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Identity Politics and Dealing with Racism in the Church

My personal history dealing with racism.
The church has experienced its share of significant racism within her walls. In contrast to other great experiences in the South regarding racial reconciliation, I still remember preaching at a church in Mississippi and getting into a serious altercation with one of the elders. Before my sermon, I spoke to a lovely black lady who happened to be cleaning in the church basement (something that was common in many white churches). I had a delightful conversation with her, but I could tell she was suspicious and a little guarded. I was inured enough in the racism in Mississippi, especially the town I was visiting, to know that a white man doesn’t often spark conversations with black females sporadically unless there’s an unstated agenda. I eased her by telling her a joke about how nervous I was preaching and how my wife and I are looking forward to moving to Boston—we were “Yankees at heart.” She looked at me with restrained excitement and said, “Oh…