Can We Continue to Bury Our Heads in the Sand? (New Series)

In the trail of Wednesday’s blog post, several comments came up on a thread from, of all places, The article is making it to sports message boards for the University of South Carolina. Yes, Clemson fans, no matter what you say–Gamecock fans CAN READ!

Following the initial post, the first reply is noteworthy:  Meanwhile back in the real world, the most segregated place in America continues to be church on Sunday.

I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of this comment is, and it has plenty of cynicism. It’s also painful because it is so true at a lot of churches.

I have given a great deal of thought to the reasons why we never talk about race in churchat least not until there is a media story or significant event that forces us to talk about it. We prefer to pass it off with disingenuous cliches like “I don’t see color”. (How we react to “color” may be different, but there is no way that we cannot see it).

In our own church, we have some diversity–not a ton, but some–in our attendance, membership, and leadership. There is hope that this diversity might grow. But even in this setting, we never talk about race.

Come to think of it, we don’t talk a lot about a lot of other painful or difficult or controversial things in church:  Sex, sexual abuse, gluttony, sin, discrimination, money, illness and death, etc. Keep in mind that preaching about something does not constitute talking about it.

From the time I was a kid, I heard that an ostrich buries its head in the sand to hide when it feels threatened or does not want to be seen. Never mind that this is a complete myth. The illustration is etched into our culture and conversation, as we regularly refer to burying our heads in the sand over certain issues.

Funny thing is that this would be absolutely ridiculous if it were true. Seriously, have you ever seen a live ostrich? It’s hard to imagine a sight more absurd than an animal of that size learning such a technique in an effort to hide from trouble.

The even funnier thing is that the church is still trying the technique, and it looks just as absurd when doing it.

We often bury our heads and avoid the tough topics because they could be painful or controversial. People might get mad. People might even leave the church. So we take on a very typical human approach:  Wait until something happens before we respond.
It’s very true that sometimes you just have to wait and cross the bridge when you come to it. But sometimes the bridge is already on fire by the time you get there. By that time, people are already falling through the wreckage, and we’re not prepared to respond.

It’s time to stop playing “Ostrich”. It’s time to open our protected space to be shattered with reality that the world is tough, and attempting to live in the name of Jesus Christ in the world is tough. Allowing that to happen allows the love of Christ to rebuild us, better and stronger and more prepared.

Or maybe we’re afraid that talking about such things will force us to change our attitudes and we just do not want to face that.

It might empower Christians and the church to be prepared with a prophetic word if we talked about tough issues before a Trayvon Martin-like incident happens. It would certainly be more productive than posting on Facebook after the fact. Perhaps we could become more proactive and less reactive.

Yes, this will be hard and may push us to our limits of love, faith, and unity. It will require us to summon the willingness to recognize the other, not to point a finger at “them” but to see what Christ still needs to work in our hearts. These discussions will push us to become introspective, while developing Spirit-driven empathy and understanding.

It won’t be easy, but it was never intended to be, if it’s a Christianity worth having and a church worth keeping.

For the next several weeks, I will be working on what I call The Ostrich Chronicles. I will write about some of these issues that we keep buried, pretending they do not exist even while they are happening all around us. I welcome you to join the discussions, offer agreement or disagreement, and engage these tough issues.

I INVITE YOU:  Please share your comments, questions, and ideas for topics on THIS page, Facebook, or Twitter (@TheRev78). 

If we can lift our heads out of the sand before the crisis comes, perhaps we can do something about it rather than fueling the fire.


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