In this edition of “Theology & Culture” we are addressing some things that have been noted in the past but have been on my heart. And something I read recently put out by a particular church group reminds me that now is not the time to pull back and be silent, both as a Christian, and as a pastor.
Some of what follows I have written on, but please bear with me as we tackle it again while adding some additional thoughts, specifically when it comes to the church at-large.
We know that in our culture there is a great divide among people caused by many factors, real and imagined. Through the mainstream media and our government, and the rhetoric of hatred and distorted facts that are constantly flowing, it has only incensed the situation. This post deals with one issue in particular.
To ignore the fact that racism exists or ever existed is of course, to turn our backs on reality. Racism of any kind is wrong, period, and for Christians, unbiblical. But to label one ethnic group as racist, as is happening in our country, without considering everyone for who they are and what they think personally, is well, to be racist.
Racism is not limited to whites. Anyone of any race can be a racist though our society is fighting hard to negate that thought. Worst, though, is that denominations and church groups have also been influenced by Critical Race Theory (CRT) or the inflamed accusations and statements being made by both our culture and yes, churches.
As mentioned, racism is a sin. Believers are to treat each other as Christ commanded us to in John 13:34-35. Not only that, the Great Commandment tells us to love God with all our heart, soul and strength and to love our neighbor (anyone we encounter) as ourselves. Contrary to popular opinion, all lives matter. That is Christianity.
Paul was clear in Acts 17 when he said we all came from one man, Adam. Galatians 3:28 tells us we are all equal who are in Christ. Genesis 1 states that man is made in God’s image.
To state that someone is a racist whether they themselves realize it or not, which CRT does, smacks of ignorance. This only worsens and makes more difficult any attempt to prove otherwise whether someone fits this narrative or not. We have already defined people.
Sadly, you can have people of your own ethnicity mark you as a racist if you do not buy into a particular mindset or view. This is happening even within the body of Christ.
Regarding churches, there is a mentality among some that if we are not all multi-cultural churches, with a mix of different nationalities and cultures, we are failing in our mission. This is a wrongful assumption also. Let me explain.
If a community is made up of, for example, 90% black or 90% white, or 90% Asian, and that is reflected in their churches, where quite possibly there are no other ethnic groups or they make up a small percentage of the local population, does this make them racist or non-caring for others of different ethnicities. No. Often churches reflect the make-up of the area they are in. You also will find that they are welcoming of other ethnicities and cultures who may attend the services.
Also, is it wrong for churches, whose culture and customs come across in their worship, to therefore be labeled as racist or ethnically blind. Not at all. For example, some black churches have a style of worship that may be different from a majority native American, Asian, or white church. Is it wrong to worship in a setting where you are comfortable, that fits who you are? Or are we to assume that those churches are failing to blend groups of people?
We can celebrate the diversity of worship style found in whatever church is teaching God’s Word. If the truth of Scripture is being taught, and one church sings for an hour and another ten minutes as part of their worship, or people share prayer requests, etc. as part of the gathering, rejoice in it.
Jewish Christians had customs they honored and held on to as did non-Jewish believers in the early centuries of the church. That was okay. Today, we can celebrate similar things if they do not impede God’s truth. This is the way it should be.
I know churches that have a mix of different ethnicities that enjoy a particular approach to worship. That is great. Again, the problem is that one ethnic church group has come under fire for not being more diverse. In all honesty, this could be said about many churches made up of a majority of any race. And it would be wrong to make that assumption.
In addition, we must look at what churches do beyond Sunday morning. Many reach diverse groups of people through children, youth, and other areas of ministry. All people matter and all need Christ and churches work in different ways to reach “the world.”
We can have distinct cultures and customs and still get along and show each other the respect that Christ calls us to give. This extends beyond the color of one’s skin. A northeasterner does and says things different from someone in the South. We have things in common with each other, but we have differences based on many factors, not just race.
Before closing, let me share a short personal note. When we lived in Sacramento, many of our neighbors were of different ethnicities than our family and they were amazing individuals. I saw them for who they were. They were great people. That was what mattered, not their race.
Even my family tree is diverse. One side comes mostly from England, but my mom’s side is worth mentioning. My great grandmother was 100% Choctaw. Native American. Many fit this, having various family backgrounds. I am not ashamed of this, nor should we be put down for who we are.
I understand that there are things in our history as a country that were wrong and, in some cases, still are. We need to learn from it and move forward. But that does not negate many of the positive things that have come from America.
As believers, we need to model Christ to the world around us. In doing so, we need to speak out and work to fix things in our world that need repair. We also, though, must push back against those who have done nothing but use race, religion, education, financial status, etc., as a way to pigeon-hole individuals. As Christians, we cannot capitulate to a world gone mad that levies whatever they can to divide and conquer. This is not the way of Jesus.
Followers of Jesus know the remedy to the world’s ills. Let us keep proclaiming the Good News about Jesus as found in 1 Corinthians 15. Salvation and hope come through Christ alone.