Racial Reconciliation and You

Reported by Ana Imes

On Sept. 18, the Intercultural Resource Center hosted Mathetes, a monthly discussion in Canyon Commons, encouraging students to thoughtfully discuss contemporary issues. Four panelists spoke on the role of the church in racial reconciliation, followed by a Q&A session.

The discussion emphasized the importance of listening to people from varying backgrounds and viewpoints. Passively observing division is the same as contributing to division; there is no middle ground between working against or towards racial reconciliation. We must practice active listening and then speak when we feel called to do so.

George Fox University (GFU) junior Ellie Watts is a psychology major with a non-denominational and Presbyterian church background. She advised the pursuit of individual relationships between those with different views, saying, “It’s really hard to hate people up close.” In order to activate the “sharing of knowledge and passion,” we must venture beyond our current context.

Tricia Hornback, professor of Intercultural Studies at GFU described human differences as “beautiful and even necessary.” Although she admitted that having open conversations can be challenging in conservative western circles, she said, “God is perfectly capable of doing this work in us.”

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Insil Kang, director of community connections and communications at Village Church, argued that the church is the only place we can “attain a closeness to reconciliation,” because in the church “you’re not allowed to leave people behind.” She asks church leadership to educate themselves in the area of racial reconciliation and start “critical conversations” in the church body. In a Christian context, “weird social rules don’t apply,” Kang said.

Renjy Abraham, associate lead pastor at Village Church, claims “we live in a diverse community and sometimes we don’t see it.” When we only surround ourselves with those who look and think like us, we are sinning.

“Sin comes from people looking out for the interests of their own group,” Abraham said. He advises the church to “be persistent in humility,” and to “branch out from the white male perspective,” bringing other voices to the conversation. As “representatives of the new heavens and new earth … we have a lot of work we need to do,” Abraham said.

As a student at a Christian university, you have the responsibility to endure the frustration and discomfort of conversation for the sake of reconciliation. If your professors are teaching from predominantly white male sources, confront them about it. Request alternative perspectives on the material, and seek them out for yourself if needed. Ask yourself daily if you are listening to people who are different from you or who disagree with you. If more of us practice active listening, we can move incrementally closer to achieving racial reconciliation.

Jessica Daugherty