Racism, Diversity, Or Identity?
Reprinted from a previous copy of The Evangelist by John Rosenstern
Mark 3:24 – “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
GOD DID NOT FORESTALL the political birth of the United States of America due to slavery. The scourge of slavery was predominantly opposed by American Christian missionaries acting as poseurs for abolition against slavery. Warnings pertaining to slavery resounded from our missionaries in the Middle East. In the case of Harriet Livermore, spoken from Mount Zion, she prophesied, “Great national calamities are awaiting the United States as punishment for its permissiveness toward slavery.” Nearly 20 years later, the dawn of the Civil War bore witness to the outcome of God’s warning. Abraham Lincoln accredited three books that shaped his life and thinking: the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, and Sufferings in Africa by James Riley. Riley had been captured by Arabs after being shipwrecked off the coast of the Spanish Sahara and was driven across the desert. He was flogged, beaten, and reduced to just 90 pounds until he was ransomed by the British Consul at the port city of Mogadore. His book became a national sensation, selling 1 million copies over the next 40 years. He urged Americans to cut down “the cursed tree of slavery and to shiver in pieces the rod of oppression.” Many other well-knowns, such as the father of our educational system, Horace Mann, were outspoken opponents to slavery.
TO FORGET IS FOOLISHNESS
To forget slavery would be as foolish as trying to forget the Holocaust. It must serve as a reminder of the cruelty of man to force man to serve man. African Americans of the Civil War era did not liken slavery to the plight of American slaves in Algiers, but to ancient Jews in Egypt. One such preeminent leader, Frederick Douglas, recalled, “We meant to reach the North, and the North was Canaan.”
Many in my family, on my father’s side, were exterminated in the Holocaust. I often remind myself of the horror they must have felt when the sound of the boots from German Gestapo soldiers marched down the streets of Germany in rhythmic patterns, and then, the blunt knocking on doors. Their hearts pounded within their chests with anxiety in anticipation of being taken away from home and family. Stricken people were torn from each other and sentenced to death for simply being Jewish. We must never forget slavery and the plight of those before us who suffered its torment. It is an ever constant reminder of how each of us should look upon one another with love and respect.
A NEW IDENTITY
The result of the Gospel message is so strong that it changes the heart and life — as a result, being born again – for all who embrace Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It gives the believer a new identity. This is essential for us to understand. The fact that old things are passed away and all things become new (II Cor. 5:17) removes the believer’s past and changes his identity. Christian believers “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:10-11). The Christian believer now can live identified to a new race. Paul would say to the church of Galatia, “For you are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus … There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26, 28).
The sullen stains of racism still brood in the hearts of many today. The idea of one race being better than another has hurt America, notwithstanding Jews and others around the world. This kind of thinking ultimately created an Adolph Hitler. The belief is that a master race exists and by the extermination of an inferior race, this will enable the new superior race to manifest(?), or, as with slavery, the inferior race is to serve the superior race. For example, Islam makes this very clear by claiming all who are not believers of Allah and his prophet are classified as dihimmi, a second class or sub-class of people. They must pay jitzia, a poll tax, and are subject to minimal rights, unlike other Muslims.
A principle has emerged that our commitment to diversity has redefined the opposition to discrimination as the appreciation, rather than the elimination, of difference when it comes to equality and recognition. We have also come to think of disagreement as a form of prejudice. If we fail as believers to approach the heartbeat of our social issues with a truly biblical approach, then we will fall prey to believing that skin color is a culture, sexual preference is a culture, religion is a culture, etc. Therefore, if we do not accept someone’s culture, we are being intolerant and even racist or bigoted. May we see each other as our Lord and Saviour sees us — saved or unsaved. Those of us who are saved must work together as one to bring the message that will bring true unity to man – at the meeting place of God and man – in Christ Jesus.
THE NEW CULTURAL WARS
Our society’s new modus vivendi (way of life) toward universal tolerance is to champion diversity. Earlier I mentioned that our commitment to diversity has redefined the opposition to discrimination as the appreciation, rather than the elimination, of difference when it comes to equality and recognition.
God visited His people with a marvelous outpouring of His Holy Spirit at the turn of the 20th century. In 1905, a young black Louisiana man, who attended a Bible school founded by Charles Parham in Houston, Texas, was used by God to usher in modern Pentecostalism. William J. Seymour, at this Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, California, rejected racial barriers in favor of unity in Christ. “The color line as was washed away by the blood,” said writer Frank Bartleman, testifying of his experience at Azusa Street. Sadly, within only a decade, the great Pentecostal Movement slowly began to splinter, and a racial divide was formed. Instead of the pulpit addressing the racial issue biblically by preaching messages of true Christian unity through faith, the division identified with culture. Instead of interracial comity (civility, courtesy), segregation took its ugly shape, and doubly worse, doctrinal separation gave validity to division and solidified the racial divide as well. Because the pulpit did not spiritually address racism, it became a social issue.
The Bible gives us a clear understanding of the function of the five-fold ministry gifts and the result that follows in Ephesians 4:11-13: “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
TRUE BIBLE UNITY
True biblical unity has to do with our proper object of faith. God made the Cross His object of acceptance. He looks at our faith by the finished work of the Cross, His perfect expression of grace, and accepts us in the beloved (Eph. 1:6). It is there at the Cross that we’re all reconciled unto God, and the enmity is abolished – man toward God and man toward man. Christ is all and in all who are His! Glory to God! The bloodline settles it all! He is our peace.
Now that we are in Christ, we are a new creature with old things passed away (II Cor. 5:17). We are then given a ministry of reconciliation. In II Corinthians 5:18, the Bible says, “And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
If the true church of Christ doesn’t operate and function as a New Testament church with proper unity, can we expect the world to accomplish eliminating racism? Here’s our problem: We have allowed other voices to rise up and address the outward issues; issues that are really the symptoms of the inner problem. Fortunately, Jesus Christ heals the heart and, “He delivers the poor in his affliction, and opens their ears in oppression” (Job 36:15).
Racism has greatly oppressed our country for years. It is still a festering sore. We must listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church in this hour. I believe a time of healing has begun. I believe it can also be a time of greater divide if we do not approach racism biblically and with love and patience. Jesus Christ has “ … redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The word nation in the Greek is ethnos and means “race.” Therefore, God is color-blind to race when it comes to salvation and equality. Should we be any different?