Thursday, 29 April 2021

Fundamentally Racist Christians

Do Multiracial Churches Offer Healthy Community for Non-White Attendees? - Barna Group

A survey by the Christian Barna Group has revealed a shocking level of racism in American churches, according to their Beyond Diversity project.

29% of practicing Black Christians reported experiencing racial prejudice in multiracial churches; 27% reported feeling required to give up their racial/ethnic identity in order to integrate successfully into a multiracial church and 28% say they find it difficult to build relationships in multiracial churches.

When it comes to moving into positions of leadership, one third (33%) say they find it difficult.

This perception of prejudice is born out by the racial profile of supposedly multiracial churches. According to Barna:
Multiracial churches are often previously predominantly white churches that have made an intentional effort to become more diverse. Some of these churches have mostly white leadership (According to attendees of multiracial churches, half have leadership teams that are at least half white. One in four teams is at least 75% white, with 12% being completely white).
This chart needs to be read carefully. For example, the top bar means that 7% of practicing Black Christians in multiracial churches thought that none of the leaders were white; while 24% thought that 75% or more of the leadership was white.
Laudable though their efforts to become more diverse might have been, they seem to have imagined that would just happen if they allowed non-whites to sit in the pews (and pay their tythes). There appears to have been little effort to help them integrate or to move into the higher tiers of leadership. White Christians were obviously more concerned to maintain their power and privilege than to reduce social division and prejudice, and clearly, the religion their white members were following did not make them feel they needed to welcome non-whites into their social circle or regard them as potential leaders.

Social stratification applies just as much to American multiracial Christian churches as it does to the rest of American society with whites at the top and blacks and other non-whites confined to the lower strata, and a system rigged to ensure they stay there.

The Barna article continues:
As a result, the existing norms, traditions, preferences and structures of the church have not significantly changed—except people of color are invited to join. This invitation often comes with an expectation, explicit or implicit, that people of color also assimilate, or fit in, by embracing songs, styles, messages, structures and communities which may be very different from those in their own racial and ethnic culture or previous church tradition.

Our data and focus group interviews affirm the experiences of many people of color who “code switch” to fit in with multiracial faith communities — that is, they feel pressure to dress, speak and otherwise present in a certain way that belies their identity in order to be accepted or taken seriously in a white normative church. Interviewees’ accounts show that such compartmentalization of behavior on an ongoing basis can be demoralizing or exhausting for individuals in the racial minority; in trying to fit in this way, they cannot authentically belong.

Furthermore, our focus group participants attest, Christians of color often face barriers to sharing their opinions, whether as a congregant or leader. Even if a multiracial organization brings in leaders of color, these individuals are not usually given real authority or ability to make change.
Just as you would expect from people who see society as stratified by skin colour, Asian and Hispanic Christians face a similar prejudice, though less intensely than Black Christians:
There could be other factors not accounted for here—church size, beliefs about gender roles or organizational structure—that obstruct a path to leadership, whether in multi- or monoracial churches. In looking across all the questions in this series, however, it is clear that Black Christians face barriers to acceptance or personal growth even when they are in a racially diverse environment. The data on Black Christians are most stark here; for Asian and Hispanic Christians, experiences of prejudice in a church aren’t so related to the congregation’s racial or ethnic makeup. This may be because Asian and Hispanic Christians are more likely than Black Christians to attend a language-specific enclave within a multiracial church where they can freely express their cultural identity.
Whatever efforts former all white American Christian churches are officially making to improve race relations and reduce social division, this report shows their efforts to have been disingenuous and mere tokenism, done more for PR than to achieve real results. Perhaps the surprise is that Black worshippers are not required to sit in reserved pews at the back of the church.

The biggest puzzle in all this is still why the descendants of slaves are still so committed to the religion that was used to enslave and control them and which still today regards them as lesser beings with lower entitlements, tolerated only as lip-service to the Humanist ideal of the essential equality of Man which Christianity has belatedly and reluctantly been shamed into appearing to adopt.

The recent report by the Church of England into racism in British Anglicanism shows that this phenomenon is not unique to American Christians. Similar experiences are the norm for British non-white Christians too.

Thank you for sharing!

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