The last couple of weeks have seen two high profile footballers accused of making racist remarks to opponents. The world is rightly disgusted by this, even in the context of highly competitive and even combative sporting battle. How much more should we in the church avoid all hints of racism?
If you are an overtly racist preacher, this post will not get to the heart of the issue. I am writing more for those who don’t try to support a race discrimination position by twisting Scripture and becoming defensive. I am writing for preachers who may accidentally give a hint of racism without intending to do so.
Here are three ways I have seen preachers fall into hints of racism that might prove helpful.
1. Cut out references to a “black heart” – Maybe in the context of a mimed drama it might be ok, but probably not. Because of the way “black” and “white” are used as race markers, we have to be careful in using them as references to sinfulness and righteousness. The Bible does speak of white robes, but a black heart? Though your sins be as scarlet, sure, but not a black heart. I heard one preacher make reference to “your disgusting black heart.” He did so seemingly oblivious to who was sitting in front of him. And to make things worse, he himself was from a place associated with racism in the past. Probably best to just avoid the use of “black” as a reference to sin. Not even a hint.
2. Generally don’t mimic accents from the pulpit – Again, I haven’t heard this done in a mocking way. But it can feel mocking nonetheless. I have experienced this with US folks faking a British accent, and with British folks faking a US accent (neither are very successful, which can lead to the feeling of implicit mockery). When preaching Bible stories we are preaching about people in the Middle East, or Africa, or Mediterranean Europe. Don’t fake an accent if it could be taken as mockery. Not even a hint.
3. Watch out for easy targets – In the English context there is much talk about racism and wanting to kick it out of sports, TV, etc. Yet there seems to be open season on anti-American comments, or anti-French jokes. I’m fully English and patriotically so, but I find myself reacting inside to anti-US comments from preachers. In the context of the body of Christ united across Jew/Gentile lines, it just doesn’t seem appropriate. Let’s go for a “not even a hint” approach, why not?
Are there other ways preachers inadvertently give a hint of racism in their preaching?