White Guilt

Between my Global Trends class, Christ and Culture lectures, and Dr. Jun’s visit to campus this semester, I’m ready to throw every money-grabbing greedy capitalist pig into the Carter pool. And corporate America along with it. Maybe if white people wouldn’t do such awful things then I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about it. But they do. I’ve been listening to the pain and hurt from politics and the story of history speaks to much sadness and lament. Consequently, I’ve been feeling guilty for being white.

Easy answers rarely follow hard questions. These following thoughts are not conclusive or theologically perfect, but hopefully they will shed a little more perspective on the issue at hand.

1) You are responsible to God, not to your race. We are all sinners which means we are all guilty. Every race, every country, every people group. Except for the grace of God, we would all be lost forever. As such, being free from sin means that because of Christ you are no longer guilty. You are not responsible for the sinful actions committed by other people who look like you. There is time for lament and grief over the the sin in the world, but ultimately there is a life and death distinction between God’s judgment on believers and his judgement on unbelievers. Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2) Don’t bite our heads off, Com Dev majors. In many ways, the mindset of the community development major is a mindset we should all adopt. Loving one’s neighbor isn’t something exclusively reserved for them. However, there are pendulum swings that need to be avoided. We have all been given different abilities and talents by God—some of us will be business and physics majors and make way more money than others of us, but that’s alright. That’s good. (For the record, art majors can make it big as well—more power to them!) Regardless of how much money our careers cash out, there is nothing wrong with being wealthy or being less wealthy. God will use it. We need wealthy Christians in the corporate world who have a solid understanding of the gospel to perform with excellence and be witnesses of Christ. Unfortunately, there is an uncomfortable social pressure that can make the com dev major or the Bible major seem like the more godly and racially-reconciling career path, but that’s simply not true. They are working for the Lord according to their calling as much as those in other fields of study. 

3) Faithfulness is glory. There’s many reasons to love Covenant, but one of the best is that compared to other Christian schools, Covenant doesn’t sit you down at orientation and tell you that you’re the only hope for the moral structure of the world. Quite the opposite. They tell you you’re nothing apart from Jesus and that we probably won’t amount to much. Then they’ll quote Andy Crouch. They’ll tell you that “doing great things for God” looks a whole lot like killing your sin. Right now our main calling is to study well and be the best students we can be. This faithfulness is bringing God bucketfuls of glory—just as valuable to him as missionaries helping Syrian refugees or other organizations working to end sex-trafficking.

4) Work out of a sense of gratitude, not guilt. As a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), I know that I have a lot of privileges I take for granted. I cannot claim to comprehend the systemic injustices that occur, or pretend or patronize anyone by claiming to understand what other minorities have gone through. I do know that any reconciliation that happens by evangelical white people needs to happen out of a sense of gratitude, not out of guilt. The roots of racial reconciliation is found in the gospel. The gospel is the great equalizer where we all (all races as well as male and female) are deserving of death, but because of Jesus we become heirs of the kingdom. Because we have been saved, we walk in a newness of life by which we bear fruit out of thankfulness. The fruit of reconciliation springs from that thankfulness toward God—not from a sense of corporate historical-induced guilt. A heart of gratitude to God will reach out to those around us of all races and socioeconomic statuses. This heart will not be burdened by a misplaced sense of guilt, but by a joy that the gospel radically changes all of us. 

Final thought: Whether you’re taking Global Trends, reading the news, or hearing about the injustices in the world take Dr. Vos’ advice and learn to lament and mourn. Learn to be faithful in what God has called you to. Learn also to shed your guilt —you are not identified by your whiteness. Most importantly, consider your identity in Christ and how you can mindfully love your neighbor where you are.