Friday, December 05, 2014

Fruit from Ferguson

I've read some news and several opinion pieces (from all sides) about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, but haven't commented about it. From this vantage point, though, I have a thought about the name calling of racism. In his Is Truth Racist?, J. D. Hall makes a point that "accusations of racism are the very reason why people refuse to speak the painful truth on important issues." Hall may be more acerbic where we would prefer more irenic, but I think he got this right. I had previously been contemplating this point on accusations of racism and I agree with Hall. 

"Accusations of racism" are often too quickly trotted out, and often in a way that is both bullying and counterproductive. The accusation has the effect of stifling a conversation that needs to take place -- one in which both sides need to speak honestly and freely. A free and honest conversation will lead toward solutions, whereas bullying leads to clamming up, conformity and covering up the problem. In the American context, "racism" is most often leveled against whites. Most modern white Americans would rather be called anything than a racist. When the "R" word is leveled against them, they will likely back out of a conversation and/or pretend to agree. But there is talking and listening to be done on both sides. What is said may be tactful, but it must be honest. We should never act in such a way to shut down someone's honest assessment of race relations and its problems.

In the front of my Bible I have written a saying: "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." If this is true (and it is) then we should never bully someone into agreeing with us, but try to bring them along to the right with truth and logic. There is an almost hidden principle within Paul's discussion of eating meat offered to idols. It is this: do not try to get someone to violate his or her conscience by submitting to your conscience. If this is true (and it is) then the solemn duty of the Christian is to convince, not to coerce. May it ever be so.

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