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Race, Culture, and Crossroads: An FAQ from BT

Brian Tome

7 mins

During my lifetime, I can’t remember there being this much talk about race in every corner of our country.

These are tense, and hopefully, watershed days for us as Americans. As a result, I’m getting a lot of questions, comments, and even complaints, especially when it comes to the intersection of Crossroads (the church I founded and still lead in Cincinnati, Ohio) and our current social climate. Many black people feel like I’m not saying enough. Many white people feel like I’m saying too much. Rarely do I get honest level headed questions. Race “questions” are normally peppered with frustration and/or cynicism from people on all sides. Below are some of the most common questions/complaints I’m getting, and the answers I’ve been giving.

Does Crossroads support Black Lives Matter and don’t all lives matter?

Crossroads has not written any checks to the BLM organization. I do believe that the BLM message is valuable and needs to be heard. I do believe that black lives matter. Any of us who have non-white friends have heard stories and experiences of pain related solely to skin color. A logical conclusion is that, in this country, black skinned people experience pains and bruises that white skinned people don’t share. All lives and races definitely matter to God equally, but why raise an objection when someone states, “Black lives matter?” If I say, “American lives matter” or “I love my wife,” is it reasonable to respond with “Don’t all countries matter?” and “Don’t you love all people?” Those rhetorical questions are the wrong answers. If someone’s mom dies and they are grieving, they don’t need to be told that all moms matter. I can say something about a person, or category of people, without demeaning the others. It is only the overly sensitive or cynical that raise this flag.

It seems Crossroads has been silent on our race problem. Why are you/we all of a sudden speaking up?

It is true that Crossroads keeps social commentary to a minimum. We are a church that aspires to teach and live all the teachings of the Bible, not just what is culturally current. We haven’t made a statement about each apparent act of police brutality. While we are being more specific and explicit in the current season, we have never been silent. We have preached on this regularly. We have worked hard to have non-white people in every level of leadership. We have also created and invested heavily behind Undivided, a program that gets people of different races talking to one another and going on a journey of understanding. While we have talked about race regularly, we are doing so at a more frequent pace now because I sense God’s call to do so. When there’s a need for reconciliation, the church should shine because Jesus is the great reconciler. We don’t need another indignant or angry voice in our culture. We need voices that give grace and truth.

Sounds like you have “guilty white man syndrome.” Tell me you don’t believe in “white privilege.”

I am white, but I don’t feel guilty about it. I would prefer to not even debate the verbiage and veracity of “privilege,” which some white people interpret as insinuating that they haven’t worked hard for what they have. What I will say is that white people definitely have an advantage. I don’t understand all of it, but research has clearly shown that the more attractive person in an interview is more likely to get a job over another equally qualified candidate. However it works, so too is a white person more likely to have a head start or catch a break. Evidence suggests that white people get more leniency when in trouble with the law or when sentenced in court than do non-white people. I was just reading this morning that the highest rates of coronavirus infection, based upon zip code data, come from urban areas that are densely populated, have lower household income, and higher percentages of non-white residents. We saw the same in who was most affected by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Everyone can quote whatever statistics they can find to bolster their case, but there is racial bias in our country. White parents who have adopted a black child into their family all have stories of how that child has to deal with things that their white children didn’t. Whether you call it “privilege” or not, there is an advantage to being white in our current culture.

Many are not “innocent victims.” Why are we not supporting our police officers?

True. The more rebellious we are the more likely we are to have run-ins with the police. When wounded people of color hear pleas of support for officers more than they sense empathy and support, anger only grows. Many people of color want space to grieve without simultaneously hearing calls of support for the police. That feels like a diminishment of their pain. They need appropriate space. It is very difficult to simultaneously empathize with people on both sides in every communication. With that being said, the first responders I personally know are great people who don’t act out of racism. I don’t believe the majority of police are racists who are inflicting harm. They are all in a very tight spot and under a microscope. My heart goes out to them as well, and I support them.

I understand that we shouldn’t be racists but you lose me with talk of “systems of injustice.” Please explain.

If you were in Michigan and saw a dead fish, you would conclude there was something wrong with the fish. If there were a bunch of dead fish, you would conclude there was something wrong with the lake. If all the lakes had dead fish, you would know it was a ground water issue. Pick your category and find a statistic and you will see that black and brown people are having a way tougher time than white people (infant mortality, education rates, redlining, household income, incarceration rates, etc.). While I don’t think there is a committee of whites trying to inflict pain on non-white people, I do believe that the way our culture operates makes life more difficult for those with the darker skin tones. There seems to be an undercurrent or “system” at play. This isn’t right, nor just. Therefore, there are systems of racial injustice.

Why get involved in this social issue when we don’t get involved in others?

This is an incredibly difficult balancing act. We aren’t a political action committee. We are a church that is trying to bring people to Christ. That is the ultimate act of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). It is true that we have not mobilized people for every important issue. As an adopted child who could have been aborted, I’m staunchly pro-life, and yet I’ve never thrown my voice behind a pro-life march. Maybe I will in the future along with other worthy causes. Choosing what to get involved in, and what not to, comes through reflection, prayer, and deliberation with others in leadership. God wants us engaged in the racial conversation. He wants us to be a part of seeing that all skin tones in our country experience possibility and justice.

Racial justice is an issue that’s close to the heart of God. Therefore, it’s close to the heart of Crossroads. I’m grateful to lead an organization that doesn’t just settle for the status quo, but is focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. Find a way to do that today. Perhaps it means having a conversation with someone who doesn’t look like you, or joining a prayer walk. Whatever it is, choose to not just think the right thoughts, but do something.

Brian Tome
Meet the author

Brian Tome

Guiding you to the adventurous life you were made for. Adventurer, Author, Senior Pastor of Crossroads Church. More about Brian Tome.

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