The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Why are we still racist?

I thought of myself as a Christian in 1962, but I didn't "walk the walk" until I was led to Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Rincon, Ga., the 1734 birthplace of Lutheranism in my home state. My dedication to this form of the body of Christ continues at Living Word Lutheran Church in Jonesboro, Ga.

But the blindness of the EL CA and other churches tries my patience. If we are who we say we are--and not like the pretend Christian who was Kay Smith in 1962--some of the evidence is missing.

We carry baggage from our past. When I was a workshop leader at the 1994 Global Mission Event in Iowa, I introduced the Commission for Multicultural Ministries' "God's People Building Bridges" cultural awareness seminar. An exercise I devised to reveal what participants were told as children about people of other races and cultures was "My mama said ...." One woman said, "My mama told me that Swedes were the only people who counted."

Is that why Lutherans still are nearly 98 percent white, despite 10 years of attempting a "multicultural outreach"? Can it be true that we do reflect a society that still is racist although there have been great advances in the elimination of separatist laws and customs? Why do our congregations feel that because they have a few African American, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian families as members they "aren't racist"?

These questions are beyond my capacity to answer, but I will continue to ask them. And I'll do whatever I can wherever I can to convince my sisters and brothers in Christ that God can change hearts and minds and lives.

Hear it from me, beloved travelers in this church: God taught me the meaning of "free at last" while I was yet a sinner.


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