Unless you’ve had your head buried in the cultural sandlot, you’re probably beginning to see racial issues in America as more complicated than before.Once relegated by the cultural elitists to the South, racism has become a chasm that threatens the neo-patriotic idea of indivisibility more like a cracked windshield than a geographic fault-line. It’s fissures are appearing in metro-America, the Midwest, and all over social media-the soul of American culture.
Racism, in all of its facets though, has yet to be dealt with honestly by the Church, despite the hope that the recent gestures by the SBC and the PCA toward racial reconciliation will somehow fix it. This is becoming self-evident by our lack of influence on the culture and the fear that all of this was too little too late.
One of the major difficulties standing in the way of having a conversation about race is the same moral dominance that many white folks who are in leadership impose on the effort. It’s a problem in which Southerners are all too familiar. We have been the historical racial scapegoat for 150 years in the United States and by that, disallowed to partake publicly in any solution to the problem. Most of that segregation from reconciliation has come from those who see themselves as morally superior, historically Northern and Midwesterner Unitarians who often pose as Protestants. It was their Reconstruction that revised history for the purpose of demoralizing the South while creating a whitewashed version of their own racial hatred for the history books. Many of the solutions we hear from Christian leaders today come straight from the playbook of those Unitarians.
We will soon be at an impasse though if truthful conversation is not perpetuated.
The prohibition comes when folks go beyond the definition of racism and begin to relegate anything that disagrees with what they think racism looks like or how it manifests itself to the trash heap of what they call the “same ole bigotry”. In fact, disagreement or differing perspectives are automatically prejudged as racism by these usually prudishly pious prigs, posing as Protestants, stopping the conversation on the grounds that anything other than their perspective is racism itself.
Let me illustrate.
In the controversy over the Confederate Flag in which the Southern Baptist Convention debated its Christian legitimacy, the premise was established early that any person who was pro-flag was in-turn unsympathetic to the feelings of offended African-American brothers and were therefore guilty of the racial sin of omission which is an ironic position for Christians who tout the prohibition to judge mens motives. Furthermore, as people implicitly guilty of racism, Confederate Flag advocates (who are prejudged racists) were not allowed to speak to the issue. They were disqualified by definition.
In other words, no true Christian would ever be pro-Confederate Flag and would likewise have no place at the table until they repent or acquiesce to the argument of the self-proclaimed, morally condescending group of movers and shakers.
I experienced this firsthand when Russell Moore blocked my attempts to discuss his remarks rather than entertain my questioning of his logic.
In another circumstance, some at TGC use a similar tactic. In articles and sermons they set the table by stating that a natural outcome of the Gospel is empathy for black folk grieved by racism. That is a true statement but the sleight of hand follows when they define what that empathy should look like, all the while negating any differing perspective by defining it out of the box of orthodoxy.
“If you have true empathy”, they say, “then it will look like”…and the next thing you know, you’re disqualified because your empathy isn’t clothed in the same holy cloth as theirs. Although you may empathize more than they are capable because you are actually in relationships with real people injured by real racism, trying to come up with real solutions, race conversation becomes a one-way street on which they are the traffic cops. Conversation, as the adage goes, is a two-way street, but not when it comes to this one. The only conversation they recognize and will allow is between a white elitist Christian and a black elitist Christian who define any other perspective other than their own as racism. All others need not apply.
They do this by misrepresenting other arguments and subverting them as “hidden” sins in which the so-called ignorance is pre-supposed as racism. This slams the door on any real discussion and ushers those dissenting Christians to the back of the bus on which these elitists white-knuckle us onto a one-way street of irresolution.
Until this claim of moral superiority ceases, no conversation will be had and the fallout of racism and all of its violent acts will not only continue but be exacerbated!
The superficial solutions administered by so many politically correct Pharisees will continue to hemorrhage and the nation, and the Church, will suffer.
When real racial issues are ignored so that we can merely pat ourselves on the back for condemning our ancestors or discarding offensive Christian symbols, ethnic groups will suffer injustice by a thousand cures.
It’s time that we take this on biblically, and that means truthfully, unashamedly, and fearlessly confronting problems like fatherless homes, bad ethnocentric theology, the appeal of Islam, and the perpetuation of crime in black pop culture. To ignore problems like these are not to do justice, love mercy, or walk humbly with Christ. To deflect the culpability of individuals in favor of a system that has supposedly leaned on their ethnicity when all of the empirical evidence leans otherwise, is its own form of racism. Finally, to suggest that illegal acts by groups like BLM or individuals who murder police officers should be understood sympathetically because of a perceived oppression of their “kind” is the epitome of bigotry in the form of moral condescension and that dishonors a Holy God and his image in which each and every one of us are created to be holy, as he is.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not under any illusion that white racism doesn’t exist nor is it my intention to deflect or minimize its sinfulness. All sinners have their excuses and none will stand against Gods exam. For us to minimize sin and make excuses for it is reminiscent of Pauls words in his letter to the Romans, and that is a two-way street.
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32, ESV)
The solution to real racist actions is simple…church discipline through its courts. There, real sin is dealt with not winked at, and the innocent have a right to argue their case. Why does this not occur? Your guess is as good as mine.
For the Church, the most immediate injustice should be our utmost concern. It is only after we have dealt with the objective sin that the more subjective can be discussed. Let’s condemn obvious sin before we take another step towards reconciliation because there is no real unity where sin exists under the blind eye of the Church (1 Cor 5:9-13). Let’s only seek unity in truth. Let’s stop winking at moral failure and charging the windmills of our own making. That goes for every race.
The truth is, the only way that any of these problems will be fixed is by the growth of the Kingdom through the spread of the Gospel. Fixing any number of these social issues, absent from the Gospel, is temporary at best. Sinful men will always regress back to their default position without the sanctifying inward presence of the Holy Spirit. The only way that happens is by preaching to those who need it.
It’s time for the Church to stop whistling Dixie past the graveyard of racism! It’s time be the redeeming force that the Kingdom should resemble and stop worrying about whether we resemble the Kingdom so that we can be a redeeming force. The command of the Gospel is “REPENT and BELIEVE”, on that truth the Kingdom is built. We are called to preach THAT to ALL the nations (εθνος-ethnos). Then we are to disciple them in truth.
All of the beauty that we hope for in the Church, all of the mystery of the Kingdom, the complete and absolute healing of the nations (ethnos), will be a product of repentance and belief that Jesus is Lord. That’s the chronology of the Gospel. It just works that way-Gospel to Kingdom.
The outworking of the Gospel is the Kingdom, not the other way around.
Let’s stop pretending we can build the Kingdom on arbitrary moral principles and begin to be truth tellers to a nation that desperately needs it.
No racism will be dealt a death blow until the Gospel takes hold of men’s hearts. No man can hear the Gospel until it is preached. And, the Gospel can not be preached without a preacher. (Rom 10:14-15) Does your church have a local mission(ary) to those black or white folks in your town or community that haven’t heard or have been fooled by a false gospel? Are you preaching the Gospel to them expecting the Kingdom or are you building castles in the sand hoping for the ocean of our culture to leave them standing?
Some would say that the mission field is not merely in a foreign land. I say amen. Others might add that it’s coming. I would say it’s already here!
It’s time the Church recognized that.
America has become a nation (ethnon) composed of nations(ethnos). If there is any hope for her to heal, it is only in the Gospel. Any attempt to invert the process is building sand castles at the edge of the water.
Abraham Lincoln was honest but is not popular for telling a group of free blacks in 1862 that we are so different that we can not live together peaceably. You and we are different races.
“We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.”
John Adams famously said that our Constitution and Republic were made only for a moral people.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
They were both correct.
The exception to Lincoln’s statement and the guarantee of Adams’ is found in the unifying truth of Pauls admonishment. Eph 4:11-16.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16, ESV)
(Notice the progression is always from knowledge and truth to unity)
As much as we hope our newly penned confessions will have killed it, as long as we believe only Unitarian doctrine is morally superior, until the day that all good folks are given a seat at the discussion table, we’ll be whistling Dixie past the graveyard of racism. But, when the Gospel actually precedes the Kingdom not only in our confession but also in our mission, the beachhead of racism will give in to the ebb of history.