Recently former President Jimmy Carter made the accusation that the opposition to health care reform, including the outburst by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson is motivated by racism. http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/09/15/carter.obama/index.html On the other end of the spectrum there are many who are saying that racism plays no part what-so-ever in that debate or other disagreements with the president. My strong hunch is that both positions are overstated in the extreme and as important as the particular political issues are, they are not my main concern.
What all this turmoil has done is forced me to ask the question, “Where is the Body of Christ when it comes to racism?” To put it another way, “How would the tone of American life and politics be different if the church had been consistently living out the radical biblical mandates of loving your neighbor and having a concern for the oppressed, no matter their race or ethnic background?” Maybe even more simply, how would the world be different if followers of Jesus Christ really lived and interacted with one another as if we really were the brothers and sisters in Christ that Jesus calls us to and the Bible says we are?
You need to understand that I come to this as a white guy whose family moved out of the city at the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. We did it for one very clear reason; to make sure I did not have to be put on a bus to go to school with black kids. We were a part of the massive white flight migration from the city to the suburbs. Oddly enough I spent most every Saturday and most days during the summer with black people. Starting at the age of ten and for the next three years I worked at my fathers business. He owned a car dealership and I washed cars, swept the shop floor and ran errands. Most of that happened back in the shop were I worked alongside seven or eight black men and a teenager named Kenny. It was okay for me to work with them, but not go to school with them. So you can well imagine that I did not grow up in a family that was open to ethnic diversity or crossing any racial divide.
But then I came to faith in Christ and all of life began to change. One of the most dramatic changes was that in the first two years of my Christian walk I was mentored by a black man named Howard Perdue. I wrote about Howard in a previous blog. https://provocativechristian.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/provocative-obedience-the-high-cost-of-loving-jesus/ Howard not only shaped my ability to tell others about Jesus, he helped me learn to love someone very different from myself. He helped me to see the truth of what Paul said in Colossians 3:10.11 “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” If you are a follower of Jesus Christ then you have a bond with every other follower of Christ. You are family together and it doesn’t matter what ethnic background you come from.
Last night I had the privilege of experiencing a bit of what Paul must have envisioned as he wrote to those first century Christians in Colossae. I was at a dinner hosted in a home of a close friend. There were ten of us around the table, five white Americans, two black Africans from Sierra Leone who have recently become U.S. citizens, a black couple from Ghana in western Africa, and a white South African who grew up in the harshest years of apartheid. For three hours we shared a meal, laughed together, prayed, wrestled with serious issues of life and in the end wondered how soon we could get back together and do it all again. I wish that the world could have had a looking glass that miraculously allowed them to peer into that dinning room and see what the Spirit of God had created.
People talk about wanting to change the world so that people will be kind to one another and get along. Jesus prayed that the world would know that we are His followers by the love we have for one another, regardless of being black, white, rich, poor, young or old. The world has never really experienced that as a widespread, long-term reality. In fact many are convinced that it is impossible. But it is not. Jesus prayed for it to be so. Last night I was blessed by it. When we cross the racial divide we show the world the power of the Gospel. We demonstrate the reality of the Holy Spirit who binds us together. That truth sounds out like a trumpet call of victory and celebration and it announces the King of Glory who is Lord over all.
7 thoughts on “Provocative Christian Living: Crossing the Racial Divide”
Dan it seems to me like the only reason the racism comment is being thrown around is because when it is used there is no defense against it. I thought it was interesting the other night when Taylor Swift was giving her acceptance speach and was interrupted by Kanye that no one used racism to describe it.The debate is not about whether or not everyone should have access to good quality healthcare, I think they should, but rather is the government qualified to run the system, I don’t think so. I can’t find anywhere in the bible where God needed the government to take care of the people. He always used common everyday people who were willing to step up to do the work needed.
John, have you read the old testament? God, of course, doesn’t NEED governments to care for people, but he chooses them, and he judges them when they don’t. See: Kings, Chronicles, and most of the prophets.
The “racist” accusation came against Joe Wilson because–despite a long history of presidents lying to the American people, no congressperson had before broken the rules of the house and shouted “liar,” but something about this president is different. Add that to the fact that what the president was saying was demonstrably true, and it was said about aliens and strangers from outside our border, and it certainly looks racist.
Of course, we have no way of telling what was in Joe Wilson’s heart. He may not be a racist, but he certainly knows (as any politician does, of any race and any party) that one can play on race to get money and votes–and he continues to use an unnatural (and unbiblical) fear of different people to raise money for his campaign.
There is one race, the human race!
First, the prophets you are referring to were not governments but individuls that God selected, so yes I have read the old testament. I do believe that Steve is correct in that there is only one race, and it is sad that in this day to many people use race as an excuse. If you are going to accuse Joe Wilson of being a racist “He may not be a racist” then by your definition so is the president. After all he referred to a white police officer that arrested his black friend as acting stupidly before he admittedly knew anything of the situation. Or what about appointing someone like Van Jones knowing what kind of person he was. When we have a TV station like MSNBC showing someone from the neck down carring a weapon and start throwing racism around knowing he was actually a black man sets a scarry example. I am starting to believe the people throwing the race card around are the actual racists.
John, Steve, and Drew,
I think the real question has nothing to do with the political landscape or even accusations of racism. To me the real issue is this, How is the Body of Christ demonstrating to the world that there is a better way? Race relations is not something that improves through education, rhetoric, or political programs. It improves when people have life experiences in which they are forced to confront their racism because “those people” whoever they are, go from being part of an undefined “them” to people with real faces, hurts, pains, joys and loves, just like us. When you share a meal with someone you break down barriers. There is an intimacy to it. Why else were restaurants segregated?
If the Body of Christ demonstrated true Christ like love for our brothers and sisters, then the world would be forced to ask how we do it. Why? Because for all our supposed advancement and civilizing, the world can’t overcome a sin problem. But the Bod of Christ, filled with His Spirit can.
Dan that is not entirely true. Politics have become such a large part of Northland that sometimes it becomes difficult to see Jesus.
The prophets were individuals, that were often sent to Kings, a k a government.
And yes, by me definition, the president is a racist, or–at the very least, exploits race. We live in country that has been infected by racism for years, and it even affects kind and good people. As a white person, however, I have to check my own sinful tendency to want to have people that look like me in power, and to have special favor shown to me and people like me. Following Jesus has given me a way to put other’s needs ahead of my own, snd so I am bothered less by perceived “special privileges” for black people–people like me received special privilege–explicitly for years, and I am still benefiting from it today (not only am I white, but I come from a long line of white people) My battle is not to fight for continued privilege for myself, but to make sure that others get blessed the way that I have been blessed.
Dan, you are right that there is something to table fellowship. Of all the thinks that Clarence Jordan and his friends at Koinonia farm did, eating together as a mixed race group was the most offensive. And you are right–the church, Christ’s body, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the called to be a visual representation of the Kingdom of God, where the least are valued most, where the first are last.
Finally, following Jesus will always be political. He was in the public square, and every part of our life is subject to his Lordship. That being said, it is very easy to let politics–left and right, define Jesus–and that is exactly backwards.