Black Lives Matter protest from January. Flickr photo by Dorret

Viewpoints: How can faith communities help ease racial tensions?

Viewpoints is a SpokaneFāVS feature where our writers respond to a weekly question. Readers are invited to participate by posting in the comment section below.

Racial tensions are high across the U.S. right now. A Gallup poll reported earlier this year that 35 percent of Americans are “worried a great deal” about race relations. That number has more than doubled in two years. We put the issue to our writers:

How can faith communities help ease racial tensions?

Elizabeth Backstrom: The church can’t remain silent

Elizabeth Backstrom
Elizabeth Backstrom

Faith communities are powerful sources of social and political capital in our country, and in many countries. We can use this power for good or to disrupt and divide. On the question of race relations, the church cannot afford to remain silent. I believe we must choose to take the sometimes risky step of standing with our brothers and sisters from all races and walks of life, and to stand up for them when they are being oppressed. This can look different for each of us. It can be just listening and acknowledging their issue is real, even if we haven’t experienced it.

This sounds simple but so many folks say this does not happen. It can also be joining protests, calling for changes in legislation, or standing up for people in a situation where they are being bullied. Either way, I believe each of us is called to examine our own attitudes. It is said that no one knows any racists. We never want to see our own blind spots or shortcomings, but we all have them. What are our own biases, and how does this influence the way we treat others?

Eric Blauer: We can do these 4 things
Eric Blauer
Eric Blauer

1. Move into a neighborhood where the challenges we are mourning become our experiences more than issues we hear or read about or watch.

2. Make friends or reach out to people of various colors, backgrounds and beliefs.

3. Realize that everyone has a ‘blindspot’ when navigating these matters, so be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)

4. Religious communities need to understand, teach and reinforce American values and self-understanding.

Here’s the list of topics I have taught about in our church over the last month:
  • Understanding the differences between pluralism & tolerance:
  • Understand the differences between conviction, conscience, compromise & custom
  • Defining biblical boundaries without compromising biblical values.
  • Upholding biblical truth in the middle of cultural change
  • American Christians should practice piety before politics
  • American Christians should demonstrate care before criticism
  • American Christians should practice justice before judgement
  • American Christians should cherish the gift of separation of church & state
  • American Christians need to understand the difference between a Republic and a Democracy
  • American Christians are called to the ministry of Prophet, Priest & King
St. Augustine said: “You know what God asks us to do? He asks us to be the city of God within the city of man and to love on the city of man and seek its good.”

Readers, we want to hear from you too, but remind you keep the FāVS comment policy in mind: Seek out answers, move the discussion forward, assume the best in others — treat others as you would like to be treated.

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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About Elizabeth Backstrom

Elizabeth Backstrom majored in journalism at Western Washington University and currently works as a content analyst and grant writer in Spokane. Her background is in newswriting and features, but if an overabundance of caffeine is consumed, she has been known to write a humor piece or two. Backstrom attended various Christian churches growing up in Spokane and currently attends First Covenant Church, an inner-city ministry in downtown Spokane.

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About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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