• Josh Reading

RACISM: Part 1 - Intro: My journey, my bias and hope

Framing myself as a person and my context (at least a little). I am biased, culturally, personally, religiously, experientially, in personality. That means I see with a ‘clouded view’ that causes a blur but it also means that I, as one voice, add to a wider conversation. Maybe elements of my coming posts will annoy you, will not answer in the way you wish, will not address things you wish. That is ok, I don’t claim for a moment to be the well of all wisdom and the final voice.

All I ask (especially if you know me) is that where you feel misunderstood or maybe you are enraged for something you perceive in my writing, that my track record / fruit is evidence of my passion to be part of a community where ‘every nation, tribe and tongue’ is affirmed, united as one people (Eph 2:15).  I am a person who has fought for a church of diversity (Rev 7:9 – 12) at every level of the local church since, with my wife, we established what is now called Divergent Church. It is a church that has welcomed into its community people from over 50 nations during its life. It is a Church that has had people from nearly 20 of these countries in our leadership at one point or another. 

We are a church that has thrown our hat into ‘activism’ at times and had to withdraw it as some of those organizations were given over to agendas that no longer simply affirmed humanity but degraded historic Christian affirmations. Thus, I am sceptical of ‘political’ activism and more passionate than ever about the role of unashamed Christian community. Despite, and possibly because of our weaknesses, the Church is the primary context for hope and truth. Jesus is the only place we should genuinely put our full trust. We are a church that has at times contained the most unusual seeming contradictions in terms of community, seemingly highly bent nationalists, sitting side by side with those that think the very notion of nation is an abomination (ok, maybe a little flowery there). We are a church that contains saints still struggling with sin, including racist attitudes. It is a little like Simon the Zealot sitting next to Matthew the Roman collaborator. Messy at times but united in Christ. Did I mention, messy? It is in this context, I myself have been challenged by people to be more Christ-like. I remember being challenged by a friend, Bree about my ‘sexist quips’. I was shocked because I didn’t consider myself sexist ‘at all’, yet I would call men who I considered operating in cowardice ‘skirts’ (and similar), the fairly clear implication, ‘cowardice’ is feminine.  I was wrong to use that language, it is needlessly ignorant and offensive. It is sin. I do want to offend, but I want to offend false beliefs and idols not create barriers to truth by demeaning or negating the image of God in people.  It is in the community of broken saints that I myself have been lovingly challenged to become more like Christ, whose body makes no such distinctions (Gal 3:28). I love the Church, she is Christ’s bride.  This also means, that when someone thinks it their place to attack the bride, I, who can be critical of ‘us’ can also be fairly ferocious in response, not because she is perfect but because for all her faults she is Christ’s. If you keep on attacking my earthly bride, even for some possible true faults, eventually I will punch you in the face (metaphorically hopefully 😊 ). The Church may have problems, it does but it also holds the only final answer. I am Australian but I live in the Middle East / Mediterranean area of the world, a region I love with all my being, yet despite that, I am always an outsider, weirdly ‘adored’ by some for my ‘foreignness’ and deeply despised by others at the same time.

As such I don’t take well to depictions of racism being a ‘white’ problem alone that I have ‘no idea’ about. I respond with such a defensive stance not because I am ‘white’, I hardly care what people think of me. However, my children, in particular have had to bear at times threats and manipulation, because in this context we are ‘the other’. One of my sons has even been suicidal for a prolonged period because he was threatened with death and treated at times in disgusting ways because he is ‘foreign’, my other son being stood up repetitively by teachers to ridicule and humiliate him in a language he did not fully understand for ironically not understanding. They are easy targets and I am responsible for putting them in the firing line. As a father, their deep self-flagellating grief as they have frequently cried themselves to sleep still upsets me as I write. I have cried in front of our Divergent team because I have felt hopeless to change it all. This does not mean I understand everyone person's struggle and thus I must listen, but don’t presume you understand mine, you won’t unless you allow me to tell some of my story without dismissing it simply because it does not fit neatly into certain one dimensional narratives. None of this, even for a moment discounts the experiences of those who are treated terribly in western society, it simply means that many of our ills are far more common to other, ‘not like us’ people. It means that despite there being real systemic issues that need be addressed, the core issue is even deeper. It is a human issue.  I believe Will Smith was right “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed”. It is into this perspective, context and passion that I, probably like you, turned on my phone to see the humiliating, disgusting murder of George Floyd gasping for air whilst a ‘white’ person of authority and power placed his knee on his neck stealing his life, whilst others in authority and others on the street just watched. Understandably, for many it was like a video parable of ‘white’ power and authority structures having their knee on the throat of the African American community whilst everyone just stands around and watches.  Many, have rightly decided they are sick of standing around and watching. No one should just stand around and watch.   In the next posts I will try and cover these questions: The first three will be more biblically based then contemporary strategies. I will post it in a couple hours.  1. What is racism?

2. Why is racism wrong?

3. What can / should Christians / the Church do about it?


4. What are some present cultural strategies and perspectives that I think are actually undermining true equality (more opinion, less biblically based). NOTE: I will not be addressing issues like ‘Is the racism in America systemic or not’ (I simply have no idea of the nature of the systems, though there is very clearly an ongoing significant problem). I will attempt to engage with general principles of systemic, cultural and communal racism as it pertains to a Christian's responsibility. I will delete comments that aim to make the issue solely an American systemic issue. There ARE places for it and it is a relevant issue, it is not mine to really speak into. Discuss it in a relevant place. I am not getting involved in ‘who’ is to blame. Such is not really that helpful, well above my pay grade and outside of my knowledge. Others can and should address these concerns, I am not the right voice to do so. I will post some links to those I believe may be better at addressing them. 

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© 2015 by Josh Reading