Blog Posts

This blog is a place for the leadership at Center City Church to present material to the church. The posts will include a variety of topics in order to address current world topics and theological discussions. Thank you for reading!

Honest Conversations about Race

We’ve had more “adult” conversations with our kids in the year 2020 than previous years combined. The year began benign enough, but by March we were discussing pandemics, viruses, religious liberty, and quarantine. Looking back, these conversations were light in comparison to some of the conversations following George Floyd’s death while in police custody. If there’s one principle we’ve tried to uphold in our discussions with our kids, it’s been age-appropriate honesty. We want to serve as a buffer for our kids from the harsh realities of this world, while also not concealing, covering up, or shying away from difficult conversations with our kids. They don’t need every detail, but they do need to learn to engage in the conversations of race. I’d like share four honest conversations we’ve had with our kids about race and the events of George Floyd’s death with the hopes that it aids in conversations with your kids (Disclaimer: These topics need to be tailored to fit the uniqueness of your children as related to their age, race, and background).

  • Honest conversations about our historical oppression of minority races. One of the first questions that our kids asked is ‘why do black and white people not like each other?’. Jen and I grew up in the south and attended churches made up of predominately white, middle to upper class people. Our kids have grown up in New Mexico in a church with far more diversity than any church Jen and I ever attended growing up. They’re also not as aware of the history in our country that fuels the fires of distrust. We’ve honestly talked about slavery and the way that white people in our country owned black people in order to build the country we live in today. We discussed how it’s wrong to own another human being, even if you’re kind to them. We’ve also been honest about the church’s role in supporting, condoning, and practicing slavery and segregation. Much to its shame, the church has not been the predominate voice calling for equality. And yes, we certainly believe that “all lives matter”, but we’ve tried to impart to our kids that because of our country’s history, it’s good for us to affirm to our black brothers and sisters that their lives matter.
  • Honest conversations about respecting authority. Second, we’ve had honest conversations about people in authority, especially police officers. We want to raise our kids to respect people in authority, to respect police officers, mayors, governors, and presidents. 1 Peter 2:13-17 calls us to respect and submit to people in authority whether we agree or disagree. Let’s not forget Peter was calling the Christians to submit to emperors who were violently persecuting Christians. We’ve communicated with our children when we disagree with our president or our governor or with the actions of a police officer, but not to the point where they develop an unhealthy disrespect towards authority in general. One of the ways we try to instill respect for authority is by helping our kids to engage in conversations with people in authority. We will talk to a police officer or a fireman in uniform about his or her job. We once talked to a forensic analyst who was doing some work in our neighborhood. She let the kids ask all sorts of questions about her job and even let them dust for fingerprints. We have many men and women in our church who have served admirably in their public positions of authority. I’m sure many of them would willing engage with your kids about their jobs and responsibilities. On the other hand, we try to be equally as honest that with positions of power comes a temptation to abuse that power—using a position of authority to harm another individual. It’s our belief that that’s what we witnessed with Derek Chauvin’s arrest of George Floyd. A police officer, a person in power, used unnecessary force leading to the death of an individual in a powerless position. We desire for our kids to develop a strong sense of justice, a clear understanding of right and wrong, and a willingness to speak up against people abuse power for wrong. But we want to do so in a way that aligns their voice with a respect for the those whom God has placed in authority over us. 
  • Honest conversations about different experiences for people of different races. Third, we have honest conversations about the different experiences for people of different races. We realize that we and our kids have a perspective that is shaped by our color and our upbringing. We attempt to convey to our kids that not everyone has the same perspective or experience in our country. Some kids have come to America having first lived in other countries. In doing so, they learn a new language, new customs, and new culture. We encourage them to befriend kids whose skin color is different and learn about their experiences in America. One conversation that comes up regularly is about skin color and crayons. Our kids instinctively began calling the peach color crayon the skin color crayon. It’s the color they identify as skin color because that’s their skin color. We’ve taught them that peach is only one of many possible skin colors in the crayon box. There are different shades of brown, black, and white. We’ve used the crayon box to talk honestly about how other kids might identify with different colors that more closely match their skin. So, we no longer have a skin color crayon in the crayon box, only peach and tan and brown and black, to name a few.
  • Honest conversations about the gospel’s power to reconcile racial division. Finally, we have honest conversations about the gospel’s power to reconcile racial division. We talk about how no one has had to teach us to dislike people of different color. Instead, our hearts naturally and deceptively encourage us to like what’s similar to us and dislike what’s different or unknown. We have systemic racism because we have systemic sin. It was certainly a problem in the early church, as many of the early conflicts revolved around prejudices between Jews and Gentiles. Peter, a leader in the church and recipient of a God-given vision for racial inclusion displayed remaining prejudice in his heart by getting up from his seat at the Gentile table to eat with Jews. Paul boldly confronted his sin with the gospel admonishing him that a man is not declared right before God by his nationality, but by faith in Christ. It’s that gospel of savlation by faith that surgically removes sin’s remaining prejudice in our hearts and frees us from sin’s prejudicial power. It’s also our faith in Christ that sets the vision for a community of people from ‘every tribe, every nation, every tongue, and every people’ (Rev 5) joining together in worship of King Jesus.

 

I pray that as conversations continue to arise in your home and with your kids that you pursue honest, age-appropriate conversations with your kids. Don’t shy away from our country’s history of oppression of blacks and the church’s endorsing involvement. Teach your kids to show respect for leaders, even the ones with whom we disagree. Help your kids walk in the shoes of kids with different skin color or nationalities. And most importantly, connect our sin and our salvation back to the powerful, redeeming work of Jesus’s death on the cross and his victorious resurrection.