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NoteThe views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent TGC or any of its council members, staff or supporters. They are the views of the author alone. This is a personal blog that happens to be hosted at TGC. Such hosting should not be construed as an endorsement from TGC for anything written here.

My sister-in-Christ, Gaye Clark, offered a reflection on what it was like for her to be surprised when her daughter courted and later married a Black man. Clark’s piece is not the first of its kind, even at The Gospel Coalition. Trip Lee wrote about his marriage to a white sister in the Lord. And it’s no secretive conversation among African Americans, as this piece by Phillip Holmes indicates. The promise and peril of inter-ethnic dating and marriage has been a long-standing conversation in African-American communities, once because it was dangerous and illegal, then because it was socially frowned upon, and now because we’re slowly crawling toward some vision of ethnic conciliation.

But many people felt that Clark’s piece gave evidence to a massive blind spot—her failing to fully confess what appears to be deeper racial prejudice and her depiction of her son-in-law in a way that suggested he became “less Black” to her as she grew to love and accept him. Add to that the rather “teach-y” tone of the piece and many felt it was condescending as well as blind. The requisite internet furor resulted. Clark received the withering criticism so easily thrown at people online, but proved herself better than most of her detractors by listening, replying kindly, and eventually removing the piece.

When I learned she’d decided to remove the piece (a move I respect but wish hadn’t happened), I decided someone should say something in praise of this woman and what happened. Having never met or spoken with her, here’s my feeble attempt. I hope it encourages her, her family, and the Church as we work through these things.

Taking the Risk

First, I want to express appreciation for Mrs. Clark for even writing the post. Let’s all be honest. There’s not much upside to writing something like this and there’s a whole lot of pitfalls along the way. Mrs. Clark stepped into one of those pitfalls, but her effort was commendable. In an age when so many African Americans rightly call on white brothers and sisters to enter the fray, Clark took the risk. She should be appreciated for doing so.

Being Redemptive

The other thing to note is her spirit in the post. Yes, it was “teach-y” in a problematic way. But that’s only at one or two points in the piece. The overwhelming bulk of the post sought to be God-centered, redemptive, and even helpful to those who might face the same challenge. Now, we could ask, “But why should it be a challenge in the first place?” In God’s kingdom it won’t be. But on earth, in the Church, among the fallen, it is. And Clark sought to be redemptive amidst all the ugliness we know still exists on this issue. I praise God for her.

Opening Up

Third, Clark didn’t have to write a post that excavated her own life. She could have written a post that took the detached, “objective,” professorial approach. She could have simply exegeted a few texts and “remained above the fray.” So I think it’s important to note that she actually laid bare a part of her own soul and life that no one is likely to give her any credit for. Who gets points for describing their latent or active prejudice? We tend to act as if no one should ever have believed those things ever, as if we’re not all works in progress. So when someone unearths the ugly of their lives for public consumption, it is not only courageous; it’s deeply honest. And while some of us would have loved a deeper reflection and confession, we all have to start somewhere. Clark started with her heart and in the process modeled for us why we should start with ours too. I thank her for that.

Taking the Heat

I truly admire Mrs. Clark for weathering the blowback she received. She set out to do good but pretty quickly folks began to speak evil of it. More often than not, social media types then double down. Rather than listen, we try to explain our intentions or offer hasty apologetics. Rarely do folks listen. And rarer still are apologies that communicate genuine understanding of the hurt caused. Ms. Clark did both. That’ll never satisfy the never-satisfied crowd, but it ought to be appreciated by all of us who know we too have flopped with our tongues. Mrs. Clark did all of this with Christ-like poise, grace and charity—thus proving the spirit behind the original post.

Advancing the Conversation

The reason I’d hoped TGC would not remove the post is the post actually triggered much-needed conversation. It wasn’t the conversation the author anticipated. But it was a meaningful one about how we describe our experiences and how we see each other. It was a much-needed conversation about affirming people as made in God’s image, and not having that image shrouded by either our own prejudices, ignorance, or expectations. The post, with its flaws, was probably doing more for the conversation than if it would have simply affirmed everyone in their presuppositions and left our weaknesses unchecked. I’m genuinely happy for any way anybody advances these conversations with the kind of grace Mrs. Clark did.

Appreciating the Church

Very few people are likely to have known much about Mrs. Clark’s Christian witness and discipleship. Many of us would have rushed to assumptions based upon this one post. We would have been tempted to place her in the box we have for “such people,” slapped the lid on, and slid her in the attic with all those “others” we don’t want to hear from. While I don’t know Gaye Clark personally, I do know her pastor and her church. And I know the kind of courageous leadership her pastor shows on these very issues on the regular in his church. He has African-American pastors and preachers in regularly—exposing his congregation to the gifts and perspectives these leaders bring. Leaders like K. Edward Copeland, who works on justice issues on the ground in partnership with local law enforcement, the community, his church and many others, and who speaks prophetically and unapologetically on the “platforms” the Lord gives. In other words, Mrs. Clark’s willingness to speak to these issues must surely come in part because she’s being discipled by white gospel leaders who willingly have the conversation as a matter of pro-active care for their members and for people affected by injustice. When we throw Mrs. Clark away, we risk throwing away a good church and good men trying to do good work in the name of our good Lord. I’m learning to speak a little less critically at first and more carefully at length.

CONCLUSION

There’s more that could be said about the various strengths and weaknesses of the post. But it’s perhaps best to simply say not one of us has “arrived” on these issues such that we speak without flaws. If that were true, we’d be the perfect persons that bridle our tongues that James seems to think doesn’t exist. I don’t want my sister to be vilified for doing what we’ve all done and what we’ll all likely do in the future. I hope we can remember her for making an honest attempt and giving a humble response when challenged.

A final thing for those who see the reaction to Mrs. Clark’s post and think, If that’s how I’m likely to be treated, why bother? Well, you bother not because you anticipate good treatment. You bother because it’s the right thing to do and it honors your Lord. And you bother because you know that if that’s how they treated Jesus for doing good, then that’s how they’ll treat you. And you bother out of love for your fellow human beings and your brethren in Christ. Let love constrain you even when there’s no praise to maintain you. After all, your ethnic brethren who dare speak of these things are quite accustomed to receiving a lot of vitriol, “push back,” condemnation, accusation and the like when we speak. And there was a time we even would have been killed for speaking. We’ve made progress, but for further progress you’ve got to put some skin in the game and not quit. Man up. We trust in Christ that it’s worth it.


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Comments:


73 thoughts on “In Praise of Gaye Clark (and Others Like Her)”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Seeing what happened to the author of that post and other white authors posting similar thoughts, I, too, wondered, “why bother”? So many of the responses were completely lacking in grace, even those by professing Christians. The reactions of that sort no doubt have stymied any meaningful conversation between blacks and whites on the subject.

    It breaks my heart that is the case. Any time I have thought we were starting to have honest dialogue on the subject, the conversation comes to an abrupt halt by hurt feelings and hateful language.

    If we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem. It’s time we all took a step back and listened to ourselves and our contributions to the conversation. Are we adding to it, or inhibiting it?

    1. Mac says:

      Jennifer,

      You’re right, BUT…we can’t take the “why bother” approach no matter how difficult the conversation may be. That approach is not an option….and especially so for Christians. That approach is also not an option for racial minorities. I’m black and I don’t have the luxury of saying “why bother” or “I won’t engage”. I have to whether I want to or not. This reality hits me in daily life, whether I like it or not. But to your point, yes…we must all consider whether we are contributing to the conversation or hindering it. An addendum to that point should be just because tough and hard to swallow words are said, it doesn’t mean one may be hindering or not contributing. It simply means that it’s a tough conversation.

  2. Michael Pharr says:

    I read the post by Mrs. Clark and I wasn’t offended bc i was aware of the message she was conveying. How as a Christian she had a plan for the type of person her daughter would marry and when the person her daughter chose didn’t meet her plans, she was thrown off, but more importantly she showed how the gospel can change a person’s heart. I’m more appalled at black Christians that felt the need to attack her rather than to read the article through the lens of grace as if they haven’t had unseen sons in their own hearts that were changed by the gospel. People always talk about having an open and honest dialogue about race but when a white person voiced her own insecurities some fellow black Christians feel the need to take her to task. It appears to me that the call for an honest talk and call for people to be honest is just lip service. I wish Mrs. Clark wouldn’t had the post removed bc it shows how God’s grace can change the heart of His people.

    1. Mrs MM Reynolds says:

      What a lovely post. It is good to come across family in the Lord like this.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Michael,

      Thanks for joining the conversation. It’s certainly the case that we find ourselves (all of us) engaging either honest or dishonest conversation partners. Part of our work is deciphering who is honest and therefore worth talking with and who is dishonest and therefore we need to disengage from. And there are both types in every group.

      But to write a little too sweepingly of “Black Christians” not being honest but simply paying lip service is itself a disservice to the great many who every day are engaging this issue in far more substantive ways than blog posts. Some of those were hurt, confused, dismayed, etc. by the post. Saying so doesn’t mean you’re dishonest. It means you’re engaged–even if you’re unhelpfully so at times. Again, we’re all liable to miss the mark.

      Finally, not all the critiques were mean-spirited attacks. Some were trying to point out what were at least significant flaws in the framing of the post and what may be significant heart issues still remaining. As they say in the Caribbean, we have to chew the fish and spit out the bones. May the Lord give us grace to do so.

      Thabiti

    3. ellerae says:

      I think, sir, you may be missing the point. It become tiresome to people of color when they raise concerns or feelings of being marginalized by a white person who is “being honest” or “showing such courage” because such perspectives presume that white people are to be celebrated for their attempts at inclusion or understanding. but, no. this is nothing to be celebrated; it is simply long overdue. and suggesting this attitude be revered and hailed as something special is in itself supporting white privilege by underscoring how blind white people are to the realities of living life in a world which caters only to them. here’s an example of how that works: have you ever noticed that in fiction novels, the protagonist’s color is never mentioned unless they’re ethnicity or race is something other than white? what is used to address them is simply a pronoun or a name. essentially, a white person’s intellectually evolving to a place where they choose to acknowledge their own privilege, their own unconscious biases and prejudices does not deserve any mention. essentially, they’ve caught up to reality. because “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”, and that’s all you, sir, are experiencing right now.

      1. Jeff says:

        We are all to some extent products or our culture, our status, our situation. If a wealth family produces a child who does not appreciate the plight of the impoverished are they to be chastised for at some point learning and even daring to teach others what they have learned? Is the child turned adult to be expected to understand fully all nuances of class distinctions? Should they be expected to be perfected before they can speak out against class discrimination?

        In our churches, are new believers to be forbidden to talk about the gospel because they don’t have it quite right? Must they go to seminary before they can teach, instruct, share their faith with another?

        I am a middle class, tall, thin, white male with all of my hair. I am the embodiment of privilege; the only way I can know about my privaliage is to either be far more brilliant than I am (even then I would probably miss it), be taught, or have a circumstance akin to Gaye Clark’s happen to me.

        In my case I have had white teachers teach me and expose me to black brothers who also teach me. Yet as I learn about the plight of my darker human brother and sisters, as I learn about my own previously hidden prejudices, I am kept silent. I want to speak out; I have spoken out, but when I do I am attacked quite unfortunately by people who end up exposing their own racism and also by the people I now see in a new, better more loving light. I should have some how known better, known sooner, just known.

        I am not strong enough or strong willed enough to fight. I choose not to expose my family to the hate of people I love and want to see brought to Christ. I will continue to speak to my friends, to those who give me permission to speak. But even with my privaliage, on this issue, in this culture, it is simply easier, it is safer to simply keep silent.

      2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Dear ellerae,

        Thank you for joining the conversation.

        I can assure you I have not missed the concerns with the post. I tweeted a string of them when I first read the post, including some of the things mentioned in your comment.

        But when we’ve finished blistering this woman for her failures at achieving the deepest understandings, what have we gained? She’s not “there yet,” but she’s not trying to be an enemy. Your comment seems to lose sight of that. We help and encourage our allies, even as we push them for more. And, oh, by the way,we have not “arrived” either. And we prove that every time we act in ways that preclude human relationship and reconciliation rather than advance it. After all, don’t we ultimately want more than white people wallowing in guilt? As a Christian, I know I do.

        Grace to you,
        T

    4. Ingrid says:

      Why do you assume that it is only black Christians attacking her? I had heard that she received threats from racist right extremists. I also read many comments criticizing her made by white Christians acting as though this shouldn’t be an “issue.” This IS an issue. I recently moved to the rural South and am in an interracial marriage. Not only have my husband and I suffered verbal and physical threats, but my son recently was told that his crush, a white girl, could never date him. Her parents believed that interracial marriage is unbiblical and my husband and I “need Jesus.” Ironic, as my husband is a pastor.

      1. George Chell says:

        Everything I have posted confirms what you are saying, and I can see this from half way around the world, from Singapore. Many southern white expats who claim to be Christian behave the same way here. A daughter of a Chinese millionaire who is a Christian was told by white “Christian:” expat parents from Alabama that their son could never date a non-white as it is anti-Christ and they are in a non-white country, go figure!

  3. Thabiti Anyabwile, As always you are a sweet and gracious brother in Christ. Thank you for this word.

    1. P Kim says:

      Amen, and amen again.

    2. Sarah says:

      What Maurice said! Pastor, you responded as you always do, with grace and patience. Thank you!

  4. Eric Price says:

    I second the above comment. Thabiti, you are such a wonderful model of charity and kindness. Your posts are always full of both grace and truth, and you do a great job of modeling Col. 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” I have learned a lot about how to interact with those who criticize and disagree with me by reading your posts.

  5. Edward Bryant says:

    I believe the issue of “race” may very well be among the major issues of discipleship and maturity for the evangelical church, which means we will have to get away from our tendency toward comfort and easy solutions. If there is anything these past few years have taught us it should be that we can no longer claim ignorance about the issues associated with the colorline in America. I would hope that the body of Christ will continue to pursue true unity in the faith, but most importantly maturity in Christ.

  6. Thomas Chrusciel says:

    Thabiti please don’t be a sell out! Yes, blacks have made progress but only because whites like me have been held accountable! This assumed preference for white is disgusting and must be eradicated! The only reason Gaye Clarke’s article exists is because the Church has allowed this unspoken preference for white to build. This explains why both black and white men prefer to court white women!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for stopping by and engaging the conversation.

      First, no one is selling out. If trying to encourage people to remain engaged, fumbled their way through honestly, and keep clawing at progress is selling out, then we’ve seriously forgotten what we’re even trying to do.

      Second, there’s no argument hear against accountability. We all need it. But we also need the accountability to take place in the context of meaning relationships and pervasive encouragement. Otherwise, “accountability” is just a stick we use to club people with when we disagree or when they err. The Law has never produced the righteousness we desire; all it does is condemn. So we’re better off trying to both push for accountability in the spirit of grace (Gal. 6:1-2).

      And, of course, you’re correct. The Church has been complicit for far too long in the horrors and abuses of racism, etc. But we got to start somewhere, and staring almost anywhere is better than not starting at all.

      Finally, though rates of intermarriage are higher now than they’ve ever been in this country, I think it’s an overstatement to say black men in general prefer to court white women. Some do. Many don’t. And in both cases the heart needs to be examined for prejudices.

      Again, thanks for joining the conversation. Grace, mercy and peace to you.

      Thabiti

      1. Thomas Chrusciel says:

        Thank you for your response. You do make a lot of sense. I apologize if I came of as silly in my first post. I’m just so sad and heart broken over race relations in the church! too much unspoken “white-pride” hidden in homogenous churches. I have black relatives and it just makes me depressed to think that people in the church could see them less than how God views them! it’s maddening that racism still exists! I vow to combat it in any way I can!!!!!!!

    2. George Chell says:

      Actually, more and more white men prefer Asian women. A little known fact and perhaps one major candidate will want to ban all immigration if he ever found out that in 2014 300,000 immigrants out of 950,000 was due to white American men marrying non-white women abroad.

  7. Mrs MM Reynolds says:

    I am afraid that I did not see the article, but may I mention some things please. I am a white woman living abroad. I have met prejudice against me and also against other people around me. People racially and also societaly different. It is pitiful when people behave like that. It is sinful when fellow Christians behave like that.
    It is helpful to remember that other people’s opinions Do Not Make Me Less. I am a sinner saved by Grace. Nothing can change that. That goes for every child of God.
    All, absolutely All people, who have served other people in there homes are looked down on. One will always feel that. Many were badly treated and still are.
    When someone from the USA, where great wrong happened on a massive scale, and to some extend still does, it should be encouraged.
    Fellow Christians especially, should encourage it.
    Those who do not, should perhaps go to God’s Throne of Grace and repent. Non of us is innocent of sin.
    Non of us are guilty of others sins. Perpetuating the sins makes it ours.
    God’s people in the States can set the example.
    With love and prayers, your sister in the Lord

  8. Nick Parsons says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    Thank you for that final paragraph. I deeply appreciated and needed it.

  9. Thank you, Brother. Gracious but still truthful. Thank you for your example. I just hope that TGC learned a HUGE HUGE lesson from all this. Please don’t stop posting these types of things, but be ever more vigilant. Run them by several people – the more the better! If I was on your staff I would have read this and immediately asked for several other follow up posts to coincide quickly thereafter. Way too inflammatory and insensitive to many who are working so hard on reconciliation. We need more people to be honest. I wrote a blog about how I needed to repent of my attitude toward Mrs. Clark. I also hope that TGC will be more careful in the future.

    https://robinwootton.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/now-you-know-a-follow-up-to-the-white-mother-in-law/

  10. James Aldridge says:

    Hey… You folks at TGC wanted to play identity politics. I think what you have discovered is that there is no satisfying those who don’t care to have an honest conversation about race, those that merely want to affirm an agenda, even if it is based (to a large degree) on a false narrative. You could have taken the difficult road of pursuing the truth, a road that would have likely been challenging for honest men and women of faith who were raised “on both sides of the issue.” Instead, you caved. You chose a path that would placate the masses who mindlessly follow the false narratives fed to them by popular media.

    How could you possibly be shocked when you find that there is no level of contrition that will satisfy those who think that every issue is a race issue?

  11. Monica says:

    I saw the original post with the article and bookmarked it to read later, and was disappointed to see that it had been taken down. I have a good friend who, like this woman’s daughter, is married to a black man. Having grown up in a community where interracial marriage is uncommon, I admit I don’t have much frame of reference for the struggles that my friend’s family faces or how to respond to them — what does it look like in practical terms to acknowledge and celebrate difference and yet treat everyone equally. I was looking forward to reading the article in the hope of gaining some insight. I’m sure the piece wasn’t perfect (none of us are), yet it had the potential to help others of us unlearn our own biases. The conversation on race takes a step backward when hearts genuinely seeking justice are attacked and honest voices hoping for reconciliation are silenced.

  12. Robin says:

    Where were TGC’s content editors?

    1. Stephanie says:

      This is a very fair question that I think deserves consideration, at least internally.

      1. Bethany says:

        There is a brief explanation of the editing process in the first several minutes of this conversation entitled “A Controversial Article and What We Can Learn. A conversation on race with Jason Cook, Jemar Tisby, and Isaac Adams.”. Although the whole thing is long – 1 hour – it’s well worth the listen.

        https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/a-controversial-article-and-what-we-can-learn

        1. Danielle Shelley says:

          I listened to the podcast this morning, it is excellent. The TGC editors had many people read this post, including several people of color, including Glenn, the son in-law, before it was published. I don’t think it was hastily published but they admitted they could’ve done more to prevent this type of backlash…like having it co-written with Glenn’s mother.

  13. Doug says:

    At the same time, we need to affirm that it is perfectly normal for a person to be attracted to someone with a similar identity. The maxim “Birds of a feather, flock together” not only holds true for birds, but also for social relations as well, as studies have demonstrated. “Likeness” is what made the formation and presentation of Eve to Adam so ecstatic. There is a legitimate unfamiliarity when it comes to races or cultures, therefore most will be attracted to others within their comfort zone. This is perfectly right and normal. It is the feeling of racial superiority that is sinful. We have to be careful that we don’t use race to manipulate others by guilt. Instead, we need to glorify God with our race, and be thankful for our specific identities, not try to blur the distinctions as is being done in the area of gender.

    1. Ariana says:

      My question to you, then, is how do you feel about diversity in the church? According to you, people tend to hang with like people, right? I’m disappointed by your misuse of the word of God. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a colossal example of how God feels about racial differences.

      Just because something is in our nature doesn’t mean we should make efforts to step outside of our comfort zone. Unless you think segregation is better for society as well.

      1. Ariana says:

        *shouldn’t

      2. Doug says:

        @Ariana,
        The Church is clearly diverse—”from every nation and tribe and people and tongue.” Rev. 7:9. These distinctions are God-made, not something to be shunned or obliterated—as if that were even possible. We all should be thankful for our racial makeup and glorify God in our bodies. That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a preference for someone of the same race when it comes to marriage. This is not racism. Racism has to do with viewing one’s race as superior, and acting on this sense of superiority. I read Gaye’s post before it was removed. I remember nothing “racist” in the woman’s account. I think many are trying to lay a guilt trip on her for merely confessing her natural preferences. We are to love our neighbor “as ourself,” i.e. our equal.

        1. lori says:

          I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario where my having a preference for a white spouse for myself or my children would not be sinful. Even if it was not sinful in and of itself–if it wasn’t rooted in outright racism–it seems to me it would be rooted in other sinful motivations: a desire for a life that is easy above one that is God-honoring; hoping for relationships that are inside my comfort zone rather than ones that make me into the person God wants me to be; a belief that my cultural practices and preferences are more central to my identity than my being in Christ.

          That said, I didn’t get the sense that Gaye Clark had a preference (at least a conscious one) that her daughter would marry a man white. I think she had an expectation. Certainly my parents had an expectation I’d marry somebody white, just like they expected I’d go to college and expected I’d get married and expected we’d send our kids to public school and expected we’d move to the suburbs when our kids were born. I’ve met some of those expectations and not others. But those expectations were held by them mainly because it was just what they were surrounded by. I honestly can only remember one interracial family in our (very, very large) church. Interracial marriages were simply not that common then, and certainly even less so when my parents were growing up. We now live in a community where interracial relationships are much more common, and in our church many of the young adults are in interrational relationships and marriages, so our expectations are different. But, if I’m honest, they are different because our context is different, and not necessarily because I’m somehow more “evolved” on the issue of race than my parents were and are.

          1. Doug says:

            Lori, the way we experience life is in many ways determined by how others perceive us. Two people may be in the same environment but they will have vastly differing experiences. We will find sympathy and understanding from another whose life experience is similar to our own. In many ways “whites” and “blacks” will never be able to understand each other’s experience, good or bad. Marriage is meant by God to be a source of mutual understanding, support and encouragement in life. This alone is a strong argument for same-race marriage. We should each praise God for our enduring race or ethnic makeup. These traits will still be visible around His throne.

            1. lori says:

              Should rural people never marry urban people? Blue collar people never marry white collar people? People with college degrees never marry those who didn’t go to college? Americans only marry other Americans? Rich people never marry poor people?

              I think you are making far too much of race, far more than the Bible makes of it. Many, many things shape our experiences. Race is one of them. But, we are called, as Christians, to be sources of mutual support, understanding, and encouragement for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just those that are the same race. If we are all united in the family of God, which is the deepest bond, how could we not also be able to form human families with each other?

              People are different. I happen to be married to somebody who is very, very similar to me: along with being the same race, we have nearly-identical family backgrounds, educational backgrounds, and are even just six weeks apart in age. And yet being sources of sympathy and understanding for each other has still often been very, very hard for us, and is something we have had to and continue to grow in over the almost two decades of our marriage. I know couples who are much more outwardly different who have had fewer martial difficulties than we have had. Outward similarities are no guarantee of a good marriage.

              Many young people today are learning, living, and working in very diverse environments. Our public schools are now majority-minority. Racial differences that may have seemed much more significant to me even just 20 years ago and certainly to Gaye Clark and people of her generation 40 years ago are now not nearly as significant, at least in some areas, as they once were. We are raising our children in a majority-minority city, and interracial families are, among the people we know, at least as common as same-race families. Compare that to when I was growing up and I knew one interracial family.

              We can certainly praise God for diversity of cultures without seeing our racial identity as something we need to protect or something enduring. (Nothing in the Bible indicates that our racial identities, rather than the outward physical traits that may different in us, will endure.)

              There is no Christian basis for making a “strong argument” for same-race marriage. When it comes to the qualities of a good Christian spouse, their race simply does not play into it. Now, does that mean that people need to actively seek out a spouse of a different race? Of course not. The reality is that, given that many places are still quite segregated and most of us will have most of our contact with people of the same race, most people will enter into marriages with people of the same race, and there’s no shame in that. But, that’s certainly not something we should hold up as an ideal. I simply see no reason to or basis for arguing that same-race marriage is preferable for Christians, and certainly not that God wants us, as Christians, to use marriage as a way to perpetuate our racial or ethnic heritage.

    2. Alyssa says:

      Whoa! Yes, Adam and Eve’s likeness was celebrated because they were both HUMAN. That is as far as it extends. Eve was not an animal – and that is what made Adam burst into poetry. You’re reading your own ideas into the text if you take it any further than that.

    3. Laura says:

      It seems to me that in general, a white man and a black man are more like each other than a white man is like a white woman.

      1. George Chell says:

        Doug’s philosophy seems like white skin worshipping paganism masquerading as Christian when he claims that racial distinctions will be seen near His throne. Unfortunately my experience in the US suggests that there are very Christians, particularly in the white community. People here in Singapore ask me how I can be a Christian after witnessing how “Christians” behave in America particularly with regards to race and their endorsement of a an unethical and immoral philandering candidate for Presidency. I tell them it is far easier if you just consider people like Robert Jefferies, Jerry Falwell Jr, James Dobson, Framklin Graham, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Wayne Gudrem as just white and not Christian. Problem here in Asia is people equate whiteness with Christianity and do not realize that Asians in Southwest India (converted by St. Thomas the Apostle of Christ) were Christians long before the Anglo-Saxon ancestors of the present day America came out of their caves in Central Europe and stopped practicing human sacrifice.

    4. George Chell says:

      Wrong! It was not an issue when early white settlers had no problem violating the tenets of the Tower of Babel despite cultural unfamiliarity. I am talking about whites forgetting all the cultural and language divisions of Europe and becoming white. It was convenient for white settlers to be classified as white despite massive cultural and religious differences between Irish settlers and English settlers. Culture for a white American becomes an issue only when the skin color is different. A white American will have no problem with a white looking Lebanese as a potential spouse but will have problem with a black person or even a dark skinned Indian from South India. Cultural argument is a convenient argument. Preference for skin color among Christians is racism plain and simple. You cannot prefer a skin color and be a Christian at the same time.

  14. Vickie says:

    Growing up a southern white girl, I am grateful to my black friends who over the years have patiently and graciously walked with me through the blindness of my own prejudices, some more obvious than others. We discovered a lot together because we really wanted to love each other as Jesus would have us love each other. There were hard conversations, many misunderstandings and quite a few laughs, but our commitment to love and talk things out has yielded fruit in all of our lives. It’s worth it.

    1. Ellen says:

      When I read ” . . . we really wanted to love each other as Jesus would have us love each other,” my heart melted. Having been reconciled with God through the blood of the cross, are we not also equipped and empowered to be reconciled with one another? That is a Gospel the world can believe it.

    2. Laura says:

      Vickie, me too. And this requires people not to reflexively impute bad motives to other people. It requires them to assume good faith and at worst honest ignorance, and to be humble enough to remember that the other person’s experiences are valid, and that their own worldview is, inevitably, flawed in some way.

  15. Doug says:

    I would have loved to read the piece. I am dismayed that in our rush to “not offend,” we actually allow those easily (or not so easily) offended to stifle what could be helpful conversation for someone who is not offended. TGC, I would recommend that you allow the article to be put back up, and Gaye Clark, I would recommend that you put it back up. Naysayers and accusers will always be around, but they are not to be given control of conversation that needs to happen. Let conversation happen! If it cannot be put up, I put my email in the comment, can someone send me a .pdf of the article? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie says:

      You realize that this wasn’t a case of “naysayers” or people with thin skin, right? Ms. Clark herself gets this.

  16. Stephanie says:

    I have personally apologized, and now will publicly, to Ms. Clark for the tone of my response to her article. The sarcasm used was entirely unhelpful and a clanging cymbal. My angry reaction has been validated, but I just should have handled myself better in the moment. The medium does not preclude us from graciousness.

    1. lori says:

      Why was your anger validated? Because others shared it? Because the author decided to pull her piece due to the hurt feelings?

      I can understand feeling hurt by the piece. However, I’m not sure how or why it would warrant an angry response. Gaye Clark is a 53 year old white woman. If we are going to be honest, her response to her daughter’s engagement and marriage was more gracious and more tolerant than how many white people of her generation would respond. (While nearly all millenials accept interracial marriage, less than half of whites 50+ do, and that’s just theoretical acceptance, not how they’d feel if their child did marry outside their race.) And she was writing, I think, to people like herself.

      Maybe TGC was not the proper forum for her comments–I’m not convinced of that at all, but I’ll certainly grant that’s a possibility–but do you not recognize how her essay was not indeed serving a need within the body? Because millennials accept interracial marriages and are entering into them far, far more readily than their parents (and certainly than their grandparents!). Simply telling them “You are a terrible racist sinner for having any internal struggle about this” will not help. Clark provided useful, concrete steps that a person who does have that internal discomfort but realizes that it is indeed sinful can take to move past it and fully embrace the marriage, both outwardly and inwardly.

      1. Brian says:

        Right on. The Stephanies in this whole situation confronted gospel with hatred, and the only thing “justified” was pride.

      2. George Chell says:

        60% Millineals have no problem with interracial marriage, as long as it is other people who are engaged in it.

  17. Donald Johnson says:

    I thought the post was very helpful, until I got to “Man up.” Why not “Human up?” or even “Jesus up?” Oh, that’s right while TGC believes the races are equal they also believe males are supreme in a kind of caste system. Just as a black can never be white enough for a racist, a female can never be male enough for a sexist? Do you not see it’s it the same kind of sin that needs to be repented from?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Friend, that’s silly. And the accusation that “TGC believes… males are supreme in a kind of caste system” is just plain libel/slander/lying and unnecessary.

      Thabiti

    2. Laura says:

      I’ve told my daughter to man up. I thought it was like get hold of yourself, gird your loins, or pull up your socks.

  18. Nick says:

    Brother Thabiti,
    You have been more helpful and influential than I can ever fully appreciate not just on matters of ethnic conciliation, but also in helping me see the glory of Jesus more clearly in countless other arenas of life. I thank God for you and your ministry.

    I am grateful for this post. You honor our sister well without compromising your convictions. I must say though, brother, this post was hard for me to read and to believe you (which was a first) because of the way you initially reacted on Twitter. From my perspective, many of your initial responses were just as belittling and overly harsh as those of whom you are trying to correct here. Perhaps this is just a perceived inconsistency, but it is a caution that I lovingly offer you.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Thanks brother. Both for the encouragement and the admonishment.
      T

  19. Lisa says:

    Thank you. The negative comments by Christians (some even mocking) that were posted were painful to read.

  20. Sallie Eisengrein says:

    Thank you, Gaye Clark, for your honesty and vulnerability. I was challenged by your insightful article and appreciated your willingness to share your heart.

  21. Timothy Carr says:

    I’ve never met Gaye, but I know of her. I’ve never met her, but I can speak with first-hand knowledge of her outstanding Christ-like character. I know this because I know of when she and her late-husband voluntarily stepped into a difficult & heart-rending to save a marriage and a life. Ultimately, it wasn’t successful on either fronts. I don’t know how many hours and miles were logged in trying to save a young man from self-destruction, but it was many. Gaye stepped in when no one else would and did– when the young man and his family were strangers to them. She saw a need- an opportunity to minister- and she ministered. She kept ministering through heart-breaks and set-backs, always in love, until my friend finally took the last step in the path he had chosen and ended his life.

    Our Lord was often hated and despised for doing good. I know, that in her heart, Ms. Clark intended to do good. I know this because, as I have said, I already know her character. The response to her article saddens me on many levels. Some have to do with identifying with some of the race issues that she raised. But mostly because many have chosen to bite and devour her over a couple of (suppposedly) awkward phrasings, without really knowing her. The question that I’m left with is- How this is different from making a superficial judgment about someone over something like skin color?

  22. Jen says:

    I continue to be shocked and dismayed at the unwholesome language used by many “Christians,” quite in rebellion against many clear commands in the New Testament, when speaking online. God does not give us a pass to use coarse, abusive language just because we think someone else is sinning or even if they have personally offended us. On the contrary, we are to make our arguments with gentleness and respect.

    Then there is the separate issue of judging someone else’s heart. Do you know that God says you cannot even know your own heart? How, then, do you presume to judge someone else’s?

    When even Christians refuse to conform themselves to God’s standards in these areas, I despair of there ever being any progress in reconciliation.

    Gaye Clark offered her heart with a good conscience, and Christians stomped all over it, some with language of the most reprobate of unbelievers.
    “Thus human beings judge of one another, superficially, casually, throwing contempt on one another, with but little reason, and no charity.”
    Emmuska Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel

    For the world, we expect this to be true. But for believers, “Brothers, this must not be.”

  23. Dennis says:

    I read about the original article on another web site. I came here to voice my support for Mrs. Clark. Pastor Anyabwile has more than adequately responded as I would have. This woman was brave. She was/is/did acknowledge her own racism. Ultimately her daughter has shown what her mother is all about deep inside. I say that because despite Mrs. Clark’s racism her daughter did not see color when she fell in love. Somewhere along the line she was taught that love knows no color. I chose to believe despite her racism her mother had a hand in this teaching. I am an African American male who date a white girl in my youth while in college. When her father found out I was black he beat her and kicked her out of his house. This topic is very very close to my soul. Mrs. Clark should be applauded loudly for looking in the mirror and facing her inner self. The Gospel Coalition and Pastor Anyabwile have added me as a reader. Don’t shy away from these extremely hard discussions on race. America needs this.

  24. Thank you, Thabiti, for your kind and courageous words about all of us involved in this article. As Gaye, Anna and Glenn’s pastor, I was blessed to have a front row seat to observe God’s work in Anna and Glenn’s lives. I watched Anna grow up as a covenant child in our congregation. She and her brother have followed their parents’ example of putting their lives on the line for the gospel–intervening in violent marriage conflicts, caring for unwed mothers, housing convicted murderers, or partnering with a local African-American group of women reaching strippers and prostitutes in our church’s neighborhood. Gaye’s late husband was an elder in our church until he tragically died from complications from cardiac surgery. He died on the cardiac floor where Gaye serves as a nurse. So beloved is the family that the nurses pulled extra shifts and the cardiac surgeon canceled his vacation and slept in the room with Jim. At times the waiting room looked like a Star Wars bar as the many strange ones of us from First Pres all touched in some life altering way by the Clarks crammed into the space to support the beloved family. Jim and Gaye had many warts as we all do, but Gaye has, unlike many of us, been willing to talk about them openly. Confession does not always make one a hero and shouldn’t. Sometimes it is threatening when it exposes the same sin in others.

    I also have had the privilege of watching Glenn come to Christ through our campus ministry. He was led to Christ by one of our pastors (who also happens to be African American). Glenn grew quickly in discipleship and has, in turn, led others to Christ. He is man’s man who walks humbly with his God. He is a brilliant computer engineer, a humble listener, and a soft-spoken rock of Gibralter. He was exemplary in his courtship of Anna–leading in the pursuit, patiently waiting on her heart, walking with her through the death of her father, protecting her purity, discipling her in the word, leading her in ministry through their church, and engaging her to be married. The journey has not been easy for him either. He had his own challenges with bringing a white girl home to his family. I know his family too, and they have also worked through their prejudices to point that they no longer see a white girl but a grand/daughter-in-law.

    We all wept with joy on their wedding day (I cry at all weddings). We wept not just because of the beauty of seeing a godly man and godly woman come together in marriage, but because of what such a wedding represented in our church in particular. First Pres was founded in 1804. Slaves once sat in our balcony. Pastors once preached from our pulpit that slavery was instituted by God. The Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America was founded in our sanctuary. The Moderator of that Assembly, Benjamin Morgan Palmer, preached that the eighth commandment demanded the preservation of slavery because without it the white man’s standard of living would be compromised. We keep Palmer’s Moderator’s chair in the sanctuary so that I can remind our people that the most brilliant of Christians can succumb to damnable heresies. In front of that chair gathered a congregation of black and white on Glenn and Anna’s wedding day. They were intermingled; not a black side and a white side. And the wedding party was exactly half black and half white as well. We wept that day because in that very sanctuary where so much anti-gospel had been practiced for decades, God unveiled the mystery of the gospel through black and white Christian brothers and sisters gathered as friends to worship and celebrate.

    Believe me, all of us white folk, Gaye included, have no delusion that such reconciling love is explained by how magnanimous we are. It has cost our black brethren much more to come into “Old First Pres” and befriend us than it has cost us. Our black brethren have pioneered the effort to diversify our congregation so that we can demonstrate to our surrounding culture convincingly the reconciling power of the gospel. FPC is is indebted to their courageous leadership of African-American members who are actively shaping their church visibly and philosophically into a truly gospel-centered congregation. We pray regularly for the Spirit to cause our church to reflect the complexion as well as the values of the Kingdom of heaven. And thank you, Thabiti, for sending us some of those members who became leaders as soon as they walked through the door!

    Almost weekly we stumble and step on each other’s toes. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are constantly learning to love each other well. It’s messy and sometimes it even erupts, as with the article (which could have used some editing by those of us who daily live in interracial relationships). But our tensions never last long because we are committed to each other. None of us is going anywhere. We’re stuck with each other as we will be heaven, so we sit down one on one with each other or we have a “town hall” meeting (as we did two weeks ago over Black Lives Matter) and talk it/listen it out. I have been overwhelmed by the graciousness of many African-American pastor friends who have reached out to us through this firestorm to offer consolation because they truly know us. One friend (who happens to be African-American) said yesterday, “We will never get anywhere in reconciliation if white people feel like they are constantly walking on eggshells and can never say “I’m sorry” enough. Is it really true that there is grace for every sin except when a white Christian says something that strikes a black Christian as insensitive!” Given the level of my white guilt (both real and imagined), it takes a friend like Leon to convince me of the gospel’s power. And you, Thabiti, have been one of those friends too–one that sticks closer than a blood, white or black brother–a friend like Jesus who loves a sinner like me. Real reconciliation will only occur within such incarnated gospel relationships, not social media.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Love you, brother! Keep serving our Savior faithfully; your reward in glory will be great and many will join you in it!
      T

  25. lori says:

    I appreciate this piece, and I also really appreciated Gaye Clark’s essay, and am sad to see it was taken down (although I certainly respect her wishes).

    Honest, open discussions about race are going to be hard, and feelings are likely going to get hurt. We have to learn to work through that. If we are to accept and deal with the reality of white racism, that means we are going to have to make room for it to be confessed and worked out.

    Now, I do think the piece would have been stronger if Clark had made it clear that her discomfort with her daughter’s interracial marriage was a sin to be confessed and repented of. But, the reality is that, especially for people of her generation, even her initial attitude was probably more accepting than most. Currently, a little less than 2/3rds of Americans say that interracial marriages are “okay with them.” That means there are still a third of Americans who don’t think they are okay! And, many of those people are in our churches, and if we’re honest, probably a good number of the 2/3rds who say it is okay might feel some discomfort if it was their own child.

    I have four children, and we are raising them in a minority-white city. We know that it’s very likely that one or more of our children will marry somebody who is not white. My husband and I are in our 30s, and to us, that is not a big deal. But, these would be the first interracial marriages in either of our families. In fact, my sister and I were the first in about five or six generations in my family to even marry people who weren’t of all-Italian ancestry! I remember my mom telling stories about one of her aunts who used to ask, whenever she or any of her siblings or cousins would mention a person they were interested in, “But are they Italian?” And my mother, being of her generation where that just wasn’t a big deal, thought that was so silly and small-minded. And yet, as much as I love my mother and my mother-in-law and my father and my father-in-law, and as outwardly accepting as I have no doubt they would be, would almost certainly have some level of internal struggle with having their grandchildren in interracial marriages.

    I think we not only need grace across our racial differences, but also our generational differences. What seems like something that shouldn’t even require a thought to those of us who are under 40 or 50 may indeed look and feel differently to those who were older and raised at a different time. I could absolutely imagine sending Gaye Clark’s piece to, say, my mother or mother-in-law if one of my children were to get engaged to somebody of a different race, because I have little doubt they’d have a similar struggle, having been raised in a time when interracial marriage was much, much less common and acceptable and when even things like cross-ethnicity or cross-denominational marriages sometimes raised eyebrows.

  26. Mark says:

    I saw an article in Yahoo regarding Gaye Clark and it went on to The Washington Post till I found it in here.

    I missed the original article to understand how she feels. Yes, the article should have stayed up now that it is a hot topic and good one.

    You see, I am Deaf and I understand where she is coming from. I have had hearing girlfriends (and yes, I have a hearing wife) whose parents were concerned about us because of hearing and communication. As you can see so far with my pretty good English grammar skills here, I am more “Hearing” than Deaf. I am Born-Again Christian and I have worked with the Deaf Ministry, Deaf mission board as Board of Directors, I am working on starting my own church that is for all, not just Deaf.

    Now, on the other hand, the Deaf women’s parents were also concerned that I was too “Hearing” even the Deaf women themselves that they saw I am more “Hearing”. Faith is great on that part but the hearing thing..

    I would have hearing children (although my wife can not bear children due to age. we are in our 50s and tomorrow is our 10th anniversary.. She is older than me. [date today is August 11, 2016] so.. ) Anyway. I know the fact if I had children, they would be hearing no matter if my wife would be Deaf or Hearing.

    What more interesting is that I dated many different races too. Hispanics, Polynesian (Hawaiian), Caucasian, Anglo (Nordic one time), and of course, Blacks. Three times I dated 3 Black Christian women. Was engaged to one. Yes, my mother was concerned with the 2nd one I dated. But she learned to accept by the time I dated 3rd one. 2nd one we were different people in many other ways.. but the 3rd one I was engaged to, we broke up because of hardship for me to find employment in her hometown in Miami, Florida. I am from upstate NY. She blamed me and I saw her not ready and not supportive.

    I could have written an article on this but that is okay. I rely solely on this verse that is most important in relationship for anyone: 2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (KJV).

    What the verse is saying is that you need to be equally yoked with another believer. It did not say the word relationship or marriage but the whole point it is because if you read on next verse, yes it does when it comes to relationship with others (friendships, coworkers, marriage, etc). Nothing there it says about race at all. Nothing about ethic either. None of that. That is why I have dated quite different ethic women of colors, and of hearing/deafness.

    Only I wished I did marry someone of different color. Not God’s plan. ONLY God will lead the person you will marry to. So this means any race. Even appearances, hearing, blind, etc. Any.

    It takes get to used to of having an inlaw who appears different. We have grown to learn what God wanted us to do so. The Cross ended the separation of race, languages, etc. Remember Jesus commanded us? To love thy neighbor and love thy enemies because if you want to love Jesus, it says in John 14:15, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Amen.

    1. Mother B says:

      Mrs. Clark did something very right to have raised a daughter who saw no color when she met the man she was to marry. I too am Mrs. Clark – that’s another story.

      Anytime something is different, we take moments to adjust. As Christian children we are taught to love one another, but that doesn’t mean instant liking. We have to be introduced to foreign things – foods, people, customs, and adapt. Moving about the country due to the military has shown me many aspects of humanity and I can say that all races change by their demographics, income and location. ALL of them.

      I applaud Mrs. Clark for confronting her emotions and I am sorry she has endured such backlash.

      Total side note. I was a cosmetologist w/ a home shop while we lived in military housing in Europe. I had many clients of many shades, and it was always funny when someone who was AA/Black would see me when I opened the door and I am looking back at questionable, wide eyes. “Oh, mmm, you’re white.” “Yep.” Now, were they being prejudice because they ‘assumed’ I would be black? No, we go by social norms and unless we are exposed to things we’re not accustomed to, we won’t learn, we won’t grow.

      Big Thanks to all those at TGC for giving a platform for discussion. I can’t wait for the next installments:
      1-My child married a Northerner 2-My child married a Catholic 3-My child is Gay and is getting married. 4-My child married a Vegan. 5-My child married a Republican 6-My child married a Pacifist 7-My child married a Cross-fitter

      In all seriousness, when all you really want for your child to grow to be Happy and live in a Christ centered marriage, eventually all else will become secondary. Be Well – Be Happy – Be Blessed.

  27. Ryan Williams says:

    “You bother not because you anticipate good treatment. You bother because it’s the right thing to do and it honors your Lord. And you bother because you know that if that’s how they treated Jesus for doing good, then that’s how they’ll treat you. And you bother out of love for your fellow human beings and your brethren in Christ. Let love constrain you even when there’s no praise to maintain you.”

    Wow, encouragement received. Thanks bro!

    – From a white man in Canada. :)

  28. Johanna Arnoldussen says:

    I was not offended by Gaye Clark’s post. It was an experience from her heart that she gave. I found it very gracious of her to explain how the Lord changed her heart: she was ‘confessing’ her feelings and how the Lord changed them. I haven’t read all the negative posts but where is grace?
    I know a number of couples of mixed racial backgrounds. I have spoken with many, and many have confessed that they love each other, etc. BUT they said if they were honest, they would not marry another ‘race’ if they had to do it over. This does not mean they do not love each other: they were saying that the cultural differences were so great that it made many obstacles in their marriage. They have learned to live with the differences and learned to compromise. I would say this is true of any great difference whatever your background, be it in different faith, upbringing, or nationality.

    1. Johanna Arnoldussen says:

      P.S. And I just read Trip Lee’s article: he also stated: “Jessica didn’t look like I expected my future wife to look, but that didn’t matter to me. …. And I was never opposed to marrying a white girl. I just didn’t think I would.” So here too we see that he didn’t ‘intend’ to marry a ‘white girl’ but the Lord changed his heart too … just like he did Gaye’s!!!

  29. Hiram Claudio says:

    I read the original article Sister Clarke wrote and last night listened to the podcast that discussed reactions to it. As a man of color, and someone in an interracial marriage that will celebrate 33 years next week, I can honestly say I don’t understand the backlash the article (or the author) received. I found her piece very honest, real and felt it celebrated her daughter’s marriage as well as her own journey to a new and enlightened place in her being. I truly feel bad for any pain this has caused anyone but at the top of that list is any pain it has brought the author. For the record … this 54 year old Hispanic man and preacher thought the article was wonderfully written and was blessed by it!

  30. Ben says:

    Why would you capitalize the “b” in “black” but not the “w” in white? If a white writer did that it would be considered racism.

  31. James says:

    It’s awesome to know when your comment has been rejected. Disagree with the author and that happens.

  32. Jenny says:

    Thank you for a God-honoring, pastoral response. Refreshing!

  33. Stephanie says:

    As an African American mother who walked the same path as Gayle when my daughter met, fell in love with, and married a white man, I can appreciate where Gayle is coming from. I appreciate her opening up her heart and exposing her vunerable self the way she did. It’s funny how we say that in order to improve race relations, we must have some difficult conversations, then we turn around and chastise those who try to haave the difficult conversations or share their growth path in this difficult issue. Thank you Gayle.

  34. Hawley Forde says:

    There is this thing called grace. If you do not have grace , you do not have Christ. The Bible says that GOD IS LOVE, GOD=LOVE. Grace is a derivative from love without love grace is not possible. I lived in a similar situation. the parents who called themselves Chriatians and went to church every Sunday could never get over the fact that their daughter had married a black man. A Christian that did not smoke, drink, etc. A black man who when he finished his MBA was offered a PhD from 3 different departments at a prestigious University full paid with a stipend. I pity and pray for the people that have negative things to say when a person pours their heart out to the world by being open, transparent and accountable only to have that heart sliced, diced and stomped on. It seems the love of many have waxed cold. Matt 24:12.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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