By Jacob Eckeberger on May 04 2014
#YSRealTalk is a series of interviews by Fred Oduyoye that tackle difficult cultural issues. The following interview is Part 2 of Fred's conversation with James White discussing the bigger systemic issues behind Donald Sterling's remarks. If you missed Part 1, read it here: CLICK TO VIEW
(Fred) What do you mean when you say that conversations about race are “typically hijacked by the world?” (CLICK TO VIEW PART 1)
(James) Historically, the church, the ecclesia in the USA, has typically been behind the world when speaking out or strategically dealing with issues of race. We can go all the way back to Jamestown in the 1600’s when the church was a part of the theological justification for the inhumanity of people of color. Yes, there was the abolitionist movement that was critical in the abolition of slavery. However, whenever there are economics involved, the church is strangely silent. The church practiced “separate and unequal” in the same way as the larger society functioned. Many conservative seminaries that we all respect and love did not see or teach the reality of Revelation 5 and 7.
Even today many evangelical, conservative, biblically literate Christians that I respect approach the issue from the perspective that the end goal of diversity should be that we play the game differently than the world. The NBA models diversity on the court with 70percent of the players whom are black. There are also a percentage of players who are from countries other than the USA. However, we can count the number of owners on one hand.
Shouldn’t the people who understand the imago dei exceed the world? Maybe if we want to take the conversation out of the hands of the world we wouldn’t simply show conferences and churches that have a diverse group of participants but we would begin developing owners, leaders and board members of color who make the foundational decisions of power and not simply players in the game.
(Fred) Society and all of its strata’s seem to be pleased with the NBA’s response; however, isn’t that merely a pseudo-temporary heal? What would you suggest the people of God put into practice long-term?
(James) Society’s response is an indication that we are created to want justice. We should affirm that people are celebrating because they want justice. However, those of us who have a biblical worldview must point out the injustice that was done to Donald Sterling’s girlfriend. She has been treated as nothing more than a piece of property for his sexual pleasure. That is dehumanizing as well.
We have an opportunity to expose the next generation of youth to a broader conversation when events like this happen. This is an opportunity to help young leaders understand the difference between a player, coach and an owner. Maybe we can help young leaders develop a vision to be all three.
The people of God must also increase in our ability to communicate truth that moves beneath the surface of the problem. We must seize the opportunity that moments like this provide for the ability to communicate a gospel message that matters. Will we challenge the ideas of a Donald Sterling that we find among our friends, in our home, at work and even within of silence of our own soul?
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James White currently serves as the executive vice president of organizational relations for the YMCA of the Triangle Area and is the senior pastor of Christ Our King Community Church located in Raleigh, NC. James is also a member of the National Training and Leadership Development Advisory Board for the YMCA of the USA. Hear James this fall at NYWC.com.
Fred Oduyoye (@FredOduyoye) is the Director of Community Relations for Youth Specialties. After a successful corporate career, Fred was led into full-time ministry at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis TN, where he oversaw neighborhood gang communities as the Youth Outreach Director.