"It's unfair because it's not our fault. We shouldn't have to apologize for the actions of others."
This is a non-verbatim remark that was said in my Bible study group last night. We were talking about the perception of Christianity and the Church, and how as Christians we should apologize for the actions of people claiming to be associated with our religion. Although I believe the girl who said this now understands why we should apologize, I thought it was so interesting.
Take this comment in the context of race, or sex, or even wealth classes. The idea is still the same; do white people need to feel apologetic for the effects of racism on Blacks even if they aren't directly causing them? Do men need to say sorry for the awful actions or other males who have hurt women? Should the rich feel bad for their wealth and how it disproportionately affects lower-income people?
Yes and no.
Being white doesn't make you responsible for racism. Being a man doesn't make you liable for all sexual harassment or assault. And being rich doesn't mean you are the one to blame for the problems of the poor.
However, racism, sexism, and classism are real problems that have hurt many people.
This is what I explained in my Bible study, briefly and swiftly. For real passionate, Jesus-loving legitimate Christians, we are not the ones who are using the Church to harm others. We're not distorting the words of the Bible to spread lies, to hate, or to judge others.
But, others are.
People use Christianity as a vehicle to hurt others and push their own selfish agendas. In the same way, some white people use their race to disadvantage others, or men use their sex to hurt women, and the rich use their wealth and resources at the expense of others (like the college scandal that recently came to surface).
Although you are not the ones doing it, it is still being done. And because of this, you have the responsibility to acknowledge it. So as a white person, no you do not have to "feel sorry for your whiteness." And as a male, it's not your fault that sexual assault exists. And if you're rich, you do not need to apologize for your wealth. You need to acknowledge that your identity and whatever is associated with it, is being used to hurt others.
Although these Christians falsely represent my religion and wrongly interpret the teachings of the Bible, they cause real pain to others. And this is what we apologize for, for the inaccurate depiction of who we are.
I am sorry for the pain and trauma that someone has associated with the religion I identify with. So you say you're sorry when it's not your fault, not to take the blame that's not yours. But you do so to acknowledge the pain that is theirs and to lay the ground for understanding a more accurate representation of who you are, and who you shouldn't be.