:32)
Without Gethsemane, there is no cross.
Without the cross, there is no resurrection.
Without "walking in the light," the "blood of Jesus" can't "cleanse us from all unrighteousness," and we can't "have fellowship one with another" (I John 1:7-8)
The prophet Isaiah said he is a "man of unclean lips" among "people of unclean lips." If he hadn't said that, he may not have experienced the coal on his lips from off the altar. It is no accident that Isaiah's words have persisted for nearly 3 millennia and are even now written outside the United Nations building and sung at Carnegie Hall and whispered around the world at the bedside of the sick and dying. From his crisis came a hopeful transformation.
In conversations about racism, I am always reminded by the Gospel that there is hope for White people like me -- lots of hope. I find myself feeling liberated actually.
There are other reasons to engage in hard conversations about racism to be sure, but "hope" is at the top of my list.