Against Tribalism: Part II (TCM)
Sunday morning has been called by many, “The most segregated hour in America.” There was a time I would have vehemently denied such a remark…that time no longer exists. If you remember last week, I wrote about how in Michigan 8.2 miles separates a poverty stricken area from one of the most affluent communities in the country. I also made the observation that when you go to churches in those areas that you are likely to see a community that reflects the area in which is presides. This observation is confirmed by a study carried out by Lifeway Research and published January of this year. Now I am going to do everything I can to keep from going into too much detail regarding the specifics (research will be cited at the end of the article), and just make my point.
Within the study, it was found that most American Christians believe that their congregations are ethnically diverse enough. The sad reality is that this is far from true as found in a poll conducted by National Congregations Study in 2012 where racial segregation was still an issue. Now the good news is that it is getting better. From the years 1998-2012, congregations have become less segregated, but this doesn’t mean that it still isn’t an issue. It just shows that there is a natural progression towards racial integration. But this racial integration is moving faster for some ethnic groups than for others. While Hispanics are beginning to worship more readily with their black and white brothers and sisters in Christ, it is apparent that a large divide still exists between integration between black and white churches. The issue as I see it, tribalism. Each group is more concerned with themselves than they are for the other. What I mean by this is that Paul commands us in Phil. 2:3 to do nothing out of selfish ambition but consider others more important than ourselves. Sunday morning segregation shows that this command is one that we as the church fail to follow on a weekly basis. Notice the word I used there; we were commanded by Paul to consider others more important than ourselves, to consider their needs and wants above our own. This is NOT a suggestion. In not humbling ourselves and seeking to serve one another, we sin. We sin on just as grievous a level as the homosexual who fornicates with another homosexual or a scared young woman getting an abortion. In many senses, I would actually consider our inability to be integrated on a Sunday morning even more grievous than either of these.
In the gospel of John, we are told by Jesus that we will be known to be His followers by our love for one another. This is not some ambivalent far off love, a love at an arms distance. Oh no, it is a love that brings to attention that we belong to the king of the universe. It is supposed to be so head turning that the world takes notice of us and our unity in wonder of what has been done and hungry to know more. This is what we are supposed to be, and yet, here we sit racially segregated from one another because our ties to the blood that runs through our veins and the cultures that we originate from are of more importance than Jesus. The truly baffling thing to me is how churches will publically proclaim their sin by making foolish claims about being unashamedly of one ethnicity. How is this ok? How do we rectify such behavior in the text? The answer is simple; we cannot. Racial segregation (especially intentional) is sin, it is wrong, and it is antithetical to the gospel.
Now to be fair, this is mostly white churches fault. Let me explain. Throughout American history, white churches have traditionally fallen on the wrong side of history. White churches wanted to uphold slavery in the 1800’s and they wanted to uphold Jim Crow laws on the 1900’s. So in honesty, I cannot blame blacks for feeling less than welcome to a “white” church. If we are to correct this though, than we need to make earnest steps towards reconciliation. So here is what I would like to see. I would like to see pastors of racially segregated congregations come together and foster a relationship between the two congregations. I would love to see spiritual leaders recognize how sinful the behavior of segregation is and make every effort to rectify the problem as they would any other sin they see running rampant within their congregations. Perhaps when this issue is dealt with as seriously as others, we will begin to see a change. Until then, we will continue to slump into this sin and in the process discredit the cross and muddy our witness. I pray that each person reading this make a commitment to themselves and to Christ that they will no longer be a contributor to this problem, but be a part of the solution. Peace and blessings and as always thank you for reading.
Blake, J. (n.d.). Why many Americans prefer their Sundays segregated. Retrieved April 23, 2015, fromhttp://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/08/04/segregated.sundays/index.html?eref=bia_all
Lipka, M. (2014, December 14). Many U.S. congregations are still racially segregated, but things are changing. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/08/many-u-s-congregations-are-still-racially-segregated-but-things-are-changing-2
Smietana, B. (2014, December 16). Americans agree U.S. has come far in race relations, but has long way to go. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.lifewayresearch.com/2014/12/16/americans-agree-u-s-has-come-far-in-race-relations-but-long-way-to-go/
Smietana, B. (2015, January 15). Sunday Morning in America Still Segregated – and That’s OK With Worshipers. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.lifewayresearch.com/2015/01/15/sunday-morning-in-america-still-segregated-and-thats-ok-with-worshipers/