Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Why Is The Church Still Segregated? Yes, I am going there.

Surely I am not the only one who has ever contemplated this. I know the easy answer. Two words. Comfort zone. We want to stay where we feel most comfortable. It's easy and cozy, and it goes both ways. No blaming or finger pointing here. It is what it is. But I believe we have failed Christ miserably in this area. I find the term "black church" offensive. You certainly don't hear anyone say, "white church". And yet we are. Cities with very large congregations are more integrated. But in smaller churches, less than 200, you are hard pressed to find a multi-cultural fellowship. 

We need each other! We can learn from each other. White folks could use some soul and spirit. Our worship really doesn't have to be stoic, unemotional, looking more like a bunch of cardboard cutouts than people with passion. 

When I was growing up, on occasion my mom would take us kids to a "black church". She liked their singing. Honestly, I liked it too. They smiled. They improvised. (Have you ever heard our black brethren sing, No Not One?) Their heads bopped around. They sang the songs I liked, the happy-clappy ones, not funeral songs. But the singing was all I liked. I would have rather been at my own church where I didn't stick out like a sore thumb. These folks loved seeing us. They actually got excited whenever we walked in. It didn't matter to me how friendly they were. I was a white girl in a black church and couldn't wait til the final "amen". 

I've come a long way since then. I've learned that we have more in common than differences. There really is only one race. The human race. 

A few years ago, in a bible class, the teacher asked what are some areas you are struggling with. This morning I was extremely emotional, on the verge of tears before I sat down. You don't want to go to church when you are emotionally unstable because, guaranteed, someone will say something or a certain song will trigger a breakdown. An elderly man felt the need to share that he struggled with being racist. Ordinarily, I may have rolled my eyes, or even felt my blood pressure rise a bit, but his words felt like a knife this time. I burst into tears. I cried because I thought of my biracial niece. I cried because I was going to cry about something and this was as good a reason as any. I cried because the church is one of the most segregated places on earth and maybe it's because of men and women like him. 

My generation is, generally speaking, not as prejudice as the one before. Some of our parents and grandparents may have been racist, but we have learned to think for ourselves and I believe we have done a good job not passing down hatred and bigotry to our children. Our kids are more accepting and open minded of people who are different from them, and this goes beyond cultural differences. To their credit, they will befriend anyone who is nice to them. 

Growth only comes by stepping out of our comfort zone. As much as I'd love to see an integrated church as the norm, rather than the exception, I'm not convinced it will happen in my lifetime. Too many of us don't like change. My hope lies in my children and grandchildren's generation. While us baby boomers have made some strides, the real change will come when the church stops isolating and shunning people who are different than them and starts loving them. The young people today are just the ones to make it happen.