I recently read a fascinating article on Facebook. The article talks about the effects of white privilege and how it makes it harder for white Americans to cope with the current recession, at least psychologically. He also talks about why it's important to pursue racial equality, even during a recession.
The article is really good, and I don't have much to add. I recommend reading it first before you read my own reflections.
I wanted to say that the article captures something crucial about human nature. We have a hard time putting others first when our own well being is on the line. When we are under pressure the first thing we give up on is generosity. Kindness and goodwill are luxuries we indulge in only if we are absolutely sure we can afford it, and often times not even then.
Unfortunately, as Tim Wise points out, this selfishness is shortsighted. When we fail to take care of people in need, the whole economy suffers. If we fail to take care of those people who are in need, we will soon find ourselves in need and there might not be anyone to take care of us.
One of the greatest contributions that religion has made in Western civilization, is that it teaches us the importance of loving and caring for others. In particular, Christianity teaches us to value others more highly than ourselves; to love and care for even our enemies. Through religion, we have the belief that taking care of others is always worth the cost.
One of the great scandals of American Christianity is that it has largely abandoned this teaching, especially with regard to racial equality.
There are exceptions of course. The abolitionist movement was championed by Christian activists, as was the early Republican party (which ended slavery in America). The civil rights movement was also championed by African American churches. Still, the majority of American Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, have either ignored or actively supported racial inequality.
This is a tragedy. White evangelical churches are in the best position to deconstruct the mythology surrounding white privilege. Yet most of the time they help to build up the myth that whites are deserving of their privilege. At the same time they ignore the very real racial inequality that persists in this country.
This is one of the main reasons why I am so very out of step with Evangelicals, both socially and politically. I continue to pray that the church will repent, but more importantly, I pray that we, as a Nation, repent of this evil, and begin working to solve the deep injustices that plague our country.