• indoubt Podcast
  • November 23, 2020

Ep. 254: Racism and Reconciliation

With Joel Gordon, , , and Isaac Dagneau

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Join Isaac and guest Joel Gordon as they share a candid conversation about the fundamental and biblical perspective of racism and how that relates to the society we currently live in. And more specifically, how does it relate to the significant issues that surround Indigenous peoples in Canada?

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the indoubt podcast, where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture, connecting them to our daily experiences and God’s word. For more info on indoubt, visit indoubt.ca or indoubt.com.

Isaac Dagneau:

It comes through indoubt. My name is Isaac, one of the hosts of indoubt, as well as a pastor at North Valley Baptist church in Mission, British Columbia. On the show today, we have filmmaker, actor, pastor, and the Creative Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. His name is Joel Gordon. So thanks so much for being on the show with us today Joel.

Joel Gordon:

Yeah, no, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Isaac Dagneau:

Let’s just take a moment to hear from you, who you are more personally, how you came to know Jesus, perhaps what life looks like for you right now. Just take some time and explain who you are.

Joel Gordon:

Sure. Yeah. Well, I was born and raised in Toronto and grown up here and grew up in a Baptist church in Toronto called Willowdale Baptist Church, came to faith at the age of six, was pastored by an evangelist. And so that’s part of my spiritual heritage having this great man of God mentor in my life who has an evangelist and who also led me to Christ at an early age. Around that time as well, my parents came to faith. My whole family started to journey together and to draw closer to Jesus as a family. And so those are sort of my roots as a believer.

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah. That’s awesome. And where has that taken you today? What’s your life look like?

Joel Gordon:

Yeah. Well speaking of family, that’s still one of my passions, I have a four kids and a newly adopted dog and we have a busy household, but one of the things that I’m really passionate about is asking myself and my family on a daily basis, how can we walk with Jesus? So not just on a Sunday morning, but every single moment of every day, how can we connect meaning and the truth and the beauty of scripture to everyday moments of life? So that’s one of my greatest challenges right now, as a father and as a content creator, how can we journey together as a family to draw closer to Jesus and to draw closer to each other?

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that. We’re going to be approaching a subject that we wish we didn’t have to approach. And yet in our day and age, it’s just so important that we do. And that topic is racism. Racism has obviously been an issue for millennia, but this year even, it’s sort of taken, I don’t know if center stage is the right way to put it, but it’s definitely been in a lot more people’s minds lately, at least in North America with various events that have gone on from the beginning of the year. So before we dig a bit deeper here Joel, I think it’s just really important that we define terms, especially on such important subjects. So maybe as a way to begin this conversation, what are we talking about when we talk about racism?

Joel Gordon:

Yeah, it’s a good question. And it is somewhat of a fluid term, it has evolved in meaning over the years and racism has a different color to it, depending on where you’re located and your geography and culture. But I think some just foundational pieces before we get to the definition is that I think it’s important to raise the fact that racism is both a societal issue and it’s also a sin issue. And as we think about a definition at the EFC, we have a working definition that racism is a form of discrimination that values and privileges some groups of people above others and denies the personhood of some, based on skin color, descent, national or ethnic origin. And so that’s sort of a broad definition that we’re using.

Joel Gordon:

And as well, I think one of the key types of racism that’s important to talk about is a systemic racism. While some people may not relate to, or may not see themselves individually as being racist, it’s sometimes harder to understand how they’re racist by virtue of being part of a system that upholds racist ideologies that you may not even be aware of. So whether we like it or not, all of us are connected to some degree with racism.

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah. No, that’s helpful. And you kind of led into this next point that I wanted to kind of unveil a little bit. And the way that I think about the question is can someone have racist beliefs or behave in racist ways or like you use the word ideology, have this ideology of racism without even knowing it? And I guess that’s the aspect of the systemic racism you’re talking about. And I think for a lot of people, and I’m sure Joel, you’ve had conversations with some about this. Some people, because they were not the direct victimizer of some racial behavior, they feel like they are innocent of having to let’s say confess and repent of something that they directly did not do. So how do you work around that? I hope that makes sense. How do you work around that? How do you kind of coach someone, help someone through systemic racism? Yeah. Maybe that’s the way I can ask it.

Joel Gordon:

Yeah. Well, one of the questions I like to even ask of myself is, as I think of racism and even think about the spiritual side of it and how my relationship with God helps me navigate this conversation, I ask myself, am I sitting in silence with Jesus? Or am I sinning in silence? And the way that, that relates to the topic of racism is that I think sometimes, there is a time when we just need to sit and be still and be silent and have a listening posture and spend time in solitude and being quiet, reflecting on the person of God and his truths and how that motivates our actions, but just being still and quiet. And there’s definitely lots of scriptural foundation for that posture. But then there’s a time when we sit in silence and where we may actually be sinning by not saying anything. So it’s possible that we can be racist by not responding to racial injustice that we are directly connected to.

Joel Gordon:

So I’ll give you just a brief example, in Nova Scotia, there are several landfill sites, toxic waste dumps that are situated in the backyards of indigenous and black communities. Now by virtue of them being placed there, that means that others are privileged by not having toxic water, by not having land that is filled with harmful chemicals and where their communities are not ridden with cancers that are directly related to their environment. But those sites were intentionally placed in those specific communities. And people are living today, continue to live in these communities that are environmentally hazardous. So if there is a church or a community that is privileged by not having a toxic landfill in their backyard, how should they respond or should they respond at all? They’re not the ones that decided that a landfill site should be adjacent to an indigenous community, but they do benefit directly by not having a landfill in their backyard. And so they share the same portion of God’s creation. And so how is God calling us to respond to that kind of systemic racism?

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a great question. And that’s a great point. I’m glad you brought a real example that’s happening right now. [inaudible 00:08:51] it’s happening in Nova Scotia, I think that’s important. You just asked the question, how does God want us to respond? What does God say about the realities of racism, the realities of this prejudice against certain kinds of people? What does he say about this? And I know for you being a pastor and so on and so forth, you’ve obviously searched the word, you’ve listened to the spirit in terms of this. Yeah. How does God respond to this kind of racism?

Joel Gordon:

Yeah. I can definitely speak both from a pastoral point of view, but also personally, as I’ve wrestled through some of these questions, even asking myself as a racialized person, how can I be both subject to discrimination, but also maybe complicit in being racist, even though I am racialized myself. And so I think about five different truths from the word of God that really help me navigate through this. And I think one of them is to have a listening, learning, and humble posture. So the more that I can really humble myself in the presence of God, listen to him and listen to others. And before speaking, just really have that as my posture, that has really helped me to navigate these conversations.

Joel Gordon:

A second idea is just being reminded that all people are loved by God, God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus, right? And it’s such a simple truth, but such an important reminder. And flowing out of that, we’re then called to love God with all our heart soul mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. And that type of biblical love involves a sacrificial, life-giving, others-focused type of love that transforms the lives of people. And so how is God calling us to love our own neighbors? How is God calling us to love our neighbors? That’s an important question where it may mean we actually have to sacrifice something because we’re following the model that Jesus gives us for love, right?

Joel Gordon:

And other ideas that were created in God’s image that people are created in the image of God, and then connected to that we all have equal dignity and value. So these are real foundational, biblical truths that we can anchor our response to racism in.

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah, absolutely. Joel, I love that. I remember seeing online a while ago, something to the effect of, I want to be colorblind and I understand the heart of it, the heart of the person who’s trying not to make distinctions, but I think it would make most sense to be able to see those differences for what those differences are and appreciate them. And thank God that he’s created a so diverse. I think it’s a wonderful, so I hope people can hear that and embrace that because I think we would see a big change if we started to appreciate that.

Joel Gordon:

And it’s to also understand that being different doesn’t mean being deficient. And even though we have this belief that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father, except through him, that doesn’t make us better than those who don’t embrace that truth. It doesn’t make us superior or have the right to take land from someone because they don’t hold the same convictions around the person of Jesus, as we do, it doesn’t make us in any way, shape or form better or entitled.

Joel Gordon:

And those are some of the things I think, as Canadians that we have to wrestle through, because the founding of this nation, unfortunately used some biblical references and biblical ideologies to take land and to violate treaties and these sacred solemn covenants that were created, even the language of treaties, talk about these covenants that we enter into nation to nation that are still legally valid today, yet not many Christians or Canadians know about these covenants.

Joel Gordon:

And we’re covenant people. We’re a people who God has called us into this new covenant in Jesus Christ. So the idea of a covenant, the idea of a treaty isn’t a foreign to us, or it shouldn’t be foreign to us. So anyhow, that’s just one area I think, as a church that we could really investigate and learn more about is our connection to the land, our connection to the land as people who are called to be good stewards of the land. Also people who are called to be in right relationship with our brothers and sisters.

Isaac Dagneau:

I want to move specifically to Canada, lots of our listeners, obviously from Canada and you are unique in that you’re one of our guests who is Canadian, which is just so awesome when we have Canadian guests on, I think a lot of us [inaudible 00:00:14:32], even you just bring up this idea of land and these treaties and covenants. And even for myself, I’ll confess and say, I didn’t really realize that. And I haven’t studied that. And you probably are not surprised. You’re like, “Well, you’re the majority.” But where do we see racism in Canada? And maybe this could be your way now to just kind of speak to some issues that you see to many listeners that maybe are quite, just unknowledgeable about it, and maybe ways that they’re even involuntarily participating in, that you would like to bring our attention to, and then we’ll work towards, what does it look like to actually begin to see some change, so.

Joel Gordon:

This could be a six part series right here. So I’m going to try to speak as specific as possible. And I’ll share a bit from my own perspective. I’m currently on a learning journey as well as you are, as we all are. And when I think about this community, I live in a really, really beautiful suburban neighborhood. Like every day, every step I take when I go out for a walk, I just thank God for the blessing that he’s given me of this place that I call home. But I’m learning more about the history and how my community came into being. And I live on this parcel of God’s creation that was formed through the Williams Treaty. So that’s the treaty that informs where I live just North of Toronto. And in the 1500s, there was a Huron Wendat village that was here, that was home to the Huron-Wendat First Nations, and they had a huge, huge village here, a settlement and some recent research and archeological findings have found that this area was actually like similar to the New York City of the 1500s.

Isaac Dagneau:

Oh, wow.

Joel Gordon:

Yeah. It was an entrep么t, this trading hub for all of North America. And they found a pre-contact axe in this neighborhood that I now call home. And they traced it all the way back to Basque, Spain because it had an imprint, this ax had an imprint on it from this village in Spain. So it wound its way all the way across the Atlantic from some fishermen who then traded with various indigenous groups and it made its way into this community North of Toronto. I mentioned that because it has such historic importance that now even the government of Canada is archiving the artifacts that were found here. And it now has national importance and is actually reshaping the way we understand Canadian history. And there was a documentary made on it as well. If anyone has Amazon Prime, they can watch the Curse of the Axe and learn more about the community that I live in.

Joel Gordon:

But the reason that I’m mentioning this is that when my community was first developed about 16, 17 years ago, and knowledge of this historic site was coming to the surface, it was completely disregarded, this incredible history that now the government of Canada is trying to preserve, the local authorities, and those who are developing the land did the bare minimum that was required. And they neglected consulting indigenous groups who were neighboring and nearby. And the land was developed in a really disrespectful way, where they could have had a recreated Huron Wendat village, there’s so much that could have been done to remember the presence of indigenous peoples past and present, right? Because they still share this land and they’re people who are still here and are living and vibrant and have so much to teach us. But so much of the development of this community has been done in a way that has not honored indigenous people.

Joel Gordon:

And now I live right on top of this historic site and a storm water pond was built on top of the heart of this village, where this axe was found. That grieves me, that really saddens me, that I now benefit and live in this incredible community, but the way that it was developed was not honoring. So you asked the question, well, how does that lead me into the future? How can I be reconciled with my neighbors and with the history of this land? And that’s a deeply personal work, it’s a collective work, but it’s also a personal work. we all have to ask ourselves in our own contexts, how are we participating in different discriminatory practices? Are there things that we’re ignorant to, or not aware of that we could learn about, what treaty are we on? Most of Canada is connected to a treaty. What nations have shared this land that we live on? And so I think the conversation around racism in Canada is inextricably bound to the history and the culture of first nations peoples.

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah. Yeah. No, and that’s so good. And no, I think that your story there just about Stouffville where you’re from and you’re working through it. I think that in itself is the example, maybe the application that we can all start with and just like you’re now asking us, like what treaty are you on? What other nations have shared the land that you’re on? And you say it’s personal. And I understand that if we started to look at it more personal, like, where am I living? What am I benefiting from? And we see maybe the stories of discrimination that have come from the past, it would broaden our perspectives. It would also pierce us in individual heartfelt ways that would actually lead to a better way to bring solutions, because it would be from the heart because you’ve done your research and you’ve learned this knowledge, not pretty knowledge, but knowledge of where you’re on.

Isaac Dagneau:

So I think that’s really important, Joel. I think that’s a good way for listeners and myself included to begin to do that. And lip service is one thing, but it begins with just understanding, right? And then we can allow that to actually change us.

Isaac Dagneau:

We’re just about at the end, Joel, I know there’s so much more, and like you said, we could do a six part series and it’s true, but I kind of wanted to ask these last two questions, and maybe you could just answer them quickly, we don’t have to make them long, but I want to make sure that if someone’s listening, who right now we’ve been talking about racism and the back of their minds, they’re thinking, “Man, I wish Joel and Isaac knew how much I have been the brunt of racial injustices.” What would be the first thing that they ought to do? What can you say to them right now to sort of help them?

Joel Gordon:

Oh, that’s a pretty, I don’t know if I can do that service in less than a minute.

Isaac Dagneau:

Sorry.

Joel Gordon:

That’s such a multilayered question because before you can even respond to someone else, I think we have to understand where our own heart is at. So I think requires some personal heart surgery as well asking ourselves, how does my heartbreak today for those who have experienced injustice and does it break? And if it doesn’t break, then where am I at with this call that God has placed on me to love my neighbor as myself?

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Joel Gordon:

And if my heart doesn’t break from my brothers and sisters, then there’s some work that I have to continue to do. And you know what, we all fall short, right? We all fall short, there at times when my heart doesn’t break and I have to sit at the feet of Jesus and ask God to break my heart for those things that break his heart and to really ask him to soften my heart towards different people and circumstances. So I bring it back to the introspective work, the work of the spirit that we have to be willing to allow God to do in and through us before we’re offering advice to others. And for everyone, I would start with really just listening. I think, listening to what others are experiencing and learning from them, because not only are we humbling ourselves to listen, but also, there are things that we can glean and learn from others in the situations that they’re in.

Isaac Dagneau:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s so good. And you emphasize this relational aspect sitting down with someone listening, if we’re online and we’re doing research and we see statistics, we see all these things. Sometimes they won’t affect our hearts because there’s no real people, names, faces, stories, testimonies attached. So I think what you’re saying here, what I’m hearing you say is sit down with someone and talk with them, hear their name and just hear the story that they’ve been through. And the more, not general persecution they faced, but maybe the more specific, and it’ll affect us at a greater degree. Joel, is there anything else that you would love to say before we wrap up?

Joel Gordon:

Yeah, for sure. Just rifting on the idea of relationship building and how important that is in responding to racial discrimination. One of the initiatives that I am working on at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is a relationship building platform. And it’s using a book called Indigenous Rights and then pairing up indigenous and non-indigenous people together to get to know each other. But to then also unpack this book together, and it’s being developed in association with a not-for-profit called Reconciliation Thunder. James Thunder is the name of the person who leads that organization. And so we’re collaborating and I’d invite anyone who’s listening who would like to get to know someone who comes from a different background and who may be an indigenous person, and hear some of their perspectives, or if you’re indigenous and you want to get to know someone who’s non-indigenous and journey through this book, feel free to email us @TheEFC or reach out to Reconciliation Thunder on Facebook.

Isaac Dagneau:

That’s so good. Joel, thank you so much for sharing with us on this very important subject today. And just to our listeners, we just scratch the surface, but I hope, and I trust that some of what Joel talked about today in our conversation, specifically peaked your interest or got you thinking in a way that maybe you haven’t thought before, but anyways, Joel, thank you. And we’ll talk to you again soon.

Joel Gordon:

Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Isaac Dagneau:

Hey, thanks for joining us today. As we discussed the important subject of racism with Joel Gordon, you can learn more about the ministry Joel is with, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada by going to evangelicalfellowship.ca. And lastly, if this is your first time listening to indoubt, I’d encourage you to check out indoubt.ca. There, we have tons of articles on subjects of life and faith, as well as over 240 podcasts with guests from around the world, talking about critical issues with a biblical perspective, you can find it all at indoubt.ca.

Speaker 1:

Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more subscribe on iTunes or Spotify, or visit us online at indoubt.ca or indoubt.com. We’re also on social media, so make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Ben Lowell:

Hi, Ben Lowell CEO of Back to the Bible, Canada’s indoubt. If you listened to today’s program, you’re either a young person looking to understand how the Bible speaks to current issues of life, faith, and culture, or you’re somewhat passionate to see young people grow in their walk with Jesus and understand the Bible. We want to thank you for being with us and encourage you to touch base by emailing info@indoubt.ca or in the US info@indoubt.com. Also, we want to let you know that indoubt is a ministry that only exists through the support of donors. So every gift of any amount means so much for more information, visit indoubt.ca or in the US indoubt.com.

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Ep. 254: Racism and Reconciliation

Who's Our Guest?

Joel Gordon

Joel Gordon is a filmmaker, actor, pastor and the Creative Director at the EFC. Since his early teens, Joel has been acting in television and film. After studying acting at York University and completing his BFA, Joel started to produce and direct television documentaries. In 2013 he produced a magazine and TV series called Love Is Moving that features youth groups living out God鈥檚 love in their communities. Joel is passionate about guiding his own children into a deeper relationship with God and also about sharing stories from youth and young adults across Canada through EFC鈥檚 magazine, Love Is Moving.
Ep. 254: Racism and Reconciliation

Who's Our Guest?

Joel Gordon

Joel Gordon is a filmmaker, actor, pastor and the Creative Director at the EFC. Since his early teens, Joel has been acting in television and film. After studying acting at York University and completing his BFA, Joel started to produce and direct television documentaries. In 2013 he produced a magazine and TV series called Love Is Moving that features youth groups living out God鈥檚 love in their communities. Joel is passionate about guiding his own children into a deeper relationship with God and also about sharing stories from youth and young adults across Canada through EFC鈥檚 magazine, Love Is Moving.