Communicating in Light of Racial Injustice
Church communications is an interesting field. In some ways, it’s cutting edge and visionary. In other ways, it’s traditional and stoic. Despite the reality that most on-the-ground church communicators and administrators are female, most of the “experts”—the people who speak at conferences, conduct workshops, and produce content—are white males (myself included).
This is but one small example of how inequality persistently survives and is even baked into our culture, our systems, and even our churches. And it’s something we as the Church need to address and work to resolve. Why? Because we serve a God who has created each and every human in his image (Genesis 1:27) and a Savior who came to bring “good news to the poor” and to “set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:8).
Yet for centuries in North America, white males have largely reigned supreme. While most people wouldn’t classify themselves as “white supremacists,” all too often our churches reflect the same corrosive imbalance of power we see in the culture around us. On average in the United States, women are still paid $0.79 for every dollar a white male earns. Latinas earn $0.53 for every dollar.
For people of color, racial disparity extends beyond financial earnings. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015. If you dig into the research (for the United States at least), you’ll find stats that reflect racial inequity on almost every front: education, economics, health care—and it’s so ingrained in our culture, we don’t even realize it most of the time. That is, of course, unless you’re not a white male.
It’s time for our churches to step up and call out the injustices we see in our society. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed, “Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around, he tells it.”
Here are three ways your church can promote human equality:
1. Don’t remain silent
You have a platform. You have a voice. And you can effect change. Now is not the time to remain silent, as silence perpetuates the problem. Racial and gender inequality is a Kingdom-issue; our churches need to work toward unity to ensure all people are treated with equality.
2. The images you use matter
I spend a lot of time talking about using authentic photos of your congregation. It’s important to be authentic to who you are as a congregation, but it’s also important to promote racial reconciliation in your own congregation. So, even if your congregation is relatively homogenous, one way you can help promote diversity and inclusion is by using photos that reflect a diversity of people.
3. Promote racial reconciliation in your congregation
Don’t let your words be empty. How can you promote racial reconciliation and equality in your own church? If your church isn’t diverse, find ways to partner with a fellow faith group or organization that is diverse or that is composed of a different racial or ethnic makeup than your congregation. Include people from different backgrounds in leadership and in planning. Listen to what people have to say. And adapt the way you do ministry to welcome all people.
At Church Juice, we realize it’s time to step up our game when it comes to seeking justice, equality, and racial reconciliation. Paul makes it clear in Galatians that we are one body—we’re to embrace our differences but work together for the good of the gospel. I’m proud that Church Juice’s parent ministry, Back to God Ministries International, created an Anti-Racism and Reconciliation Team some time ago to help us think through what it means to actively work toward racial reconciliation as a ministry.
Today Church Juice is making the following commitments:
1. We will diversify our group of contributors
We commit to actively creating, nurturing, and maintaining a diverse group of writers that contribute regularly to Church Juice. It’s important that we pursue diversity on multiple fronts—regional, gender, racial, and denominational affiliation.
2. We will include more resources to help churches communicate their message of racial reconciliation
Earlier this year we devoted a whole month to creating resources around the topic of special needs in the Church. Since then, we’ve also included disability concerns in other content we’ve produced. We will begin to include the same type of content surrounding the issue of equality and racial reconciliation.
3. We will promote racial and gender diversity through the images we use
Images are important. Images relay important information and reflect who and what you value. We value all people of all races and both genders, so the images we use for articles and social media posts will reflect that value.
4. We call on all leaders—church leaders, government leaders, and business leaders—to take the lead in promoting racial reconciliation
We will hold our own organization’s leaders accountable on this front and we will use our voice to speak clearly on this issue as well. And we call on you as leaders to lead by example and strive toward racial reconciliation. Show us you care about all people by the way you lead.
Resources for further reading and learning:
Where Do We Go from Here by Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
Reconciliation Blues by Edward Gilbreath
How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo