Two Words that Prove Racism Exists in the Church

It blows my mind that people don’t see it.

After almost 2 weeks of protests in Ferguson, African Americans across the country continue to shake their heads in frustration. Another unarmed black teenager was killed. The media is focused on the bad behavior of a few protesters, the details of the shooting, and the character of the victim. But as Christian blogger Jelani Greenidge eloquently stated, the outcry from African Americans isn’t really about Ferguson. It’s about racism.

And yet many white Christians still don’t see it.

We blame the victims. We dismiss the frustrations of African Americans as hyper-sensitive overreactions. We assume that the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 effectively erased racism from our culture. As I’ve written before, racism isn’t gone. It’s alive and well. It just looks different today.

Why can’t white followers of Jesus see the injustice of racism deep within the fabric of our society? Where’s the righteous anger? Why do we ignore its ugly presence in our churches? Perhaps situations like we’re seeing in St. Louis are too dramatic for some to believe. 

photo credit: Leo Reynolds
via photopin cc

Fine. Then let me prove the existence of racism among Christians with one ugly, two-word phrase.

I’m proud to work for radio station that’s boldly moving forward with diversifying our music. We desperately want to reach across cultures and generations with the Gospel, and music is a means to accomplish that goal. Even though most Christian stations never play Gospel music, we’re blazing a new trail. Since a large percentage of the community we serve is African American, why not play Gospel music? So we’ve lightly sprinkled Fred Hammond, Donald Lawrence and Hezekiah Walker among Chris Tomlin, MercyMe and Casting Crowns.

We’ve received some great feedback for this subtle shift. However, not everyone is happy about it. Shocking conversations with some of our white listeners reveals the truth about racism in the church. I keep hearing the same disgusting two-word phrase:

“Jungle Music”

Musical preferences are a reality for everyone. But the use of this particular phrase for Gospel music sails past any lines of appropriate language. And it’s not a phrase that can be taken multiple ways. Without a doubt, it’s a hateful and disgustingly racist thing to say.

I wish you’d stop playing all of that jungle music!

Why are you playing so much jungle music?

Yes, real Christian people in 2014 are saying this. Out loud. To our staff. And I’d ignore it if the incidents were isolated. We’ve heard this specific phrase multiple times.

So maybe you want to ignore the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Perhaps you’ll dismiss the painful stories of racism from African Americans in your own community. But now you’ve got me. I’m a 35 year old white guy. And I’m telling you that white Christians are calling Gospel music “Jungle Music” to staff at a Christian radio station.

What else will it take for white Christians to feel righteous anger about the existence of racism in our culture?

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