Monday, March 22, 2010

Racism and Repentance: Change Is Better Than an Apology

On a group blog a couple of years ago, I shared an experience I had while serving in a Stake Mission Presidency almost 15 years ago in the Deep South. I was allowed to see the effects of racism on the Church in my own day, both the racism that still infected a minority of the membership and the racism that still infected a majority of the overall population - the white and black communities.

What can we do now?

Be open and direct, but focus on addressing the problem that exists now. Of course, we should admit our role in the racism of yesterday, but an apology without change is just more "faith without works". When push comes to shove, I don't care one bit what someone says they believe; I care what they DO.

We need to preach Elder Wirthlin's message of acceptance, but we also need to LIVE it. We need to quit pre-judging others' ability or readiness or worthiness and simply invite EVERYONE to worship with us - regardless of race, personal habits, sexual orientation, religious or denominational affiliation, etc. We need to embrace each person we meet no matter how our differences manifest themselves. We need to quit "challenging" people and start "inviting" them - and loving them no matter what they choose to do. We need to want people to be with us in our worship even if they never join our actual recorded membership rolls.

We need to recognize and admit the bad parts of our heritage, even while we honor and respect the great and noble parts. We need to develop the characteristics of perfection listed in the Sermon on the Mount. We need to be a little better - do a little better - become a little better. We need to treat each other on blogs like we say we would treat each other if we were sitting face-to-face.

There are black members of the Church who have been hurt and let down by other members. Which do you think they want more - a personal apology from those who let him down or a change of heart that would mean no other member in their situation will be let down in that same situation from this moment forward? Both are ideal; the latter is more critical.

In summary, we need to be the people we say we want to be - and telling painful stories of the past is a big part of that process when it comes to racism. Racism, however, is only one example of the overall issue of repentance.

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