Are we now dealing with a world ‘spinning out of control’ as one news-report click baits and suggests, in the aftermath of the double-shot crisis of Coronavirus and racial unrest in America? Or, might our current, national life be about trying to find our way to God, justice and peace through a societal and cultural fog, which clouds our vision and confuses our path?
I hope, pray and believe it is the latter scenario, due to the fact that as Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun” and God has made a way.
Mankind has been here before. I’m old enough to remember the tail end of the last major, racial crisis in America that was broadcast far and wide on TV screens more than 50 years ago and stretched out institutionally and systemically to as recently as just a few decades ago (remember Rodney King and O.J. Simpson?).
Unfortunately and tragically, violence, hatred, racism and disease, are all constants as part of God’s story in this sin-cursed world, where we have been living in the consequences of the second chapter of history – the fall of man for thousands of years, in the midst of the third chapter – the opportunity of redemption, as we await the fourth and final chapter to come – the restoration and renewal of God’s creation, being the culmination of HIStory (‘God’s story’).
The fog however is dense and painful to pass through, as you might imagine how painful it can be to step through a forest filled with rocks, trees and dangerous animals lurking in a distance near and far, which cannot be readily seen. Thankfully, I have a pretty good compass to find my way through the fog to the other side of my destination.
Of course, the compass I’m referring to is the Bible, the all-sufficient, special and living revelation of God, which manifested itself in this world in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe there is a God-given biblical path to grace that will cut through the fog and supersede race. Before we get to where I’m going though, I’ll begin to make an argument for where we don’t want to go- particularly from the Christian perspective or worldview.
The Reality and the Complexity
It must be acknowledged that there is both absolute truth and complexity that has arisen from the aftermath of the shocking death more than a week ago, of George Floyd, an African-American man while in the custody of a white, Minneapolis police officer, after having been arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a store.
Cries for social justice from cries of pain, anger and frustration have been and continue to be poured out of thousands of Americans, seen in mostly peaceful protest, though violent protests resulting in rioting, looting and the ransacking of personal property, also broke out in several American cities, led by more than one faction, undermining much of what the protest movement might have had to offer in the divisive discussion of race going on in our nation right now.
Make no mistake, a considerable amount of this country’s population is divided in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, not just in the red and blue of politics, but in the red of shed blood and the blue uniform colors of law enforcement. Our culture, often driven by social-media saturation hasn’t helped the issue, pushing people to take one of two extreme, either/or positions.
The first, might be the idea that racism in America does not exist. The argument is that problems of race have been largely eradicated and is a virtual, non-issue, with the vociferous protest to the Floyd case being overdone and seen as unAmerican, due to institutional and legislative progress made in this country from the Civil Rights movement- ironically, achieved in large part by peaceful protest.
True enough, it may be argued that institutionally segregated schools, buses, lunch counters and public facilities (“whites only”) no longer exist in this nation. From that standpoint, race relations have improved, interracial marriage is a reality and job opportunities and prosperity have increased greatly for African-American society and for that I am grateful to God.
However, it may also be argued that black-Americans are still disproportionately profiled and targeted for undue police attention and other, more subtle forms of racism. Where there may be a lack of conclusive data to make that point, there is the reality of the nature of sin.
As I preached to my church last Sunday concerning this matter, racism exists, because hatred exists and hatred exists because pride and sin exist in the wicked and deceitful hearts at one level or another, of men and women.
What our culture defines as “racism” today may be more broadly speaking, prejudice, which is a preferential bias, that can be either favorable or unfavorable. Usually, the term prejudice most often refers to a negative opinion, not based on conclusive fact or experience, but formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge. Furthermore, prejudice targets groups or types of people (ethnic and cultural) rather than responding to people as individuals.
So with that definition in mind, why would any Christian think that the age-old sin of racism or more properly, one’s prejudice or ethnic superiority has been eliminated, any more than the sins of greed, murder, lying, fornication and adultery have? Such a notion is naïve and inconsistent with a biblical view of man or anthropology (Romans 3:10-23).
Christians should know better. All we need to do is sit down and have an honest dialogue with more than one Afro brother or sister in Christ or unbeliever and listen to their life experiences (see my next post- Pt.2) as I’ve been doing more of late, to understand.
After all, the professing American church has contributed to this divide, having historically dropped the ball big time on the issue of race. Prior to planting the church I serve as a Pastor, I came from a ministry with a racist background unbeknownst to me at the time our family arrived there. In the generation prior, bigotry was rampant in the name of Christ incredibly enough, having separated whites from blacks in congregational seating and baptisms, to say little of its not so subtle, school ministry segregation.
“Racism” unfortunately, is a shameful and historic stain on western Christendom that cannot be honestly denied, evidenced by a segment of the church’s support of slavery through the 18th and 19th centuries through the Jim Crow era.
True disciples understand that the world is the world- we can’t be surprised by racism and hatred from among the unregenerate. But when you see or hear about it from the church- from those that profess Christ, there are almost no words to describe the incredulity.
The second extreme position of today’s toxic, racial divide, is the view that being part of the white majority (“white privilege”) is a social crime worth punishing in and of itself and that the mere suggestion that ‘All Lives Matter’, encompasses the reality that all ‘Black Lives Matter (including the unborn),’ brings public ridicule if not job loss to others. This is evident in the debate over the role of police going forward in the aftermath of ‘Floyd.’
The extreme position there is to not only “defund”, but to eliminate local police departments altogether as we know them, as called for by Minnesota’s local city council. This one particular case of fatal, police brutality that just occurred, has now led more than one city government to move towards a law-enforcement less municipality that while caught up in the emotions of the moment, fails to explain how it will keep it’s citizens of all ethnic backgrounds safe from crime and violence.
One Minneapolis community activist said in a USA Today article, “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.” The inflammable rhetoric aside, might citizens of that city reasonably ask, ‘What happens when there is a school shooting?” Or, “when a drug deal goes wrong? When a woman is raped? What happens when gang leaders kill or hostages are taken?”
In light of the fact that an estimated 16,000 plus people were murdered in our country, according to the last year’s available FBI statistics, the above questions might be fair, you think? As one state’s Attorney General said, “This defunding makes as much sense as cutting funding for a hospital or a school where a doctor or teacher has engaged in criminal conduct against a patient or student.”
Accordingly, the mere suggestion that there may be another nuanced and balanced way to reform rather than replace police, may lead to a verbal attack from the politically correct police, that are pushing the growing “‘woke” agenda of intersectionality, where different forms of alleged discrimination interact or intersect with each other leading to social change movements.
In recent years, it has become a feminist buzzword, describing the cumulative, societal effects of “systemic discrimination on people who belong to more than one disadvantaged group.” For example, a woman may be oppressed by the anti-women crowd; a black woman faces anti-woman and anti-black bias; a black lesbian woman faces anti-woman, anti-black, and anti-gay bias and so on and so forth.
The point of intersectionality is that the victim of only one type of discrimination may have a hard time identifying with those who face multiple types of oppression. And for white people, you need not apply for inclusion in this.
Thus, American society is being pulled in two opposite and extreme positions on race and culture. Fortunately, the cross and the person of Jesus Christ has the both/and solution to the problem.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28, ESV).
I’ll offer the scriptural solution in our next post (Cutting Through the Fog of Skin and Sin- Pt.2).