Carl Lentz, lead pastor of Hillsong East Coast, said recently he believes the Christian church may be “one of the biggest propagators of racist ideology in our country.”
“There’s a difference between your principle and your practical,” explained Lentz during the latest episode of his podcast “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” “So if my principle at Hillsong, New York City, is ‘we value all people,’ practically speaking, you should be able to see that.”
Lentz was talking with former NFL linebacker and ESPN sports analyst Emmanuel Acho, who said “the most powerful person in America is a religious white man.”
Acho pointed out that, though segregation legally ended in the 1960s, Sunday mornings have remained ethnically separated.
“It’s hard to listen to a preacher preach if you know that that preacher believes in systems that are hurting people,” said Lentz. “So it’s safer sometimes to go to a black church … [because] I don’t know if I can trust somebody who claims to love Jesus and professes to teach me about this man, yet you’re silent on issue that hurt my people.”
As for why more churches — predominantly white preachers — don’t speak out about the issue of racism, Lentz suggested it’s just “too much work.”
“The moment you start looking into this, you realize, ‘Oh, wow, this goes all the way to the top. This is in our church choir. This is in our church administration. This is in the way we’ve taught the Bible. And there are a lot of Christians who set out to clean house until they find out how close to home it might come.’”
He went on to argue Christian leaders in the U.S. have been ignoring race “for decades.”
Following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in May by a former Minneapolis police officer, said he recognized he was “part of the problem” of continuing to prop up racism.
“My stance, it comes from the Old Testament, where God says, ‘I want justice, oceans of it,’” the Hillsong leader said. “So unless I am part of the oceans of justice team, I’m not doing enough. I’m a part of the problem. Now I can say I’m a part of the solution.”
Lentz told Acho he is doing his best to educate his kids about racism.
The ESPN analyst told Lentz he gets frustrated when Christians say things like, “It’s not about race, it’s about grace,” and, “It’s not about skin, it’s about sin.”
Rather, Acho says it is, in fact, about skin color and race, “because race and skin is what is being punished and executed on camera in America right now.” Lentz conceded that white peoples have “been allowed to say ignorant things” and “nobody said anything.”
As for where Jesus would land on the issue, Lentz said He’s “where the hurting people are.”
“There’s no question where Jesus would be. Where did you find Him when we have record of Him? Who was He with? Who was He angering is more important?” He said. “Jesus was loathed by the religious community for what? Proximity. He was at the dinner table, He was at the wrong parties, He was hanging out with the wrong people. He was talking to women when they weren’t even allowed or even acknowledged as real humans.”