The Charlottesville Divide: How the Church Responds to Racism

Protests budding and erupting. Hundreds of people clamoring and screaming. Picket signs and Nazi flags waving. And then, without warning, a white nationalist drove a car into a peaceful crowd killing young Heather Heyer.

Since the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, the pain and division of our nation has grown exponentially. Charlottesville has shown a bright light on our racial problems.

While America witnessed the violence, the speeches, and the emotion, we here at Abide watched something else – the Church’s response.

We saw Christian leaders on both sides of the aisle speak out. We watched the Church seeking to be the unifying voice in a very complicated answer. Through this, we wondered how this was actually playing out among Christians.

We decided to survey our users of all ages, cultures, and races, asking them very candid questions in the aftermath of Charlottesville – about racism, their church, President Trump, and Confederate monuments. The results were intriguing. Here are a few of those highlights:

o Most users said race is not a topic frequently discussed within their church.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.”

It seems his thoughts still have relevance today. Based on our findings at Abide, churches continue to be lacking diversity. Thirty-four percent of churches have some diversity, while 31 percent say their church is very diverse and 26 percent say their church does not have differing races.

There are many things that can be seen from this data but perhaps the most eye opening to us was that we are speaking about race relations, but perhaps not outside of our own circles. We know we need to reach across the aisle and show unity, but are we truly doing that?

o According to our survey, not nearly enough as we should be.

Additionally, the survey found only five percent of Abide users have witnessed racial tension at church but 54 percent have personally seen examples of racial tension in their community.

When it comes to the issues of our culture, the results were equally as fascinating.

The viewpoints are diverse, but now is the time for the Church to be bold. We must call out evil for what it is, encourage honest dialogue, usher in forgiveness for our past wrongs against each other and preach God’s message of love. It is our prayer that the Church will truly put its words to actions, standing proudly together to show the world that all are made in God’s image and worthy of love, respect and honor – no matter the color of their skin.