Recently, Trevin Wax had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Tony Evans via video chat to speak on some of the racial injustice and discrimination issues facing our country and the church. In this second video in the series, Dr. Evans talks about how both pastors and church members can work to bring healing to our land.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
Trevin Wax: So Dr. Evans, I’m sure there are some pastors that are listening to you right now, and they’re hearing this message, and they’re on board with you; they realize the church needs to be part of the resolution of this predicament. But they may say, “Give me some counsel, advice. How do I speak to this in a way—I’m worried I might alienate a lot of people in my congregation. Some people are going to say I’m suddenly becoming political when I talk about this.” How would you counsel pastors who want to move forward and to step in to speak about some of these issues, but are afraid of what the reaction could be?
Tony Evans: Well, I do understand that sensitivity. Number one: God has set the stage for you because everybody else—everybody in the nation—is facing the problem. So this is not a side issue, okay? So you’re being relevant.
Secondly of all, you must speak in love. Biblical love is a decision to compassionately, righteously, and responsibly seek the wellbeing of another. So the biblical doctrine of love can be brought to bear. Then, you speak about unity. John 17 and that the glory of God will only be manifested in the unity of the church. Therefore we’ve got to face this because we need God. So let’s put the blame on God, okay? Second Chronicles 15:3-6 says, because the spiritual has been put aside there was no peace in the land, and then verse 6 says, “God troubled them with every kind of distress.” So if God is our solution, and if you want a solution, then we’ve got to bring God to bear on this problem, and we have to now be on the frontlines of bringing unity within the church first and then let it spill over. Because everybody wants peace. And because everybody wants peace, if you approach it that way, then you’re approaching it from a healing standpoint and not just a social issue. So it’s the spirit in which it is approached.
But this is not the time for a lack of clarity from the pulpit. A mist in the pulpit leads to a fog in the pew, and so if it’s foggy in the pew because people don’t know what to do, it’s because it’s foggy in the pulpit. And that’s why what we’re trying to do through our ministry, Urban Alternative, is provide churches with resources with which they can move forward for healing in the land.
Trevin Wax: Let’s move, Dr. Evans, from the pulpit to the pew, and let’s think about ordinary Christians who are watching a lot of this unfold. I know some people watching this video are white, they’re horrified at the death of George Floyd and some of the other instances of injustice they’ve seen on video. Let’s say some of these church members, they want to reach out to friends or to fellow Christians who are black. What are some things that white Christians may tend to do or say that are not as helpful as they intend? How would you advise them to love their African-American neighbor well during a time like this?
Tony Evans: Well, that’s a great question, because it really does start with the individual heart. First of all, you have to deal with anything in your heart that’s not right before God. And that’s repentance, if it’s needed. Now, what many white Christians will say is, “I am not a racist.” And praise God for that! But the question you must ask is, “But am I an anti-racist?” Even though you may not have that disposition, have you accepted that disposition in other people or in other structures? Because that means you’re not addressing wrong, you’re just not doing the wrong yourself. So you’ve got to start with that.
Now, once you have dealt with you at whatever level you need to deal with you, you are now no longer operating out of guilt—because one of the things that’s being piled on is what’s called “white guilt.” No, you’re operating out of moral obligation and love. So don’t feel like you are pressured to do this because you are being forced to being guilted by something you either shouldn’t be held accountable for or because you’re being imposed upon when you’ve dealt with it with God. So now it’s a spiritual issue of healing.
The first thing you can do is build a relationship, or take a relationship you already have, with an African-American brother or sister in the faith (we start with the faith), and the two of you—here it is—serve somebody else worse off than you. Reconciliation should come through service, not because we have a racial seminar. It should come because we together are ministering. And we get to know one another as we minister together, because we’re doing it as the family of God.
When individuals or when your family gets with another family that’s different you get to know each other, but you serve together, it changes everything because now you are in a shared faith experience. When churches do that and the individuals in those churches partner to serve other people—like what we promote is a black church and a white church adopting the same public school and ministering together to the average students in the school. Now you’re in a healing approach when the two churches or the two entities adopt the local police station—now you’re in the community, but you’re serving peace in that community. So there are things you can do that doesn’t require us meeting and talking and getting to know each other.
Now, there are things you can learn. I wrote the book Oneness Embraced because many white Christians don’t know about Black Church history and about the part that the white church and the black church played to put us in this situation, or some of the painful scenarios. And there is painful—I’ve experienced them. I’ve had to have “the talk” with my sons about what happens when you get pulled over by a policeman as an African-American young man, and my grandsons. So those are experiences they have not had by and large. So to understand that, but while we talk about those things, let’s serve together, and we can kill two birds with one stone.
Trevin Wax: Dr. Evans, if we can widen the scope just a little bit. I know some people are watching who are maybe thinking, “Well, I’m not a racist. I don’t have prejudice, at least I don’t think I have prejudice, toward people whose skin color or background may be different than mine.” But there are different ways of looking at racism and defining racism. And one way of thinking about racism is not just about the individual prejudice that someone may feel, but the way racism can infect and affect the structures and the systems in society. So we have that term, “systemic racism.” Could you explain that and why it’s important for brothers and sisters in Christ to understand that this is a multi-faceted thing that we’re looking at here?
Tony Evans: Yes, well, first of all, let’s start with racism. Racism is a conscious or unconscious belief in the superiority of one race over another that gets manifested when there’s the use of power or influence or position or even communication—sometimes it shows up in jokes, okay?—or even communication, that rejects, marginalizes, or oppresses people of another race. Systemic racism refers to structures that have been infused with that belief, either formally or informally. And when those structures have been infiltrated with that belief, then systems are established that promote that. Discriminatory practices, rejection of people by the color of their skin, lack of opportunity, not equal access to healthcare, not equal opportunity for promotion—it comes in different shapes and sizes, but it’s embedded in a system in society that leads to inequities in how people are treated, the opportunities people are given.
The discussion of “white privilege” doesn’t mean that whites aren’t disadvantaged or didn’t grow up poor; it means that the color of their skin was never an impediment to their progress. And for African-Americans—and even me, it was the color of my skin, before anything else was discussed, that would keep me from going to certain schools growing up. If I would have applied to Dallas Seminary a few years before I applied, they would not have let me in because the culture said you don’t integrate black people. That’s why we have all these Bible institutes, because the Bible colleges would not let African-Americans attend them. That was a structure; that was a system. The Southern Baptist Convention repented a number of years ago—and we praise God for that—because it was a segregationist denomination. Okay? That’s how it functioned; that was a structure.
And when you have structural racism, that means that there is a head start that one group has that another group does not have access to. That other group, then, is having to play catch up, okay? And that’s where opportunities to recognize that and to responsibly—and I want to underscore that responsibility, because even when you help a group to catch up, they are still responsible to run the race. So yes, you give opportunity to catch up without denying responsibility on those who need to get caught up. And when you do both at the same time, then everybody progresses, and we can begin to bring healers and repairers of the breach, and healing to the land. But because white Christians are often not limited by those structures, they don’t understand the hindrances that come because of them. And so that is where the systems of this world have operated and that’s what some of the rebellion is about.