For Black History Month: Bringing Conversations about Race into Our Sacred Spaces

“As a layman,...I wonder why I can go to church 52 times a year and not hear one sermon on the practical problems of race relations.”
Sargent Shriver | Chicago, IL | January 15, 1963

Our Quote of the Week questions why we do not bring the topic of race into our sacred spaces.

Black History Month has us thinking about the different strategies Sargent Shriver used to combat anti-Black racism and White supremacy. One such strategy was to challenge the Catholic church and other faith-based institutions to do their share in building a more inclusive, loving, and just society. A key part of building such a society, reasoned Shriver, would be to foster conversations about race in houses of worship.

In 1963, an interfaith group of leaders from around the country, including Sargent Shriver and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gathered in Chicago for the National Conference on Religion and Race. It was during this conference that Sargent Shriver spoke these words. He referred to laws and government as “coarse and inefficient instruments for remolding social institutions or illuminating the dark places of the human heart.” He then called on “those institutions whose task it is to teach moral values” to take an active role in battling discrimination and hatred.

Shriver’s words remind us that to achieve true racial equity and justice, we must reflect on and discuss the topic of race, including Black history, in our sacred spaces every day: in our churches and in our temples, but also in our classrooms, at our dinner tables, and in all of our intimate settings. We must be especially intentional about doing this in environments that are predominantly White and where we have perceived racial bias or casual racism. We must be vigilant about bias within ourselves. We must listen to the voices of those directly affected, and we must allow ourselves to be moved to action as a result of these conversations.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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