If you’ve ever lived in an old house, you know that there is always work to do to keep that house structurally sound. Ancient roots have messed with the foundation. There are four layers of shingles covering up a damaged roof. Old destruction caused by critters can’t be ignored any longer.
Nine years after The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson has blessed us with Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent. It’s such a good book and if you are a preacher, prepare to be drenched in sermon illustrations. Ms. Wilkinson brilliantly describes the United States as an old house that needs to address the cracks in our foundation.
The Institutional Church is also an old house.
There is always work to do in terms of learning about God and the history of God’s people and our history as God’s people. There are repairs to make (and I’m not talking about the church roof or the lighting in the sanctuary) and sometimes it feels easier to ignore them . . . until we cannot ignore them any longer.
As my own corner of Church World grapples with systemic racism, as we try to become an anti-racist Church, the subsequent issues involves fear. Hot topics always invite what could be difficult conversations.
I believe that congregations willing to have difficult conversations are dynamic and theologically faithful. They are confident that God’s truth will be lifted up and they don’t fear that “people will leave” when there are differences.
I love my brother’s response to differences in theology when debating certain issues: “I’m just not there yet.” It’s a generous thing to say, making the assumption that he might one day shift in his views.
There are churches with Black Lives Matter banners in their front lawns. There are churches offering Bible studies about racism. There are churches delving deeply into the history of White Supremacy in the Church. And there are churches ignoring that there is a problem.
Just like an old house, The Church of Jesus Christ – especially in the United States – needs work. Ancient biases have messed with the foundation. There are layers of mythology covering up a damaged structure. Destructive assumptions can no longer be ignored. (Except many congregations are indeed ignoring them.)
Not doing the work to tear down and rebuild and repair will eventually cause the whole thing to crash. And so, we need to face the truth about what lies behind the walls, underneath the foundation, and above our heads.
Do. Not. Be. Afraid. That. People. Will. Leave. Your. Congregation. If. You. Talk. About. Hard. Things. Yes, they will leave. And others will join you.
Please read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. She will explain it all.