The Perpetuation of Racial Inequality


One more from Divided by Faith, it says “The logic is straightforward. (1) In the United States there is racial inequality in access to valued resources (see Chapter One). (2) Access to valued resources–such as jobs, prestige, wealth, and power–is gained in significant part through social ties. (3) As we have previously discussed, for reasons such as social categorization and comparison, people have positive bias for their ingroups and negative bias for outgroups. These three facts suggest that other factors being equal, any social structure or process that both increases the saliency of group boundaries and reduces interracial ties necessarily reproduces racial inequality.

Because the organization of religion in the United States does heigten the salience of racial boundaries and reduce interracial ties, it necessarily reproduces racial inequality.”

To understand the full logic here you really gotta read the book, but I thought that this portion did a fair job at explaining some of the problem. As they demonstrate throughout the book, it is primarily the evangelical church that most (however not exclusively) perpetuates a racialized society, while often done unintentionally. Vibe with me on this one, what are ya thinking?

Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD

Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well. Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance. His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today. His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action. Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo. Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

4 thoughts on “The Perpetuation of Racial Inequality

  1. having not read the book, I can say that there is a reason that the saying “The most segregated hour in America is on Sunday morning” still rings true for people…even more so than the simple fact that many churches are still monochromatic… There is a truth that rings in it, I think, that points to the fact that somehow the way we do church contributes to the problem of racial prejudice…
    I don’t know if I blame evangelicalism so much as I would blame the consumerism and social conservatism that is found in the (mega) evangelical church (which is what I assume the book implies). Also, church location (urban vs. suburban) and the mentality of serving at one’s local church vs. “church commuting” or “church shopping” also plays a role.

    anyone else battling the flu? I feel like my skin weighs 100 pounds.

  2. I think you have a good grasp of a lot of the content in the book. However, they really do not go at the mega church, (and technically the mega-church is actually more diverse statistically than the average local church. I think the personality driven image is partly the reason for that) they primarily but not exclusively look at the evangelical church which tends to be most segregated. However, it is indeed the consumerism, politics, cultural practices and preferences, as well as many other factors that they point to being a part of the problem rather than “actual” evangelical theology. These none biblical assumptions and practices that have infiltrated the church are extremely divisive. If ya ever get a chance you should check it out, in some ways you might think it is pretty obvious stuff (for those already reflecting on such things at least), nonetheless they really explore the topic in unique and insightful ways that continue to change and stretch how I articulate the problem. There isn’t any work out there quite like it, and I can tell you would vibe with it real well.

    Haven’t heard about anyone else getting the flu yet. Praying for restoration for you family!!

  3. I dunno…I can’t help but think that maybe Sunday morning is the most culturally-relevant time in this country. I know I’m in the minority opinion, but I honestly don’t have a problem with it. Several well-meaning churches seek to reach specific communities, and naturally their congregation reflects that outreach. For instance, I can think of several churches that specifically reach out to immigrant populations in Philadelphia, so naturally the church is full of that immigrant population. And in response to the Divided by Faith argument, on a practical level such institutions provide access to resources, such as tutoring, jobs, etc, to which these groups often have limited access. I think the issue is that Christians need to look beyond the culture of their local assembly to have a more inclusive view of the universal church, not that the local assembly necessarily needs to look like the universal church. And further that local assemblies need to welcome those who do not necessarily identify with the culture of the local assembly. Just my thoughts on the issue.

  4. Hey Omua, I partially agree with you on this. If you check the post I did before this one, I kind of reiterate how some churches effectively minister to immigrants in ways that most churches would not be able to. However, many of the divisions, especially between black and white churches are racially based and not just culturally based. Historically blacks and whites all participated in church together. It was racism and white supremacy that separated them. I think there are great examples of churches that are culturally relevant to the communities that they serve, and should be commended for being so. However, if you put 3 people together, you will have 3 different cultures. There will always be reason then to divide, and continue to do so. The american church is a fractured church. Forget what denomination someone is from, even after that we are traditional or contemporary, conservative or liberal, middle class or lower class, charismatic or reserved, evangelical or mainline, and still to this day the most common division is race, even if you fit categorically with someone on every other level. Most people (including myself) are not attending churches within thier local neighborhood, they drive past 10 churches to attend the church where they are most “comfortable”. I believe comfort comes at a price, and in our case it is a very fractured and divided church. If we could sacrifice even a bit of our comfort for the sake of unity, I believe the body of Christ would be much stronger in the U.S. Our constant perpetual dividing is a sign of our disunity and lack of value for unity. I think it goes right against Ephesians 2 and Galatians 3:28, as well as many more passages showing race and ethnicity to not be a primary reason for division.

    All that said, I believe that the local church ideally should reflect the diversity of the community it serves. I wouldn’t expect much racially diversity from a church in Montana nor a too much (although some) from a church in North Philly. And exceptions do exist, this is not a one size fits all, but it is a general rule of thumb for me. Good discussion though, we might actually be closer in opinion than it seems like at the moment.

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