Pursuing the work of antiracism

How do we become an antiracist church?

For the past month, Church of the Incarnation has been talking about racism and what a faithful Christian response is to the systemic racism in our country. This past Sunday, we talked about our Rule of Life and how the work of becoming antiracist is a spiritual practice that fits well within the faithful practice of our Rule. Here are the notes from our conversation, along with some resources that we talked out.

Starting on July 12, 2020, we will host a 6-week study on the book, “America’s Original Sin,” by the Rev. Jim Wallis. To allow for as many people as possible to join us, we will start at 11:30am (CDT) and will plan to be finished by 12:45pm. You can purchase the book now from your favorite book seller. The free study guide is included at the bottom of this page, along with a short video about the content of the book. Stay tuned for more info on how to sign up.

The Incarnation Rule of Life includes the spiritual practices of:

  • Daily prayer
  • Daily confession of sin
  • Daily scripture reading
  • Regular study that brings you closer to God
  • Weekly participation in worship
  • Weekly observance of the sabbath
  • Service to the Church
  • Service to the world

Together, this Rule is the backbone of a faith that is not just professed but also practiced.

What does it mean to be antiracist? 

According to Ibram X. Kendi, in “How to be Antiracist,”

  • The word ‘racist’ isn’t a slur, it’s a descriptive term used to describe actions and policies that favor one race over another
  • The opposite of racist isn’t “not racist,” but antiracist
  • Because of the deeply embedded history of racism in America, there is no such thing as being “not racist”–you either practice racism or you practice antiracism. “One either endorses the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist or racial equality as an antiracist” (Kendi).

In order to be an antiracist church, we must practice antiracism, not just say we “aren’t racist.”

Being antiracist is a spiritual practice and our Rule of Life can help. We can:

  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will change our hearts, change our unjust systems, and guide all our efforts
  • Repent of our own racism and renounce the unjust systems that many of us disproportionately benefit from
  • Read scripture that reveals God’s continual solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, from the prophets to the gospel
  • Study black theology, the theology of oppression, the Church’s role in working for antiracist policies, and learn how to be part of real change
  • Worship with people who affirm God’s presence with those who suffer and hold your own religious communities accountable for their ministries to the poor and the oppressed
  • Observe a day of rest where your principle identity is as a member of the household of God rather than in an economy that depends on the exploitation of others
  • Push, pull, and lead the Church into a new way of being the Church–one that rejects religious nationalism and seeks to serve Jesus Christ in all persons as a moral conviction and a call from God
  • Serve those who are suffering and advocate for real change using the gifts and resources God has given you

Ibram X. Kendi says this about being antiracist: “like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”

What is your dream for Church of the Incarnation as we pursue this work together? How is God calling you, personally, to be involved in building an antiracist church and an antiracist society?

Here are some resources that I am using to continue make the work of antiracism part of my spiritual practice.

How to be Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

America’s Original Sin, by Jim Wallis comes with a very challenging 6-week study guide to help congregations educate themselves so they can pursue effective change.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. You can take action, here.



The Four Questions

For the past several months I’ve been intentionally asking intimate questions of friends, acquaintances, and cooperative strangers. The questions are simple but they have led down some deep paths. They are:

  1. What do you think about church?
  2. What do you think about God?
  3. What do you think about Jesus?
  4. What is community and where do you find it?

When I invite people to talk with me about these topics I make it clear that I am not trying to recruit or proselytize, but that I genuinely want to understand what they think and feel about these subjects.

What I’ve learned has been fascinating and, at times, inspired. People express their misgivings about church. The share their difficulties and wounds. They share doubts about being part of something that seems quick to judge and slow to help. Some with church backgrounds see the church as boring or confusing. Some without church backgrounds aren’t sure what it means to be part of a church. Many speak wistfully about having a spiritual community for themselves and their families.

When we turn to talk of God and Jesus the mood lifts and most people who have had negative experiences with church feel differently about God. Though I intentionally do not ask what people “believe,” many confess a belief in a higher power. Many describe God as all-loving, ever-present, and all-powerful. And many say they can’t help but believe in God when they see the beauty of creation or look into the faces of their children or loved ones. People often see God at work in the quirks and coincidences of life.

Most believe Jesus existed, that he was a loving teacher and maybe a prophet. But there are a lot of questions. Was he really God? Did he die and rise again? If so, what happened to him after that? I share that people in the church have been struggling with these questions for ages, and even though we believe we have some answers, there are always great clouds of mystery surrounding Jesus’ divinity.

People unequivocally shared their desire for connection and belonging. Lots of people get this kind of connection through affinity groups. (Many of the people I talked with are part of my wonderful running group, Trail Roots.) One common desire is for community that doesn’t depend on interest or ability or demographics, and many lamented not having a community where they can “go deeper” or explore their spirituality.

Particularly as I work to start this church, I am aware of what I hear people telling me they need:

  • Friendships that go beyond “being polite”
  • Spaces where they can feel safe and “go deeper”
  • A place to explore their spiritual side
  • A community that includes all and doesn’t feel judgy or require you to call yourself a Christian in order to be a part of it

What do you think about church, God, Jesus, and community? Please share in the comment section below. Better yet, find a spiritual friend and talk with them. Need a spiritual friend? That’s what we’re here for. Incarnation is committed to creating deep spiritual community for people who want connection, purpose, and belonging. We’d love to have you join us.