Real Life Loading ...™

Race-based Trauma: How We Heal: Derwin Gray

with Dr. Derwin L. Gray | June 16, 2023
Play Pause

Race-based trauma cuts deep. On Real Life Loading..., Shelby Abbott hosts former NFL pro and now-pastor Dr. Derwin Gray—who's got straight talk for all sides about America's racial divide, and thoughts on how to heal.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Shelby Abbott

    Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. Abbott is the author of Jacked and I Am a Tool (To Help with Your Dating Life), Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Race-based trauma cuts deep. Former NFL pro and now-pastor Dr. Derwin Gray’s got straight talk for all sides about America’s racial divide—and how to heal.

MP3 Download Transcript

Race-based Trauma: How We Heal: Derwin Gray

With Dr. Derwin L. Gray
June 16, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Real Life Loading…
References to conferences, resources, or other special promotions may be obsolete.

Season 1, Episode 41: Race-based Trauma: How We Heal

Guest: Derwin Gray
Air Date: June 17, 2023

Derwin: So, the good news is we have a Jewish Savior who comes to die to not just forgive our sins, but to create a family with different colored skins. And when His family loves each other, it testifies to the world that they're His disciples and their unity testifies that the Father did send the Son. And so following Jesus is not about an individualistic journey. It's about being placed into a multiethnic family. That's why the end in the book of Revelation, you see every nation, tribe, and tongue together in unity.

Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading.

I'm your host, Shelby Abbott, and Juneteenth is just around the corner. A day when we meaningfully engage with and acknowledge the freedom that was given to enslaved people in Texas on June 19th, 1865. Today's episode isn't about the holiday per se, but hopefully what we're discussing can be helpful for some additional context in understanding why Juneteenth is an important and relevant day for our nation, both in the past and the present, and then also in the future.

Now, over the last several years, many conversations have been highlighted in the public space, including within Christian circles, around the topic of racial reconciliation. And many would acknowledge that there's still a lot of work to be done amongst Christians when it comes to race. In light of that, I wanted to on have on once again, author and pastor, Dr. Derwin Gray.

Derwin wrote a book called How to Heal Our Racial Divide [subtitle: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation], and the title really says it all. So, to kick off our time today, Dr. Gray is going to explain the biblical mandate for Christians to be part of a multi-ethnic community. Here's the first half of my time with Derwin Gray.

All right, so someone told me that you're a shoe guy and I am also a sneaker guy. I'm curious, what shoes do you have on right now, or maybe what shoes have you been rocking lately that you're super proud of?

Derwin: I'm wearing some Nike Air Max. And here's the thing about my shoe fandom is - people give me shoes. So, the Nike Air Max that I'm wearing now, I got these from the University of Missouri football team when I went to go speak to them.

Then some of my pastor friends will buy me shoes and my kids will buy me shoes. But up to a certain point, I don't believe in the ridiculousness of paying over a couple hundred bucks for a pair of shoes. But yes, it's nice that teams give me shoes when I go speak to their team.

Shelby: That's really, really cool. Come to think of it, you know, I've done a lot of speaking, and no one's ever given me free shoes. No one's even asked me what my shoe size is when I go to different places. I want some free shoes. I've also written some books and there's been minor benefits from that, and you've written several books as well.

So, what I want to talk about today is the book that you've written called How to Heal Our Racial Divide. So why don't we start with this. Tell me just simply, why did you write this book?

Derwin: I was motivated to write How to Heal Our Racial Divide. Because I see the church more ethnically, racially divided than unbelievers.

Secondly, I wrote it because most Christians don't even know that Jesus actually has the answer that heals our racial divide. That racial reconciliation is our birthright as followers of Jesus.

And lastly, I wrote it because I was tired of seeing Jesus's name slung through the mud, that the most ethnically segregated institution in America is the church.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Derwin: And so, I'm calling prophetically out and calling up the church to grab a hold of our biblical mandate. And if I could just pause here, this is really important. In Genesis chapter 12, God calls a man by the name of Abram and He changed his name to Abraham, which means father of many. And He says Abraham through you, I'm going to bless the whole world. I'm going to give you a big family.

Then there's Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nation of Israel. God gives the nation of Israel the Torah, which is the law. And in the midst of that, Israel is supposed to live a life that shows the Gentiles, the non-Jews, what life with God looks like. They utterly fail.

God sends Abraham seed, Jesus, the son of David, the Jewish Messiah, to live, to die, to raise again to give Abraham this multiethnic family. According to Galatians three, eight, the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham and this, that all the nations would be blessed.
So, the good news is we have a Jewish Savior who comes to die to not just forgive our sins, but to create a family with different colored skins. And when His family loves each other, it testifies to the world that they're His disciples and their unity testifies that the Father did send the Son.

And so following Jesus is not about an individualistic journey. It's about being placed into a multiethnic family. That's why at the end in the Book of Revelation, you see every nation, tribe, and tongue together in unity. And so, what we're going to do for eternity, God wants us to do in the present, and the gospel heals the racial divide by bringing people together through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And then what happens in the seats is the spill over into the streets. But the problem is the church is more divided than unbelievers.

Shelby: Yes.

Derwin: Yes, so now I'm on a mission to see that change.

Shelby: I've heard you say a number of different things that have been helpful in what that might look like in its practical workings through the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the things that you said is today's racist is tomorrow's gracist. What does that mean?

Derwin: Wow. Okay. So first of all, I think terms are important, right?

There's only one race, the human race. The human race is comprised of many different ethnic groups. Ethnicity deals with language and culture and shared journey. Thus, one race, different ethnic groups.

The term racism stands for one particular ethnic group having political or cultural power over another. So, case in point in South Africa with Apartheid, the white Afrikaans [Afrikaners] could do racism because they had power. In America the majority white people had power. So that's racism because it deals with a culture and power.

Prejudice can be individual against anybody can be prejudiced. Okay?

Shelby: Okay.

Derwin: So, what I mean by a racist becoming a grace, And I'm using it interchangeably, is that Jesus can legitimately transform your heart.

And years ago, at Transformation Church, I was preaching. A white dude ran down the aisle and his dude's getting closer, he was crying, snot was dangling from his nose. And I'm like, okay, am I going to have to knock this guy out while I'm greeting guests to Transformation Church.

Before you know it, he's hugging me. I'm sure the snot got all over me and the dude is just flat out weeping and crying. And he goes, “I can't believe I'm in church. I can't believe you're black. I don't even like black people, but I want to know Jesus.”

Shelby: Wow. Wow.

Derwin: And so that began this journey. His girlfriend, who had just gotten out of prison for drug charges and prostitution and other things, had been inviting him to Transformation Church for a year, but he wouldn't come because he was like, I don't want to go see that black blankety inward, inward this.

So, he finally shows up to get her off his back. And as I'm preaching, he says, I want it to hate you. But the more you talk, the more I had to come to know Jesus.

Shelby: Wow.

Derwin: Anyway, he comes to faith, they're baptized, and they say, “Hey, we need to get married. Will you officiate our wedding?” I said, “Of course I will.” And then she says, “My father disowned me at sixteen. Will you walk me down the aisle?”

Shelby: Wow.

Derwin: So, for the wedding, I'm walking her down the aisle. She's white, she's wearing Wrangler jeans, Cowgirl boots, a white top with no sleeves. So, you can see her barb wire tat. I'm walking her down the aisle. Just a few people were there. And the guy that was a racist is up front and he's crying. And as I get closer, I have this thought, the snotty nose, racist has turned into a snotty nose gracist. And so, I ended up officiating their wedding and they become vital members of our church. And it's a portrait of what God can do, that God can do this.

Now for me, as an African American being black is not my primary identity. Being in Christ is my primary identity. My blackness is not tolerated. It's celebrated. It's how God expresses himself through me.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Derwin: And so therefore, I don't have to be offended by anybody else's sin because I know who I am, and thus I can engage with people without getting angry and firing back at them. That's what I mean by that.

But I'm not convinced that we as Christians have taken Jesus at His Word and I wrote How to Heal Our Racial Divide so I could take people back to the ancient Jewish soil that Jesus walked in, and how the early church became this revolutionary force where enemies, Jews and Gentiles became family and friends and became the envy of the Roman Empire.

Shelby: Mm-hmm. Yes, so much there. I want to ask you so many different, more questions, but for the sake of time, we have to keep moving.

I had a friend of mine, I told him that I was going to be talking to you today. He's a black pastor in Orlando, and I asked him if you had any questions for Derwin, what would you ask? And he said this, “What do you think are the glaringly lost biblical concepts missing from the race conversations today?” Like pick the gospel. Pick one. Yeah.

Derwin: The gospel I mean even in my space in the multiethnic church space, I'll listen to leaders and it's gospelless. It's like we don't really believe the gospel has the answer.
And so, It's gospelless.

What I would say is just for example, we've got to disciple people in understanding Ephesians 2:8 we’re saved by grace. Whether you're black, white, Asian, whoever you are, we all enter the kingdom the same way at the same level.

Shelby: Mm-hmm.

Derwin: Then it says, there were God's workmanship created for good works in verse 10 of Ephesians 2. Well, the good works are fleshed out in verse 11 through 22. They are this, we are part of the promise of Abraham. We've been brought nearby the blood of Christ, Ephesians 2:14-16. That creates a new family. We have the same access to the Father. We are the temple of the Spirit. If we just discipled our churches in Ephesians 2:8-22, we would have healthy, multiethnic churches.

But I'm on a mission is to show folks the Apostle Paul planted multiethnic churches. That's what got him in trouble. In Acts 22 when he's having a discussion, and everybody's upset. The Sadducees want to get him, the Pharisees want to get him, and Paul is a Pharisee, and he goes, by the way I believe in the resurrection.

And the Pharisees are like, stop, let's hear this man, because politically the Sadducees didn't. So, they're like, he's our guy, let's get the Sadducees now. And Paul tells his story and then he says, But the Messiah has sent me to the Gentiles. And you know what it says next? “This man is not worthy to live, wipe him off the face of the earth.”

Paul was beheaded, not simply because he said Jesus rose from the dead. He was beheaded, because Jesus rose from the dead. Creating the multiethnic family, Jew-Gentile family that God promised Abraham. This is our birthright.

Shelby: Yes. Yes. We'll get back to my time with Derwin Gray in just a second, but now it's time for a Shelby Sidebar.

You've probably heard the phrase “too far gone” before. It basically means that someone is beyond the point of being rescued or that person is just kind of a lost cause.
Now we might apply that phrase when thinking about someone we despise, or someone who makes the same mistakes over and over again without ever learning from their missteps.

Humanly speaking, it makes sense to count someone out when it feels as if they're too far gone. But does God see it the same way we do when it says in the book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with Me.”

Does the Lord ever get to a point when He stops knocking? Well, according to what we see in the pages of Scripture, the answer is no. Over and over again from the earliest parts of the Old Testament all the way through to the pages of the New Testament, we see God actively coming after His children. The fickle hearts of people constantly run away from him, but the Lord is always in pursuit of us.

I know it may seem impossible with some people, but there is no distance too far that God cannot bring someone back from. The saving work of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection shrinks the distance between God and human beings down to zero, if we accept that work as a gift of His grace. The gap no longer exists because of Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

He will never stop seeking you. He will never stop knocking at your door. He will always come after you. That's how precious you are to Him. No one will ever be too far gone because God's love is far too great. This is grace.

This has been a Shelby sidebar on Real Life Loading.

Now let's get back to my time with Dr. Gray. We're going to talk about how to address individual and systemic racism, why black history is important for all people, and why Derwin is hopeful for the future of the church.

I want to ask on behalf of young Christians out there, what can we as young Christians do to help change individual racism and systemic or institutional racism.

Derwin: First thing is you change, before you try to. You can't give away what you don't possess. So, allow God to form you into a disciple that sees ethnic reconciliation as a mission. So that's number one.

Number two, the way we change systemic racism is by going into those systems and being a means of change, understanding we're never going to create utopia. Sometimes I feel like young Christians think the way we change is through liberal progressive politics. So, what I would say is, “Be a worshiper of the lamb, not the donkey and the elephant.” And prophetically live and create a world where injustice becomes a rumor of what used to be.

But don't think it's particularly well right or left. And think about this Republican politics and Democratic politics have only been around for let's just say 200 years. Well, the church has been around for 2000 years, so you're telling me Christianity was ineffective before Republicans and Democrats came. It's utterly ridiculous.

So, we got to begin to see our faith through the lenses of the Bible. Not through the lenses of an elephant or a donkey. Be the change that you want to see. Become a part -like ask your pastor, why is our church not diverse? Here's Derwin's book. Read it. I want to reflect the kingdom. If they won't, then go find a multiethnic church to join and then go into the world and you be the one who brings about justice.

Shelby: Yes. You obviously in the book flesh out a number of different ways to make that happen. You give suggestions and practical tips, but you also talk about the posture and the heart and the mindset working on yourself first.

You say that proximity breeds intimacy, when you are referencing the silo nature of our churches in America today. How can white people in particular develop more of an awareness of their blind spots when it comes to an understanding of the black experience for our Christian brothers and sisters?

Derwin: I would say don't just appreciate black culture, appreciate black people.

Shelby: Okay. What do you mean by that?

Derwin: What I mean by that is don't just listen to our music. See - I heard somebody say it is our white brothers and sisters like our music, but they don't like to sing our blues.

Shelby: Oh, okay. Wow.

Derwin: And the blues are birthed out of suffering. And so, develop relationships with black people, not to study us under a microscope, but to be friends, to be equals, to learn from each other and not just with African Americans, but with everybody.

Every human being should treat every other human being like Jesus died for them because He did. And if Jesus died for them because He did, then that means they're worthy of dignity, honor, and respect.

Shelby: Yes. Yeah, that's so good. Jesus did die for everyone, and we need to remember that as we're interacting with people. Okay, so I was wondering if we can talk about history for a little bit? You know, it's almost Juneteenth and a couple months ago was Black History Month. So why is history so important, when we talk about race and reconciliation?

Derwin: Yeah, that is such a great question. I think it's important as a pastor of a church that's 55% to 58% white, I'm their pastor too because I'm pro Jesus, I'm pro all of humanity. So, as it pertains to history, here's a couple things that I've noticed, and I talk about throughout in how to heal our racial divide.

Number one: Is I'll say to my white brothers and sisters, when black people are minorities, bring up past history in the United States of America. Number one, it's not because we don't love America. We do love America. It's that we want to point out that there were injustices in the past and even in the present that is creating where we are now.

Number two: When we bring up injustices of the past in America, our white brothers and sisters should not get guilty because their identity is not in the United States of America. America belongs to us all, but if you're a Christian, our identity is in Christ, not in the United States of America.

Thirdly: When black people or minorities bring up the past, we're not saying that our white brothers and sisters should feel guilty because, “there's no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” [Romans 8:1 paraphrased]

And then lastly, when we bring up the past, it's so that we together can look back and mourn blessed of those who mourned for they will be comforted that we can look back together and mourn and say, “that was sad.” I mourn with you and now as a brother and sister in Christ, I covenant with you that as the kingdom of God, we will not allow this to happen again.

So, people will say, well, why do we need black history? And I just simply respond with, because so much of black history was not taught because of injustices. So, for example, the first person to die at the founding of our nation at the Boston Tea Party [Boston Massacre] was Crispus Attucks. He was a large black man who was also Native American. He was like 6’ 1”. That was a giant back then.

So, the first person to die happens to be a combination of the ethnic group that has suffered the most in America. We should be okay saying, “Man, it is terrible what happened to Native Americans. We mourn that. How now can we move forward to bring about justice?”

When we look at World War II, 1.2 million black GIs went to Germany and fought against neo-Nazi racists. They were promised the GI bill when they returned, they didn't get the GI bill. But white GIs did, and that created trillions of dollars of economic gain that black people missed out on. Plus, they fought racist Nazis in Germany only to fight racists here in their own country.

When Jesse Owens destroyed the “master race,” the Germans in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, he couldn't even go through the front door of the hotels that he was getting awarded from. The president didn't even call him to thank him, and people go, “well, Derwin that's the past.”

There's a lot of things in the past that we as Americans celebrate. As a family, we should be able to look at the good and the bad and the ugly. To deny the bad and the ugly is to deny a future of change. As Christians, we should be a people of change.

Shelby: Yes.

Derwin: But we have to be willing to engage awkward conversations. A few years ago, a good friend of mine had me on his podcast. His name is Carey Nieuwhof. Carey is from Canada. [] Canadian people are nice. Carey knows that I love to fish. And he's telling me, he goes, “Hey, you know in this part of Canada, back in 1789 when the French came, they said in the lakes there were so many fish that you could walk from your canoe to the next canoe on the backs of fish. Because there were so many, wouldn't you have loved the fish there?

And I said, Carey, “No, I would not want to go anywhere near North America in 1789, I'm black.” And so, he started laughing and I was laughing, and then he paused and went, “Oh, Derwin. Oh yeah, I'm so sorry. I just didn't even think about that as a black man, being in North America at that time, that's not a good thing. I'm so sorry.”

I said, “Well, you don't have to apologize.” I said, “As brothers and the Lord, this is how we edify each other.” And thinking about another person and what they may be experiencing is one of the highest forms of consideration and love. To love your neighbors, you love yourself means: God give me eyes to view life from their perspective too.

Shelby: It's easy to be able to look at the condition of the church right now, and as you say, it's more siloed off and segregated than the rest of our culture the church is. So, I want to ask you, as you look at the church today, and maybe not just your church in particular, but the church at large, where are you most hopeful for the future?

Derwin: Yes. Number one, I am wildly hopeful for the church because Jesus rose from the dead, and he intercedes at the right hand of the Father.

Number two, I am hopeful that there's a younger generation that desires a wholistic Christ that cares about life in the womb all the way to the tomb. That they care about evangelism and discipleship, and they want to know what Jesus, that not only can help you stay married, but help you bring justice into the world.

And I believe that there's a younger generation that wants not like a Jesus that's a helper. But a Jesus that is big and transcendent and powerful and mysterious and beautiful, and so I'm very hopeful. I'm hopeful for the church globally. The church is exploding in Latin America. By 2050 one in three Christians will be a Nigerian woman. The church is exploding in China. The church is not exploding in Western Europe nor America. I think there's a lot that we can learn from the global church.

Shelby: Yes. I don't think that we have our focus on that. We have blinders onto the American West, or just the Western culture in general, and we don't really see what God is doing all over the world. And there's crazy stuff happening in lots of really amazing ways overseas.

Derwin: It is. And I think that goes back into the hubris of American exceptionalism. Like, I love my country, but I don't have to pit America against other countries to feel better about myself.

Shelby: Yeah. Yeah.

Derwin: And there's so much happening around the world that we can learn from, and I'm excited to be a student and to learn, but I'm wildly excited about the church, and I think it's important too - the reason why the New Testament’s letters were written, particularly Paul's, was because the church was struggling.

I don't want to go back to the early church. Those people were a mess. Like when we look at the early church compared to what we're doing, we're doing pretty good.

Shelby: Yes, yes, yes.

Derwin: Sin and sanctification has always been an issue in the church. And the greatest way, if you feel down on the church, the greatest way to make a difference is to be the difference you want to see. Go to your room, draw a circle, and step in it and say, “God bring about revival and start with the person in this circle. It's easy to talk about how bad things are. It's easy to be a critic. It takes guts to be a creator.

Shelby: You know, I have found that it's so easy to be critical from the sidelines. The greatest way for us to make a difference is in the power of the Holy Spirit, be the difference we want to see. Ask God to work in and through you to see others with the eyes of Jesus and start to change. Bending yourself toward humility, kindness, and compassion.

I love the privilege of talking with Derwin today, and I sincerely hope that our conversation was enlightening and helpful for you. If that was the case, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend, and wherever you get your podcast, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading. If you'd rate and review us. And it's a hundred percent easy to find us on our social channels. Just search for Real Life Loading or look for our link tree in the show notes.
I want to thank everyone who's on the Real Life Loading team, Kaytlynn, Jarrett, Chloe and Josh. They're the best. I'm Shelby Abbott. I'll see you back next time on Real Life Loading
Real Life Loading is a production of FamilyLife®, A Cru® ministry.
Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.

We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?

Copyright © 2023 FamilyLife®. All rights reserved.