by Nicole Dickens
PT ’16 & ’17 Speaker
Racial division has been at the core of American society since its inception. While we were still colonies of the British Crown, a codified caste system was put in place where African slaves and Native Americans were deemed something less than human and therefore deserving of slavery and annihilation. The sad truth is that not only did our founding fathers actively participate in the development and promulgation of such a system but the Church in America, both protestant and catholic alike, was also its architect. This is our history and is part of the fabric of the American story that we’d like to forget. Should we? Can we?
I’d like to humbly submit that the American Church today is beset with the same cords of disunity along racial lines that were originally sown while it was still a young colony. These seeds have grown into a forest that keeps the Church in the US divided along racial and denominational lines. There are deeply held belief systems of which members of the Body of Christ in America aren’t even conscious but are governing decisions around where we will worship, how we will worship and with whom we’ll worship. These belief systems are not born out of the Spirit’s lead but instead the greed, fear and rebellion that are at the foundations of the nation. Our inability to perceive this truth, embrace it and stand in the gaps in unity it has created is the only reason why there’s division at the national level. Until the Church can bridge the gap and step towards unity by mending this first tear in God’s original design, we cannot expect to see unity in our government or nation. The Church comes first in God’s design. If it refuses to become the unified Bride she is called to be, the true joy set before Him, then the nation is lost. The authority to change the trajectory of the nation rests in the Church first. God does not have a plan B – or at least He’s yet to share it with us, if He does.
I’ve been on a path of progressive revelation that required me to come to grips with the racism that was in my own worship. Raised in the African American Church, I had no desire to cross the racial divide and worship with believers who didn’t look like me. I wasn’t hard lined about it all – I was cordial to others of the faith, even friendly and would serve alongside them in joint efforts from time to time. To make my home with people outside of my race, my church family, so to speak, well that was another thing. Another thing entirely. I had this perception of this immense loss if I were to leave the African American Church: a loss of belonging, acceptance and understanding, of being known to the core, through and through by a group of people who shared my love and devotion to Christ, the Savior. As I came to know Christ, the Lord, in increasing measure, I could no longer continue to pretend that the divide I was willfully choosing was okay. As I followed His lead into the deeper things of Him, I found that heaven was far more cosmopolitan than we are taught in this nation – that these divisions don’t exist there (no Jew or Gentile, man or woman, etc.) but in Christ, all are truly one. This unity is OUR identity in Him. Have I paid a price for this revelation? YES. Salvation is the only thing that is free to us and even that cost the Father and the Son dearly. Was it worth the price? YES (a thousand times over) because I now have a maturing Hope that wasn’t there before, that in this life, I’ll see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The goodness: a unified American church that lives up to the call of One Body, One Baptism, One Lord and the founding ideals of this nation that are rooted in righteousness – that all are created equal under God.
The most segregated hour in America is still 11 am Sunday mornings. And I am dissatisfied with that state, to say the least. I pray every day that more will join in this holy dissatisfaction and make the move towards unity because the truth is this: if you are in an American Church today then you are being manipulated (probably unwittingly, as I was) by these same roots of division sown in the earliest days of this nation. Let’s pull this weed out at the root together.
Please join us on January 13th, 2018 for our first Passion Dialogue event “Truth and Reconciliation Summit” where we will discuss ways to bring greater unity to the Church by first dealing with the root of the breaks. Find out more information here.