As Christians, how should we address issues of race and injustice?
Earlier this month, President Livingstone announced a series of action steps that Baylor would take to “elevate the difficult, uncomfortable but important conversations … regarding race, privilege, violence and conciliation in America.” Among those steps was a virtual Baylor Conversation Series, in which a panel of Baylor faculty members would discuss “the role of the church and our responsibility as Christians on race, peacemaking and conciliation fueled by repentance.”
The first of those events was held Wednesday (online, due to COVID-19) and featured Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, chair of Baylor’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and a nationally recognized author and expert on race and culture; Malcolm Foley, special advisor to the president for equity & campus engagement and director of the Black Church Studies Program at Truett Seminary; and Dr. Greg Garrett, a Baylor English professor, author, and leading voice on religion and culture.
One important question that was discussed: As Christians, what should our response be to injustice?
“As we look at the life of Jesus, it’s clear that as Christians, we are called to seek justice and to correct oppression,” said Moody-Ramirez. “Isaiah 1:17 states, ‘Learn to do good. Seek justice. Correct oppression.’ As Christians, we must ask, ‘What does it mean to seek justice?’ I believe that it starts with prayer; we must seek wisdom from God, who will provide the answers if we’re willing to listen.”
“We’ve been given two commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves,” said Foley. “It’s imperative that we do both of those wisely, constantly and consistently. So that means that when we’re in a society that marginalizes racial minorities… the Christian ought to not only have no part in that work, but to seek that those structures and policies be dismantled — because we care about our neighbor.”
President Livingstone then made that question more specific: What should Baylor’s role be in addressing issues of racial injustice?
“At Baylor, we are called to have honest, loving, difficult and rigorous conversations about how to face our flaws and correct them,” said Garrett. “The world needs a Baylor because we can bring this call for compassion and justice and love of God and neighbor in a really powerful and profound way, because we are doing it not just from our faith, but also from this understanding that we are playing at the top of our game as a university, as well.”
“We are not born hating one another,” added Moody-Ramirez. “People learn to hate based on social cues, media messages, environment, and many other factors. Students who didn’t learn to ‘love thy neighbor’ at home can still learn while they’re in college, so this is one of the things that we emphasize at Baylor. … That’s why we, as parents, send our kids to college — to become better citizens. … It is never too late to unlearn racism.”
So then, asked President Livingstone, what should our next steps be — as individuals and as communities?
“Peacemaking is hard work, and it’s constant work,” said Foley. “Once we recognize that wrong has been done, we’ve got to start doing the work of healing the wounds. … That’s going to require us to re-narrate our history truthfully, and recognize and proclaim the ways that history has been sanitized.”
Garrett cited a conversation he once had with another academic, Dr. Catherine Meeks. “She talked about how racial reconciliation and racial healing is a marathon, not a sprint… We need to read, watch, listen, learn, and unlearn.”
The entire event can be viewed online here:
A follow-up Conversation Series event is scheduled for July 8. These events build on last year’s Conversation Series, which focused on civil discourse; previous events can be viewed on the Baylor Conversation Series website.
Sic ’em, Bears!