Monday, November 22, 2004

Beautiful Confessions of a Closet Racist

I was privileged this past Sunday to play bass at my church with a combined group made up of the choir from Salem and the choir from Mount Olive Baptist Church from inner city Knoxville. Mount Olive is a black church, and they came to Halls! I was amazed, literally amazed at how God worked through this meeting, and I think He blew some doors off our hinges. There was a lot of unspoken controversy and consternation about these two churches having a joint service, especially at Salem (in Halls). Halls has always been a white community, almost strictly. There is a growing Mexican population, and a small Asian population, but the kids from these families have never been in schools until recently. And now there are just a few at Halls elementary and the other two elementary schools that feed into Halls Middle. The reason is because of the high level of silent but heavy racism in Halls. I can't truly say that I'm not a part of it either. I do my best not to hate people, but racism isn't just hating someone. It's seeing them differently because they are of a different race. And I think there's a little bit of it in all of us. God bless the people who wear theirs like a garment, instead of hiding it and pretending it doesn't exist like I do. Father Freeman told a story about living in a town where the Ku Klux Klan was going to march. He spoke of thinking that something must be done to make a show of opposition to such a hateful group of people. He thought of organizing a group to stand on the streets with signs to show that they (his group) didn't approve. This is sort of like shouting in the face of an obnoxious person to tell them they shouldn't be obnoxious. God showed him though, that indeed he was a racist too. He didn't burn crosses or carry signs, but he still saw people of a different color differently. That's racism, and he said that he was ashamed. And I grasp the outer edge of understanding this shame. Not because I am a racist, but because while old men who are somewhat reminiscent of civil war relics march and shout openly in the street with their sins on parade, I hide my racism deep under the surface of a grand facade of piety. I bear the pretense of a hero and the heart of a coward. This is to my shame and not my glory.

So, the folks from Mt Olive were a little reluctant to come into the heart of Halls, and there were (unfortuneately) people from Salem who didn't come to church this past Sunday night because they were not open-hearted to the idea of black people coming to a white church. But we rediscovered the idea (all of us) Sunday night, of the beauty of the true church, the broken, piecemeal, mosaical bride whose body belongs to Jesus. I got to play bass with the combined choirs and the last time I remember having that much fun playing music was when everyone sat around at the cafe after hours and sang Long December by the Counting Crows. But this was even a hundred times better! I hope this isn't just a one-firework-show. I really feel that it's the beginning of something huge like I've never seen before.


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