Category Archives: Community

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Christian Perspective on Race and Racism

 ***Note: As a member of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers, the Oread Center believes an important part of our work includes offering a Christian response to pressing matters that affect us all. The purpose of this particular response is not to address all of the complexities of racism present in American society or institutions of higher education, especially those complexities associated with the structural or systemic realities of racism. While we believe that structural and systemic racism is present in American society, and that racism must be addressed on those levels, the purpose of this statement is to offer what we believe is a Biblically faithful way to think about race and racism on the level of interpersonal relationships and immediate agency. We offer this statement to the particular Christian community in Lawrence and at the University of Kansas in the hope that it provides some immediate handles for how we can respond to the situation at hand in our own community. We ask for patience from our readers as we work in the coming days to articulate a thicker response to the structural and systemic dimensions of race in American society and appropriate Christian responses.***

***As many have observed from our title, we are leaning on Cornelius Plantinga’s work on sin for our framework.***

 Introduction

Many of us in Lawrence are aware that our region was politically established on the moral impetus of preventing the spread of slavery in American society. That John Brown, the 19th-century freedom-fighter, remains an iconic figure in our local memory is no historical accident. The University of Kansas is proud of the fact that the school practiced racially open admissions from the first day its doors were opened. Frequently forgotten, or never learned at all, is the more complicated history of both Lawrence and the University of Kansas- a history that in many ways is a microcosm of America’s larger racial history. While Lawrence was the seat of the Free State movement, and the University of Kansas always welcomed students of African descent to enroll, segregation within the city and the university was historically prevalent. Both Lawrence and the University of Kansas did not completely desegregate until the late 1950s and only as a result of years of dedicated work from local Civil Rights activists, which included many university students.

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Skipping Church: Donald Miller and Disconnecting

One of my favorite childhood books was called If Everybody Did (Jo Ann Stover).  The plot was simple:  the left side of the page featured a questionable ethical decision while the right side showed what society would look like “if everybody did” that same thing.  These offenses ranged from littering to squeezing a cat too hard.  For example:

Jo Ann Stover, 1989

I’ll admit that I still think of this book and its simple lessons in ethics whenever a prominent writer offers unorthodox visions of what Christianity should look like.  If Everybody Did provides a helpful grid to think through the logical implications of Christians acting en masse.

This week Donald Miller wrote an admittedly ill-advised piece on how he prefers to skip out on his local church.  After significant backlash from the internet world, including The Gospel Coalition, Miller attempted to clarify his statements and diffuse some of the frustration.  Best known for his 2002 book Blue Like Jazz:  non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality, Miller captured the non-committal heart of millennial Christians who liked Jesus and spirituality but either resented or ignored the traditional church experiences.   He is no stranger to controversy when it comes to church doctrine.

This particular piece focused on Miller’s dissatisfaction with local expressions of church and worship.  He confesses that he doesn’t “feel connected to God through singing” and doesn’t “learn much about God hearing a sermon.”  He adds that he’s just like “most men” in his frustrations with traditional church services.  Miller also finds fault with the way the message is given, citing his studies of psychology to demonstrate that lecturing only appeals to a small portion of the audience.  Lastly, he admits that he rarely attends church, choosing instead to connect with God most intimately and most often through his work, since “church is all around, not to be confined to a specific tribe.”

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