I remember spending an afternoon with some Christians. These were not just any Christians. These were some of my all-time favorite people. They loved God. They were hardworking, generous, and kind. There’s no other better way to describe them other than the old saying “they were good folks.”
As we enjoyed a sunny picnic, the conversations meandered between who’s in the hospital, fishing, and the weather. The conversation then turned to politics. At that moment the good-heartedness ended. As Muslims entered the discussion, words shifted from loving to bitter.
I thought about typing what I heard. I don’t need to. You’ve already heard it all. The comments were angry. It was clear there was a sense of hurt in their words. They were speaking about people, but they didn’t realize that. In their mind, they were speaking about evil. And when talking about evil, all bets are off.
Chances are you’ve witnessed conversations like this among Christians too. Maybe you’ve even taken part in them yourselves. It may have been about Muslims. Or it could’ve been about liberals. Or gays. Or Hispanics. Or blacks. Or Asians. Even as I type this, I can overhear a heated conversation explaining what is wrong with (legal) Mexicans and why they shouldn’t be in America.
Now they’re talking about their favorite songs on Christian radio. Not kidding, either.
Look at the media. The narrative says that Christians embrace racism while atheists reject it. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? It’s easy to wave this off as “fake news,” but can we blame the narrative when we remember one of the densest evangelical regions in the world for slavery, lynching, and the Civil Rights movement?
Here are a couple observations about why we allow racism to define our Gospel.
Blinders of Hatred
Racism is easy to see in others, but hard to see in ourselves. It’s no surprise that Jesus used racism often as an example to show people their need for forgiveness. People like to think of themselves as good. You may be reading this right now insisting you are not a bigot. And that may be true. But the prejudices you hold against people because of their race, religion, or mindset are probably more prevalent than you realize. For example, I love cheering for a team called the Washington Redskins. I’ll admit, I hope the team never changes its name. I would never dream of calling a person a “redskin,” yet I have no problem shouting out the word every Sunday afternoon. I’ll probably never be convinced otherwise. Habits are hard to shake.
Racism is ingrained within us through our upbringing. We remember mom or grandma teaching us that “red birds only marry red birds and never blue birds.” The grooves ingrained in us from childhood are hard to sand out. No one wants to admit that the idealized life they remember from long ago was wrong. No one wants to hear that what their grandmother taught them was ignorant and hateful.
This is not a white-guilt article. Black people are racist too. Racism is more than a white issue or a black issue. It’s a human issue. I’m not fighting against some ludicrous concept of “privilege.” But I am challenging fellow Christians to examine the prejudices they hold in their heart, as Lord knows I need to do with mine.
People often disguise racism with a sense of self-righteousness. We defend Grandpa’s hatred of Asian-Americans because of his time at Pearl Harbor. We defend our friend’s attitude towards blacks because of his exposure to crime.
We should always attack evil. We should attack Islam because it is an evil religion. Yet, we should love Muslims. We should condemn gang violence at every turn, but also love black gangsters at every turn. That’s a hard balance. I must admit, I’m not sure if I know how to maintain that balance yet. But I know it’s a balance expected of Christians because it was a balance showed by Christ. He hated adultery yet loved adulterers. He hated greed but loved the greedy.
I suppose the best we could say for now is that Jesus refused to see people according to their sin, but instead according to their Maker. He saw individual creations by His Father ravaged by the effects of sin. So much so He often cried for them. He refused to recognize sin as the person, but rather as a disease infecting each individual. That may be the best lesson we could glean. Christians are racist because they mistake the sin for the person. They hate what is wrong, yet associate wrong with people, rather than a decision that people make. God calls us to hate sin and love people, but we do the opposite.
Some defend bigotry because they believe the alternative is tolerance. God never calls His people to tolerate sin, but He does call them to tolerate sinners. When they slap your cheek, turn the other. When they take your tunic, offer your cloak. Those are extreme examples meant to illustrate a point. Christians should love Mexicans who illegally crossed the border. But more importantly, they should love the Mexicans who didn’t. Racism and Christianity do not go together. Until Christians recognize it and eradicate it, it will limit our effectiveness.
When John described the glory of Heaven, he described it with every color imaginable. He did this because the glory of Heaven will be filled with and shared by every color imaginable. Red and yellow, black and white. We must stop seeing people for the sin that we associate them with, and instead see them for the grace that God associates them with. Only then will grace have a real impact on a sinful world.
Resting in Him,