In Dream of Destiny’s continuing call to raise up ethnically and culturally diverse Kingdom leaders for Jesus, a common roadblock is this: people in the majority culture have difficulty recognizing how systemic inequities persist for people in minority cultures here in the United States. From education to housing, from health care to church planting, the consequences of forming a nation with racism in its DNA continue to wreak havoc despite every legislative effort to undo or make right the wrongs that have been done. Yet, studies have shown white Christians have an especially difficult time seeing systemic racism.
In their seminal work Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith noted that white evangelicals tend to approach racism with a limited toolkit of accountable freewill individualism, relationalism and anti-structuralism. Grounded in fundamental theological beliefs about each person’s individual choices & their individual need for Jesus and His Body, the Church, white Christians then reject any structural biases or inequities, instead tending to view any racist issue as individual in nature, as well.
If you haven’t seen it already, I strongly encourage you to take the time to view Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, which was released to Netflix in early October. It’s an excellent resource designed to show the larger context for the systemic racism within the U.S. justice system, “so that we’re not living in this fog of ignorance anymore,” DuVernay said.
Those who are already able to see systemic injustices will also benefit from learning this larger context, although the documentary’s lack of proposed solutions may prove frustrating. Then again, perhaps creative solutions to systemic problems will take prominence when we no longer have to convince people in the majority that these problems do in fact exist.
 Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. New York: Oxford Press, 2000.
About Travis Hurley
Travis Hurley joined Ozark Christian College in 2012. He serves as the Vice President of Development & Diversity. In addition to his work at Ozark, Travis also serves as the Director of Coaching for the Mosaix Global Network – a network existing to establish healthy multi-ethnic and economically diverse churches – and he is the Director of Dream of Destiny – the initiative seeking to foster greater diversity among ministry leaders and churches for which this blog is a part.
A graduate of Ozark Christian College, Travis has an M.Div from Cincinnati Christian University and is a doctoral candidate at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He has over twenty years of ministry experience, the majority of which was spent serving as the lead minister of a multi-ethnic congregation in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Travis and his wife Dena have four children, one son-in-law and what they hope is the first of many grandkids, Jonah Travis.