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My hunch is that some of us white people feel anxiety and confusion about scenes of racially-related strife not because we ourselves feel threatened but because we just don’t know what to do.  No white person I know wants to be a racist.  But my hunch is that some of us honestly don’t know what racism is — beyond the blatantly obvious.  We then respond defensively to the forthrightness of our African-American friends, to whom the problems are clear.  Maybe we are discovering in ourselves a blind spot.

Bryan Loritts’ article reminds us all of the various levels at which we connect with one another: clichés at the surface, then deeper to facts, then opinion, then feeling, then transparency.  In my own words, “What everybody knows” to “What the facts are” to “What I think” to “How I feel” to “Who I am — really.”  If our interaction with one another stays at the level of “the facts,” it can feel objective and fair.  That’s why we get stuck at that level.  It feels solid.  But it doesn’t satisfy wounded people, nor should it.  The true value of “the facts” is greater understanding, not gaining advantage.  And reaching for more than “the facts” is not a slippery slope; it is love.

God’s loving alternative is all of us taking our discourse down to the level of “Here is who I am.  Here is who and what I really am, in my own failure and need.  Here is what troubles me about myself and all of us.  Here is how I need to grow, and here is what I need from you.”  This high-risk-high-reward transparency is biblical: “But if we walk in the light” — utter honesty with the Lord and one another — “as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Where can all of us experience that eye-opening redemption?  Primarily, in churches with a gospel culture.  Ground Zero for progress is a relational environment of gospel + safety + time, such as a church is ideally suited to provide, where no one has anything to fear, where no one has to say everything perfectly because a good intention is taken for granted, where we are more eager to listen than to speak.

The more churches with that divine glory upon them, the more convincing our witness will be as an alternative to the flame-throwing discourse of our angry world.  So, I don’t see any quick fix.  But I do see a powerful long-term remedy: churches so honest, so gentle, that it feels like Jesus himself has come to town.

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12 thoughts on “A blind spot”

  1. Troy says:

    Doc: I like the fact that you did offer steps towards understanding and unification rather than churning out another blog filled with intentionally volatile verbage. But hey….shock sells/spreads/gets retweeted. I agree that owning our own depravity and clinging humbly to the Gospel wages war against our blind spots. But I think as long as we buy in to the myth of multiple races, hence “racism”, undetected cataracts will cloud our vision. Thabiti Anyabwile has addressed this several times likening the idea of multiple races to unicorns. Perhaps a dose of “we are one” needs a champion alongside all the chants of “white privilege” and “black reality”. Love you Doc. You always push me towards Jesus.

  2. Earl says:

    If you really want to see and hear racism, just attend any meeting of the NAACP or Black Caucus. All the problems blacks face are caused by the white man, according to these people. Therefore, they demand more welfare, more government, more money—and, of course, vote the Democrat ticket and support the Democrat platform. They love Obama and the all the sin he represents and is forcing on the American people. This is the reality of the situation, my friends.

    1. Steve Bolin says:

      My friend, I challenge you to check your own heart on this one. “These people” isn’t a good way to refer anyone because you lump an awful lot of folks into one category. That’s simply not fair and untrue. To use your phrase “he reality of the situation” is that each if us needs the love of Christ. It will be his work, through his church, that will bring change. No elected official, program, or policy, will do what only the gospel can accomplish.

      1. Debora Braun says:

        Well said, thank you!

    2. Georgetta says:

      Earl [brother Earl}, I would agree on with Steve. Your comments may be linked to your own presuppositions. The NAACP or the Black Caucus does not represent the hearts and minds of most African-Americans just thought I would drop that note. Neither do President Obama.

      1. lew says:

        OK.. I’ll bite. 98,% voted for Obama. Approx. 98% are Democrats but that doesn’t show any tendencies? Whatever you want to call those tendencies. Not trying to start a fight, but numbers DO day something.

        This problem isn’t ‘racism’ for the most part. It’s a heart of sin issue. Don’t deal with that and you’ll be arguing another 100 yes from now.

    3. Delina says:

      Comments like this one are the reason that it all feels hopeless.

  3. Rusty van der Net says:

    What about those of us from countries that don’t really have any racial problems? Speaking with Americans, they get very touchy when skin colour is mentioned; and don’t know how to take a joke. We are light hearted a little more because it’s a problem we rarely face and have little experience with. Just my 2c.

    1. John F says:

      Zwarte Piet?

  4. Mike says:

    I am a white male South African and I live in a country where the reverse is now true, whites are bring ousted from the workplace, prejudiced and taxed to death. I refuse to carry the “white guilt” or white privilege thing. Quite frankly I am sick of they hypocrisy of black who try and palm the race card off on every occasion. So hey I don’t care if I am called a racist, because I know its not true. I am concerned however for the level of black animosity I see towards whites. In my country it has reached genocide proportions. So I accept a man for the content of his character. bot the color of his skin. Just saying

  5. Speaking for the collective “whites” with a gigantic brush while decrying this toward minorities is the mother if all ironies.

    Let us stop trying to speak for and paint whites one color. I am confident many whites have a reasonably thought out philosophy which simply does not conclude as the writer wishes, thus the demonizing.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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