Welcome to the Marathon!

June 11th, 2008

Last fall, Paul and Mariko Metzger began a serious discussion about race at Imago Dei Community in which we were asked: Are you a passive racist? The event drew more than 100 people and there was a strong desire in the room to learn more about what passive, invisible forms of racism might exist in our attitudes and practices at Imago Dei. In January, 12 Christ-followers were invited to meet with the Metzgers to continue this journey. I feel very lucky to have been a part of “the twelve.” We prayed, studied the bible, and shared personal stories of how race and racism has shaped our lives. Half of the group was white and half were minorities.

Dr Metzger loves to say “this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.” As Americans, we love to solve problems ASAP. But realistically, prejudice is as old as race itself, and it’s epidemic, yet it’s invisible to the perpetrators (I don’t know many people who claim they’re a racist, do you?). Let’s not declare the “mission accomplished.” Both systemic change and discipleship take time. People from the dominant culture need to take the time to listen, examine their attitudes and habits, listen to the Word, and retrain themselves; their brothers and sisters of color need to participate in this journey with them.

We have been so “stoked” about this journey that we decided to invite others to join. Because it’s a marathon, we’re pacing ourselves and preparing for the long haul. This spring we expanded this discussion into class offered through Imago Dei’s School of Theology. You can view the class syllabus below. If you would like to write your own story, we would welcome that as well. Send it as a comment, up to 1500 words, and I can post it for others to see.


My story — and a gentle plea for less vanilla.

April 18th, 2008

As I get to know people, I’ve always loved asking them what they know about their ancestry: What’s your ethnic background? What does your name mean? I’ve found that many European Americans don’t know, and some even brush it aside saying they’re a “mutt” or “who cares?” or “just American” or “just plain vanilla.”

Likening skin color to ice cream flavors does make sense. Most flavors are somewhere between white and brown. But to define Northern Europeans as “vanilla” or “white” implies that they are tasteless and colorless, which is yet another way of defining white as the racially and culturally neutral “background” color of our society.

I long for the day when white Americans realize they aren’t just part of a neutral vanilla background. Here’s an example of what I mean: April 15’s episode of World Have Your Say posed this question to minorities: “Do you feel like you have to leave your culture at the door when you go to work…?” Whites would have a hard time answering Read the rest of this entry »

The Class: Removing the Blinders of Prejudice in the Church

April 6th, 2008

This is the syllabus for the class we held at Imago Dei Community in April and May 2008:

Class Overview:

We all struggle with prejudice—pre-judging people. Even in the church, we distort and minimize those whose stories and experiences are different from our own, as we view them through our limited cultural lenses. We need to see others rightly from God’s global kingdom perspective. This 8 week class hosted by a group of Christ-followers from Imago Dei will develop further the themes addressed during the “Are You a Passive Racist?” forum led by Paul and Mariko Metzger at Evangel Baptist last November. The aim of the class is to share God’s kingdom vision where God invites all of us and incorporates each of our stories into Christ’s story through the Spirit. Building on the biblical story where God invites all of us to participate in his story, we need to invite others whose experiences are different from our own to share their stories so that we can move beyond the pain, victimization, and isolation associated with prejudice toward healing, victory, and hope. As our eyes are opened as we listen in love, we hope to move from racial, ethnic, and cultural prejudice to just forms of perception as we look through God’s eyes as viewed through Christian Scripture.

Ground Rules:

*Stay engaged: Participants should do everything possible to come to all classes as these 8 weeks are a relationship building exercise.*Be prepared to experience discomfort: You may experience guilt, sorrow, conviction, followed (possibly) by repentance, renewal, greater self-awareness, and a heightened appreciation for God and one another.*Speak your truth in love: Truth can be objective and scientific. But it can also be personal and passionate. It can be complex, reflecting pain, anger, disbelief, or even ambiguity as a result of encountering unfamiliar experiences. If all truth is God’s truth, then God’s truth includes crying truth, stuttering truth, expressing truth with uncomfortable pauses, and even angry truth. Make sure to express hard truths, and also to express them in love, seeking to build up one another.Listen well: It’s so easy to write off those whose experiences are different from our own. Listen well to others as they share their experiences. Good listeners are often God’s healing agents.*Expect and accept non-closure: Sometimes offenders have to give time to victims to heal before they can experience full reconciliation and move forward. No one in this class should expect closure for racism on the macro level at the end of the class; if anything, our hope is that we will all come away more sensitized to racism and other forms of prejudice, becoming more effective agents of reconciliation.Sense your own brokenness and need for God: We are all victimizers and victims, depending on the contexts in which we find ourselves. Accept one another, seeking reconciliation with God and with one another.*Four of the points listed above as ground rules were adaptations of points made in the book, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, written by Glenn Eric Singleton and Curtis Linton (Corwin Press, 2005)

Select Resources:

Mark DeYmaz, Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation, J-B Leadership Network Series (Jossey-Bass, 2007).Curtiss Paul DeYoung,Michael O. Emerson, George Yancey and Karen Chai Kim, United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race (Oxford, 2004).Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford, 2001).Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central, 2001).Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (Perseus, 2006).Paul Louis Metzger, Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church (Eerdmans, 2007).John M. Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down, 30th Anniversary Edition (Regal, 2006).Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice, More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel, Revised and Expanded (IVP, 2000).Glenn Eric Singleton and Curtis Linton, Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools (Corwin Press, 2005).Richard Twiss, One Church, Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You, Revised Edition (Regal Books, 2000).Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Free To Be Bound: Church Beyond the Color Line (Navpress, 2008).Other helpful works include significant works of literature, such as the following: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Other important sources include the following films: The Color of Fear, Crash, Eyes on the Prize, Race—the Power of Illusion, and Unfulfilled Dreams.Removing the Blinders of Prejudice in the Church©2008, Paul and Mariko Metzger and Imago Friends