Defining Ethnocentric Oppression
The question of its existence is the primary divide between churches in America on the issue of "race"
What is ethnocentric oppression toward African Americans today?
Ethnocentric oppression: (to borrow words from one pastor-theologian), The cumulative effect of ethno-centeredness and practices that become embodied and expressed in the policies, rules, regulations, procedures, expectations, norms, assumptions, guidelines, plans, strategies, objectives, practices, values, standards, narratives, histories, records, and the like, which accordingly disadvantages, causes indifference toward, and/or dismisses one ethnic people group and unfairly benefits another particular ethnic people group. It does not have to be intended or self-conscious as a group or as an individual. It is not necessarily individual personal irrational prejudice toward other ethnicities.
The cumulative effect of ethno-centeredness and its practices that become embodied and expressed in the cultural patterns, which accordingly disadvantages, causes indifference toward, and/or dismisses one ethnic people group and consequently benefits another ethnic people group (or other groups).
What is ethnocentric oppression not?
It is not necessarily personal, self-conscious prejudice
It is not necessarily corporate, self-conscious prejudice
It is not necessarily codified laws in a nation-state
To what group does ethnocentric oppression belong?
It belongs as a subset to the larger of sets of sin, ethnocentrism, oppression, injustice, and indifference.
How can ethnocentric oppression be broken down into parts?
Ethnocentric refers to the idea of group-centeredness based on one's ethnic people group. See Genesis 11:1-9.
Oppression refers to using or perpetuating power and patterns of society that unrighteously press down on a particular group of people. It doesn’t have to be self-conscious or intentional perpetuation.
Cumulative effect refers to the various past incidents, ideas, and dispositions that work together to guide the shape (singular) of our society today.
Cultural patterns refers to the way we relate in interpersonally as a society. These patterns, traditions, and ways of living life together inevitably presses on everyone in society. For some the overall pressure is good, for others it is bad. Additionally, at some points the pressure is unjustly making things more difficult for some to the correlative advantage of the others.
What are the essential qualities of ethnocentric oppression?
Unawareness of the effect of the system as one participates in it
A minimizing of the weight of the oppression
Reductionism: a focus on personal behavior and not on (1) sinfully oppressive people, (2) sinful systems, and (3) demonic forces (to use Fikkert's list for poverty)
What are the characteristics of ethnocentric oppression?
Distraction from the issue
Denial of corporate responsibility
Dysfunctional understanding of unintentional sin
How are Christians and churches divided today? What is the sin that divides us?
Christians and churches are divided today as to whether ethnocentric oppression toward African Americans exists today.
If it doesn’t exist certain ethical entailments and biblical responsibilities follow in living for Christ: making sure Christians don’t legalistically and sinfully seek to bind the consciences of others on this issue.
If it does exist today then Christians must obey Christ Jesus by discerning the problem (Phil. 1:9), caring about those suffering under its weight (Mark 12:31), advocate for them (Prov 31:8-9), and disciple others against it (Matt 28:20, Eph 4:11-16).
We are divided today not only because we have a different read of the current situation, but the division is because one group is sinfully negligent (in most cases unintentionally sinful) of their responsibility.
So the first question is: Does ethnocentric oppression exist today? Only after answering this question can one then ask: What shall we do to honor and follow Christ Jesus in this situation?
We disagree on the first question so our answer to the second is inevitably divisive.
May the Lord grant us discernment to understand our current context and how to follow Jesus in it.
For more resources on this see Christian Resources on Ethnocentric Oppression in America Today or my sermon “On Ethnocentric Oppression.”