I’m Superior To You
A controversy around the issue of white privilege and racism has brought my alma mater, Moody Bible Institute, to the forefront on this issue that continues to plague our country and the Church (you can read about the controversy here). On one hand, it breaks my heart. I loved my school and all of the lessons I learned there. Seeing negative comments made about a place I love is hard. On the other, I am thrilled by the discussion going on. I see grace, compassion and humility in the words of the president, Dr. Paul Nyquist (response letter) and from many of the students. This is a thing of beauty.
I grew up in a white home in a predominantly white community, but my mom had been a missionary in Mexico before she met my Dad and the result of this was that we grew up with a love for different colors, different cultures and different perspectives. Ours was a home where Spanish was sung, where ethnicities were celebrated and where we were encouraged to embrace ALL people. I have distinct memories of walking through fields by my mom’s side so that she would be able to translate for migrant workers. We welcomed anyone and everyone into our home.
Growing up this way, I thought that this was how all Christians lived. I thought that if we really believed the Bible when it says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) then we would live that out and treat all people equally.
I still believe this is how we should treat people, but I am no longer shocked when this is not the case. We live in a sinful world after all and while the Church should be the place that is fighting against the sinful nature more than any other area of society, we are often too busy fighting other sinners to take the time to allow Christ to penetrate the darkness in our own hearts and bring our own issues to light.
We try to solve racism issues by dealing with attitudes and behaviors. We develop plans to be inclusive of all races. We institute monthly celebrations of different ethnicities. And while these discussions and efforts can be good, I feel like we are missing the very root of the racism issue. At the root of racism is the belief that one person/one group is superior to the other and one is inferior. When one person or one group feels superior, they will put others down to ensure their own place in the world. They will not welcome others into their group until deemed “worthy”. But equally dangerous is the person or group who feels inferior. A feeling of inferiority causes people to fight back. When you are treated poorly over and over again, you get to a breaking point and you respond out of those volatile emotions.
We can talk about how these things are not right until we are blue in the face, but I think it is ironic that this entire debate was fueled by social media comments. Social media, which in itself emphasizes the superiority/inferiority complex. We applaud those who have a huge following. We admire those who are brilliant in their speech. We are amazed when someone is able to to express themselves eloquently in 140 characters or less. And anyone who has dipped their toes into the blogging world, knows that the idea of building your own platform is a siren call.
What I think we fail to understand is that this drive to be the very best, to be noticed, to prove ourselves, is the very same thing that drives racism. At the core of our beings is this need to feel loved and respected, to be enough. When it comes to the things that we do, I believe that somewhere along each person’s journey, they will come to the crossroads where they realize that they can continue to keep running after those things, trying to make them happen OR they can rest in the knowledge that they already are loved, respected and enough because of Christ and what He has accomplished for us (and truthfully, this might be a crossroads that we face again and again and again).
We can’t in one breath say that racism is terrible and that everyone should be treated equally and in the other breath be self promoting, proud and superior in our attitude. This attitude that is so prevalent in the Church spills over into our attitudes toward racism. It seems to me that minorities have been treated as inferior for far too long and as I stated earlier, when you are treated as inferior for so long, you will at some point fight back. Both the superior minded and inferior minded person will put others down in order to make themselves feel better. This perpetuates the problem of racism.
Is racism an issue? Absolutely. Is “white privilege” a real thing? Yes, it is. Does the Church need to change? Yes, it does.
But I don’t think we can solve these issues by just trying harder to educate people or even by developing plans to be more racially diverse. Until we confront the heart issues of superiority/inferiority there will be no lasting change. The bad behavior, the demeaning of others, the rude comments, the vandalizing of property and the disrespect are all symptoms of these issues that affect all of us in some way.
The question then is are we willing to allow Christ to examine our hearts and point out the areas in which we need to change? Are we willing to admit that we treat others badly at times either because we have felt superior or inferior? Will we stand up for those who are treated as “less than”? Will we refuse to judge people based on the color of their skin and instead look at the content of their character as Martin Luther King, Jr so eloquently said? Will we understand that regardless of our skin color, if our identity is in Christ, we must all ask these questions?
As followers of Christ, Jesus is our example.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
What if we really lived this way? What if humility was our highest goal? What would change?
I think it would change everything.
The title for this blog post is a bit of an experiment. I do not normally choose my post titles with the purpose of drawing people to my blog. But one of the ways to do this, is to write titles that grab attention. Whenever we say anything that can be inflammatory, it seems like people swarm. Thanks for humoring me. I don’t believe I am superior to others and pray often that God would not allow that attitude to have any foothold in my life.