In the past few years, my opinions and worldview have shifted a lot. Up until a few years ago, my worldview was the same as many middle-class, suburban, white, evangelical Christians. I stayed away from politics because it seemed like a lot to dive into understanding, and I felt that just listening to the people around me about who to vote for was working out just fine.
In 2015, we moved back to our hometown in Michigan (after graduating from Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, Washington) and quickly got involved with helping to plant Detroit Church. As we joined this community, it was the first time that we really shared life with people who had a different perspective of how the world works and we didn’t really understand the true significance of what we were doing by helping to plant a multi-racial, multi-generational church. I still had the mindset that I was taught, of thinking “I see & treat everybody the same” and was completely blind to the reality of racism in America.
I had an eye-opening moment at church one week when I first heard systemic racism explained, and my eyes began to open. For the first time (at age 22) I understood that when people talked about racism they were not simply talking about people saying outright hateful and terrible things, but are talking about the way our country was built and the systems that we have in place that are keeping certain people oppressed. To keep the rest of this few year process brief, I started diving into books that would teach me more, attending trainings, listening to podcasts, etc. so that I could learn what people were experiencing. This has been very hard at times because much of this has been so different than what my experience of the world has been – my thoughts & experiences have really been challenged. I believe that why many white people don’t dive in further to understanding racism is because it seems so far from their experience that they can hardly believe that this is what people are actually experiencing. But I fully trust that as we begin to listen to people of color or people who have grown up in a different context, there is a lot we will learn that has been different from our own experience. After having a foundational understanding of racism in America, I started thinking about how our systems need to change, which made me start paying attention to politics. I started to understand why the policies in our country matter. My eyes have been opened more and more and now there’s no turning back and closing them, though that would be a lot easier. I’ve heard Austin Channing Brown share these words from a white friend in a similar situation, where the friend said that “Doing nothing is no longer an option for me”.
Throughout this process, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge how lonely this journey can be as a Christian diving into politics, especially as my views have become more and more progressive. I have found many other people along the journey who cheer me on and will dive into these conversations, but I find that overall, Christians have often been like I was in the past or have aligned with fully conservative views because those are often the politicians that are against abortion and same-sex marriage – which seem to be the things Christians care most about. And to be blunt, seem to care for and defend these things even if it makes them appear hateful and unloving to the people around them.
As I have reframed my worldview, my largest desire has been to listen to people who might share a perspective with me that is different than I’ve heard before. The more we can listen, the more pieces we have of the puzzle to paint a full and inclusive picture of how our world actually is. The unfortunate reality is that many people have been shocked to learn that I am a Christian who listens and doesn’t want to debate with them about their views or the way that they are living their lives. I also have seen in these conversations with various friends how much love and care they have for humans all over the world, and why people are fighting so hard to make this a country where everybody has equal opportunities and can be fully included. I have seen non-Christians fighting for and loving all humans through their actions much more than I have seen coming from the church – just being really honest here.
I have tried to put words to my journey may times, but always get lost in the process because there is so much to share. I am giving this brief overview with a main reason that I’ve become very passionate about. The main reason that I am writing is because I am afraid to see many Christians interacting with the world in the way that I used to. We are often surrounded by other white people, with the church being the main place that we are involved, and are not hearing perspectives outside of those spheres. I believe that it is extremely important to have a community of people around you who you can listen to and realize how the world can be experienced aside from the way that you have always experienced it. (And the purpose of getting to know these people is not just to tell them about Jesus, but to recognize all that each person can contribute to your life from their own worldview, if we choose to listen and not just have an evangelical agenda). The fact that the majority of white people have the option to stay out of politics if they choose is the perfect example of the privilege and position that we hold. A quote that has always remained with me is:
If you are reading this, I do want to challenge you to actually dive into the work that might begin or continue to open your eyes to what people are experiencing. If you want to begin to hear more perspectives, read a book written by person of color. If you’re a Christian that wants to dive into this work because you recognize how important this topic is within the church, I have plenty of books about race from a Christian perspective that I would love to share with you. There are endless podcasts that I would happily recommend. Even just taking a small step can begin to open our eyes to something we may not have understood before, and then new questions you have will continue to guide your journey as you learn and grow.
The beautiful thing I have come to realize is that though some may think that I am drifting away from “truth” in Scripture, I have come to know God and the Bible in a whole new way, that is still just as true. There are a lot of ways that people around the world worship and interact with God that bring out different characteristics of who He is, and all sides of Him are important to know. While the white evangelical church typically stays away from politics, that does not mean that that’s how it’s supposed to be – it’s just the way that our churches have come to be. The majority of black churches have a beautiful focus on justice and equity, which are just as much at the heart of God. By remaining just in our mostly white, evangelical churches, we are missing out on much of God’s character. I have been trying to uproot a lot of what I’ve accepted as truth in my evangelical upbringing and to bring it all back to Scripture and see if it’s actually what the Lord desires.
My journey with race, faith, & politics is just beginning. I have learned a lot but I still have a ton to learn. It will be a lifetime journey. I invite you to join me in the journey and to think critically about how we are viewing what we have always accepted. Jesus is and always will be my foundation, but there are countless examples of the evangelical church being on the wrong side of history (using the Bible to support slavery as one large but clear example…) and I don’t want us to be on the wrong side anymore. I often wonder what Jesus would be doing in our country at this time, and I cannot imagine that he would stay silent as the church is becoming recognized for their hate and as the majority of us are standing by while families are being separated in terrible conditions at our border. I believe that Jesus would be challenging us to do better and I know that we can.