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Racism is sinful hearts plus sinful systems.


Q Why are only “white people” guilty of racism? Isn’t there such a thing as “reverse racism”?

A Racism is often defined as prejudicial acts committed by a dominant group (in North America, “Caucasians” or “white people”) toward minority or less privileged groups (in North America, “people of color”). When racial prejudice flows in a reverse direction, so to speak—by the minority toward the dominant—that is often called “reverse racism.”

This term assumes that racism is simply prejudice based on race. Prejudice is wrong, sinful, and has no place in our Christian walk. But racism is more than simply prejudice. Racism is prejudice plus systemic power. In Christian terms, it is sinful hearts plus sinful systems. We are not simply talking about individual power to choose between loving or hating. Systemic power is entrenched in how one people group is consistently stereotyped or portrayed; how social habits, assumptions, and practices inherently favor one group over another; and how all these things are framed as “normal,” and few notice what’s wrong with them. Systemic power is a big part of any “ism.” Sinful systems and sinful hearts feed off each other, perpetuating vicious cycles.

Hence, even though people of color can have sinful hearts and commit racist acts, calling it “reverse racism” is incorrect, as their prejudice lacks systemic power. Any prejudice must be corrected. But ignoring the power dynamic in racism or any “ism” is only giving half the cure.

Christ’s work of renewing all things includes renewing both sinful hearts and sinful systems. Rather than play the blame game, let us collaborate together in God’s mission of reconciling all things in Christ (Col. 1:20).

—Shaio Chong is a chaplain at York University in Toronto, Ontario.


Q Unlike other versions, the NIV has replaced the word “bless” with “praise”—in Psalm 103:1, for example. The word “bless” honors God by acknowledging his kingdom and authority. Don't we lose that with “praise”?          

A I have asked Dr. Michael Williams to answer your question since he is not only a professor of Old Testament but also a member of the committee that reviews and improves the NIV.

Dr. Williams reminds us that there is no one word in any language that perfectly translates a word in a different language because words have multiple meanings. In English, for example, the word “rock” can refer to a kind of candy, a musical genre, the movement of a chair, a stone, and many other things. The Hebrew three-consonant root b-r-k does mean “bless,” but it can also mean “praise” as well as several other things. The context must determine which translation works best.

Over time, the meaning of the word “bless” has changed. It was once synonymous with “praise” but now has come to signify what one with higher authority does for one with lower authority, like the pope “blessing” the crowd. It would be strange to hear the crowd “blessing” the pope. The NIV therefore translates b-r-k as “praise” to avoid communicating the idea that the psalmist thought of himself as in a higher position of authority than the Lord. So do other versions, including the NET, NLT, HCSB, CEV, and The Message.

Members of the NIV translation committee, Dr. Williams assures us, do share your concern, but do not believe that “acknowledging his kingdom and authority” is lost when opting for the word “praise.”

Henry De Moor is professor of church polity emeritus at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary (Faith Alive, 2011).


Q  Someone in my church always rubs me the wrong way. I get very annoyed and impatient with the things she says and how she expresses herself. She is not well-liked generally, but other people don’t have such a strong reaction to her. Should I speak with her to try to improve our relationship?
A  No. It would not be fair to make your strong negative feelings her problem; she has a right to be who she is and to choose how she expresses herself.

When we experience someone negatively out of proportion to his or her actions, this can mean we are not accepting characteristics we observe in another person that are also true for us. Negative characteristics such as a need for control or selfishness or other self-focused behaviors are difficult to accept and lend themselves to being projected onto other people with similar tendencies. It is easier to hate our own shortcomings in someone else than to face up to them, but facing up to who we are is what following a Savior demands.

Thinking of this in terms of spiritual warfare can be helpful. Each time your sister in Christ does or says something you find irritating, pray to forgive her. At the same time, pray to be forgiven for judging her, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind anything you might need to be aware of in yourself that requires examination or further prayer. See if over time your attitude toward this person changes to allow you to be more accepting and tolerant of who she is.

Above all, continue to practice patience, long-suffering, kindness, and all the other fruits of the Spirit, not only toward this person, but also toward everyone, including yourself.

Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario

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