Seeing racism as a sin may help us deal with it
Growing up in Northern Ireland (NI) I was so conscious of the conflict in which I was living that I wasn’t conscious of much else happening outside.
It wasn’t until I started to travel that I realised we were not the only ones having difficulties relating to each other. It was then I became to understand that ethnic conflicts, such as was happening in NI, were happening across the globe.
It was as a social work student in England that I became aware of the legacy of enslavement and the difficulty that existed in trying to acknowledge it and its continued reality manifesting itself in racism by white people against black people. Racism that was both overt and covert, conscious and unconscious.
I became aware that although I was focussed on the sectarian conflict in which I was formed racist ideology had seeped into me. I too had to deal with my sin of racism.
I use the word ‘sin’ because it is a concept I am well familiar and it helps to deal with racism as many flounder in trying.
It was while attending by zoom a Global Meeting for Worship that it came clearer to me. A friend shared a ministry in which he spoke of the ‘Holy earth’. Over this past week, I have been pondering the question of racism in the light of George’s Floyd’s death and I have listened to my internal voices and those of others with whom I have sat in numerous zoom meetings and amongst all that trying to discern the voice of the God.
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The earth is a good place to start as it is from the earth that we came at least as told in Genesis. So we all came from the same place yet somewhere along the way we have failed to recognise that we each come from the same source.
I guess this is where stories help us try and deal with what we grapple. In the Biblical narrative, it is right there almost second to the story of us being created from the dust of the earth. It is the story of Adam and Eve being seduced by the serpent and eating the forbidden fruit ‘that through disobedience sin entered the world’ and we have been living with it ever since.
A current view of sin may be best expressed in the word ‘selfishness’.That seemingly bias within us to look after ourselves even when at the expense of others.
Racism is the expression of a belief in behaviour. That belief is that ‘we’ are better than ‘they’ and hence we can justify the enslavement of the other. Of course, to carry this out we create a position of power and we are prepared to use it to enforce our desire.
Now we are dealing with centuries of racism and although life has changed racism has remained.
The Biblical stories did not just leave us to the ravages of sin but created a way to recognise our wrongdoing through repentance and forgiveness. This is first seen in the animal sacrifices that became part of the Jewish story, the animals’ death being a substitute for our own.
The Jesus story provides a way whereby one man took all of our sin and became the sacrificial lamb to take away the sins of the world.
Once again through the death of another man George Floyd, we are being reminded of the sin of racism and those who have ears are searching themselves and repenting of the sin of racism.
Sin being what it is, means that we have to remain conscious as it remains within us and is ready to ensnare us. And when we fall we will acknowledge it, repent of it and start again desiring to live in equality with our brothers and sisters of the earth.