Paul Louis Metzger interviews the Rev. Clifford O. Chappell, who serves as senior pastor of St. Johns All Nations Church of God in Christ, Portland. The interview furthers the discussion of an Opinion column that Rev. Chappell wrote for the Oregonian earlier in the year.
PLM: What moved you to write that column?
CC: I was hearing a one-sided debate in the media supporting the position that racism does not exist, and that all too much is being made of it. The Opinion piece was my attempt to speak up and state my position that racism is alive and doing well in this country. I was especially moved after South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s speech to Congress, which I believe was directly rooted in racism. Former President Jimmy Carter was the only leading statesman who spoke up and addressed it as to what it was, that it “was based on racism.” He took a lot of heat but held his position and I applaud him for his stand.
PLM: What was the main point of your column?
CC: My main point was to demonstrate that racism exists in all facets of our culture. People are either aware of it and don’t know what to do anything about it, or they are in complete denial.
PLM: What types of responses did you receive to the Opinion column?
CC: I received many responses from across the full spectrum of beliefs. From very positive “Thank you for writing the article” to “It was a great article” to some very nasty and negative responses.
PLM: Were you surprised by the responses? If so, how so?
CC: No, I was not surprised at all by the responses. As indicated in the article, I am fully aware that racism is alive and well in this country and the responses only supported what I wrote. I believe that racism is still such a big issue that most people can’t even recognize it; it’s like trying to observe an elephant while standing only one foot away. It just doesn’t look like an elephant from that vantage point.
PLM: If you were to write a follow-up column, what would you say?
CC: My follow up article would be an attempt to raise the consciousness and awareness of racism. It is the lack of these sensitivities that causes people to be in denial.
PLM: As a pastor dedicated to pursuing a multi-ethnic church vision, what would you say to the blog’s readership?
CC: I recently got my wife a bouquet of flowers just to say, “Honey, I love and appreciate you.” The arrangement was a beautiful mix of assorted flowers where each enhanced the beauty of the next. As I studied them I was reminded of the multi-ethnic church. If we can see our individual differences as a bouquet that enhances the beauty of our diversity instead of as something to divide us, we will begin to see the real beauty that God intended, and celebrate our diversity as we worship and serve our God.