Redeemer Grace and Race: SPOTLIGHT event
Redeemer Grace and Race seeks to embrace the Gospel call to redeemed relationships across ethnic and racial barriers. Inevitably, such a call requires a commitment to engage in difficult conversations, confront uncomfortable truths, and to embrace radical hospitality. These themes, conversations, and truths were the basis of our most recent event — SPOTLIGHT.
During our event, hip-hop artists Propaganda and Sho Baraka presented issues which are often difficult to engage. As Propaganda quipped leading up to the event, “Let’s get squirmy, NYC.” Let’s be honest, “squirmy” is a great way to describe how we often feel when we are presented with insightful statements about racial injustice, inequality, lack of diversity, gentrification, power and privilege, hypocrisy, and other issues. To cap off the night, East Side’s senior pastor Abe Cho and City to City’s Denine Blevins joined Prop and Sho for a panel discussion that contextualized the content for Redeemer.
The insights presented at SPOTLIGHT were far too extensive to properly unpack here. However, there are several notable takeaways and questions worth considering:
• An unfortunate reality within the church, and culture more broadly, is we often want to jump to reconciliation without first dealing with truth. In his talk, Sho Baraka defined this as “flattery,” not reconciliation. We must deal with the uncomfortable truths behind racial injustice, inequality, power and privilege, and lack of diversity. Are we willing to wrestle with and act on the harsh realities surrounding these issues?
• Diversity of race, socio-economics, and culture within the church is a beautiful picture of the Gospel’s power of reconciliation. As Denine noted, “We don’t pursue diversity for optics, but in order to advance the Gospel.”
Interestingly, within the event, there were many churches represented, which created a diverse group. However, though joking, Sho made an astute observation saying, “I look around this room and I am deeply encouraged by the diversity. Although I’m sure none of you guys hang out (together) outside of this building.” To what extent is that statement true of our pursuit of relationships? To what extent are we intentionally pursuing relationships with those different than us? To what extent are we, as a church, seeking to embrace what Abe Cho noted, “If you want a cross-cultural church, you have to be prepared for constant discomfort”?
• Power is blinding. Often times, those with power do not realize the power they wield. Yet, power dynamics are constantly at play. In his talk, Prop noted it is power that historically drove culture forward. This is both true of macro-culture within societies and micro-culture within our churches and communities. Yet, the example Jesus modeled for us is not to use heavy-handed authority and power. Rather, Jesus laid down ultimate power and moved with compassion and grace toward those with whom he was alienated. As Prop asked, “Why do we have power? To give it.” Are we recognizing our power and laying it down for the benefit of others?
There were so many more truths and insights that we don’t have room to share. This event was a great conversation starter, but it would be a failure if it did not propel us to further evaluation and action. Prayerfully, may that not be so!
May our prayer be, “Father, you are a God of mercy, grace, and justice. May we reflect these characteristics as well by being a people who remember the reconciliation you have accomplished in your Son. As a result of Christ’s work, would you help us see ways we have attempted to rebuild the dividing wall of hostility? Help us embrace being uncomfortable at times. Help us see ways we can leverage our power and privilege for the good of all people in our city. Make this be true for your church, for your glory. Amen.”
Grace and Race is a group within Redeemer who seek to embrace the Gospel call to redeemed relationships across ethnic/racial barriers. We do so by providing events and spaces for prayer, conversation, and the sharing of cultural goods across racial/ethnic lines. For information on upcoming events, join our mailing list at redeemer.com/graceandrace.
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