RACISM AND THE CHURCH – MOVING BEYOND PRAYERFUL RHETORIC
For good or for worse, the United States is seen as a Christian nation in most parts of the world. The reason is not far-fetched. Most missionaries around the world are either from the United States or sent by churches and organizations based in the US. Hence, events in the US are viewed with this lens in the eyes of most
of the world; either resulting in praise of Christianity or in condemnation thereof.
The recent alt-right wing gathering in Charlottesville Virginia and its tragic aftermath is one of those events. To many parts of the world, this event shows that the US is not only a Christian nation but also a racist nation. But is the US a Christian nation? Is the US a Racist Nation? Can a nation be “Christian” and “racist” at the same time? The answers to these questions are not clear cut but the point here is that in addition to the teachings of Scripture:
1. Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, his blood shall be shed by man. For He made man in the image of God."
2. Galatians 3:26-28 "...for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as were baptized into Christ, you put on Christ. There cannot be Jew nor Greek, there is no slave nor freeman, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
3. Ephesian 2:14 -18 "For He is our peace, He making us both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, in His flesh causing to cease the enmity, the Law of the commandments in decrees, that He might in Himself create the two into one new man, making peace, and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, slaying the enmity in Himself. And coming, He proclaimed "peace to you, the ones afar off, and to the ones near." For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father...
...the US Church has a moral burden to bear in the name of Christ. That moral burden is to fight racism and kill it.
So far, the church, though in this fight, does not seem to be fighting to win. Whenever there is a tragic event as we have seen in Charlottesville, we do the normal things. Christian organizations gather their best thinkers to write beautiful speeches and appoint one of their notable theologians to present it; We organize multi-racial prayer gatherings; White Christians hug Black Christians and vice-a-versa. But nothing changes. We wait for the next round of events. This cycle is not sustainable.
If the institutional church does not do something radical to combat racism, a time will come when these church follow-up gatherings will look like a KKK event in some places and a Black Panther rally in other places. I agree with Tim Keller of the Gospel Coalition that we should be teaching about racism routinely in the course of preaching. But teaching about racism or preaching against it is not enough. Preachers and church leaders must demonstrate by their actions that they really believe in what they preach about racism.
I had a personal experience in which I was discriminated against because of my race with the active participation of a senior pastor whom many would regard as a vocal anti-racist preacher. And this was a week after we had just finished a book study on “Gracism” at his church. The actions of ministers outside the pulpit must match their words if their witness against racism would bear fruit outside the pulpit.
Finally, the denominations should return their polities to the Lordship of Christ. The first step in achieving this is to "de-racialize" their operations and dismantle ethnic strongholds on their leadership structures. Though this will not be easy, it might be the only guarantee for the survival of the institutional church a few decades from now. The alternative is to continue to run the denominations as ethnic enclaves, thereby entrenching systemic racism and hope that the Lord would bless it. The Lord took out the candle light of the church of Ephesus for not pursuing love:
Rev 2: 4-6 "But I have against you that you left your first love. Then remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works. And if not, I am coming to you quickly, and will remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent..."
I do not know why He would treat us any differently.