Disclaimer: once you read this, you will realize that I don’t want all black people to just be like Carlton Banks…
Over the past several weeks, our country has been divided by their response to the implications of the deaths of two men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Some believe that the police were justified. Others believe the police have yet again not been held accountable in their actions that led to the death of black persons.
I’ve written previously about my stance – namely that I never have to worry about being shot by the police due to my race. You can read more about those previous reflections here: “Coping with Ferguson: the Gospel and Race Relations“.
My Facebook feed and Twitter account has been filled with people expressing their opinion, on one side or another, about whether the police are justified or should be vilified. What has disappointed me the most has been the number of people posting racially charged comments. Comments such as “Why is it that only the Black community riots”, “Why do Blacks burn their community?” or “Why don’t black people protest about black on black crime?”
These comments betray the lack of a belief that in Christ there is (to paraphrase) neither black nor white. Each race is made in the image of God, each race has been united in Christ, meaning that an unChristian mindset is to see “us” versus “them” whether it means that the “us” for you is black or white or whatever.
Do you remember Carlton Banks? He is a character on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He is particularly famous for his dance.
Carlton is the yen to Will’s yang. Where Will is portrayed as the stereotypical inner-city black kid and all that implies, Carlton is portrayed as…well…a rich white kid with a little too much melanin.
He loves sweater vests and Tom Jones. Carlton Banks doesn’t threaten white culture.
The churches I have attended and served would love to have Carlton Banks as a member. (especially if he tithed…)
Bob Roberts, pastor of Northwood Church, essentially sums up the issue of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Carlton Banks when he tweeted this statement in a conversation on twitter:
On other words, while white churches may want black faces in our congregations, the overwhelming majority are not even remotely interested in black culture.
This tweet was particularly convicting to me – I would love more black people at Cross Church. Am I just as willing to embrace the redeemed parts of black culture as I am the redeemed parts of my culture?
Bryan Lorritts, in his book Right Color Wrong Culture offers profound insight into black culture, white culture and American Churches.
He explains that “Within every ethnicity there exists at least three cultural expressions: C1s, C2s, and C3s” (198).
Lorritts defines C1s as “people from one ethnicity who have assimilated into another. In the Bible they are the Hellenistic Jews of Acts 6. The very name Hellenistic Jew communicates both ethnicity and culture, for they were Jews who had assimilated into Greek culture” (198).
C1s “can be categorized as culturally safe”; C1s are the Carlton Banks of the world.
C3s, on the other hand, are “culturally inflexible…In the Bible your C3s are the Pharisees” (199). According to Lorritts, the rapper Ice Cube is an excellent example of C3s.
In the middle, and where all of those in Christ Jesus need to find ourselves, are the C2s. Lorritts explains, “A C2 is a person who is culturally flexible and adaptable without becoming ethnically ambiguous or hostile. Paul pointed to this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 when he said that he had become all things to all people” (201).
C2s are willing to embrace the redeemed components of any culture and incorporate them into the life of their church.
All things to all people that by all possible means we might save some.
Most healthy people like to think of ourselves as C2s – as culturally aware and accepting of people of other races. Few racists actually think they are racist.
In the past few weeks, if you said, tweeted, or posted something like, “black people always” or “white people always”, you probably need to examine your heart and confess your sin because in the deepest and darkest part of your heart hides a love of your skin tone – whether it is black or white – more than your savior and your fellow Christian.
The same is true if you said, tweeted, or posted something like, “black people never” or “white people would never” or “I hate it when black people” or “I hate it when white people” – and we could go on and on.
We all sin. We all hide racism in our hearts. We all need to repent and confess of it. We all need to work towards loving our neighbor as ourselves – including loving their culture.
Before you point out the problems in another race’s culture, be sure to remove the plank in your own race’s culture first.
Why can’t all black people just be like Carlton Banks?
Because even Carlton Banks wasn’t immune.