“Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, Black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of Black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves—Black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights. Without the idealistic, strenuous, and patriotic efforts of Black Americans, our democracy today would look very different; in fact, our country might not be a democracy at all.”
I am looking forward to being on the air this afternoon, 5.30 EST/4.30 CST, with Mark Eckel of The Cornelius Institute to discuss Say It! and expository preaching. I suspect we will get into a little bit about the current expression of the pandemic of racial injustice.
I also am excited about speaking tomorrow morning, June 9, across multiple Moody Radio stations on real solutions to the racial injustice pandemic that does not seem to end:
All Times Central
5:30am WCRF Brian and Jannelle Mornings
6:00am WMBI Karl and Crew Mornings
6:30am WFCM Dawn and Steve Mornings
7:00am WMBW Mornings with Tabi
7:30am WRMB Mornings with Eric and Brigitte
Join me and invite others to listen!
Yesterday, in my sermon on the sanctity of life from Genesis 9:1-17, I said these words:
Sometimes it can be difficult to see that treating all people with dignity matters. But remembering what it is like to feel undignified helps. Think of how undignified you felt under the care of an overbearing parent or coach, or in comparison to your prettier or smarter sibling or cousin or child of your parents’ best friends. Think of how humiliating living in the broken middle-class home felt, then take away the middle-class part.
Think of the uncertainty you felt in an alcoholic or abusive home and how you wished for someone to see your family’s need for help. That wish was a silent cry to be treated with dignity. Or maybe think of how coming from a Christian home didn’t shield you from mistreatment as you tried to live as your parents prescribed while your friends from Christian homes were not doing the same. Just take away the “Christian” part of feeling mistreatment; it is mistreatment because your dignity as a person was being trumped by your friends’ despising of the Christian faith. You wanted them to see you as a person who should not be the object of ridicule. Everyone else wants that too.
“Dignity” extends beyond the womb. It extends to the impetus behind the #MeToo movement and #BlackLivesMatter. Dignity is a key issue with every unprocessed rape kit, every child in a foster care system in need of a home, every person over fifty who should still be considered a valued member of a company even though a senior-citizen in the eyes of society, and every Middle-Easterner wrongly ethnically profiled. Dignity – the image of God in humans – is at stake in our treatment of every student who under-performs academically in school, every person standing in court who cannot afford legal counsel but needs just legal representation and due process as much as those with lawyers on retainers, every person trying to cross our border illegally, every refugee risking life in a raft to get to a country that is safe, every person holding a sign that says, “I’m hungry.”
In my previous post, I noted a distinction between the “social gospel” and living out the Gospel in relation to social concerns within the culture around us. However, some would label any Christian social involvement, “liberal,” accept maybe where it comes to standing against legalized abortion. Consider the ideas expressed by the writer at Pulpit & Pen:
The social gospel advances ideas such as racial justice, open borders, and left-wing political ideology that has a facade of Christlikeness, but under the surface, merely replaces the gospel with social activism. The social gospel is different from the culture war, as the culture war tends to try to instill and enforce conservative and religious ideology through the use of boycotts and other “take-overs” of the culture. The social gospel, on the other hand, is an attempt to appease the world and the culture by encouraging Christians to adopt political social justice ideas through the guise of “gospel mandates.”
These so-called “gospel mandates” are becoming increasingly popular in the neo-Calvinist camp of evangelicalism. A “gospel mandate,” in the context of the social gospel, is when the gospel is invoked to prescribe a directive to accept one of these progressive ideologies. In other words, obeying the gospel means believing in and helping to advance this social justice idea.
Note that the writer, who is against the “social gospel” as he conceives of it, says the social gospel “merely replaces the gospel with social activism,” and “the social gospel is different from the cultural war.” Now consider the findings of Chris Ladd, writer of the Forbes Magazine article, “Pastors, Not Politicians, Turned Dixie Republican:”
Southern churches, warped by generations of theological evolution necessary to accommodate slavery and segregation, were all too willing to offer their political assistance to a white nationalist program. Southern religious institutions would lead a wave of political activism that helped keep white nationalism alive inside an increasingly unfriendly national climate. Forget about Goldwater, Nixon or Reagan. No one played as much of a role in turning the South red as the leaders of the Southern Baptist Church.
* * *
It was religious leaders in the South who solved the puzzle on Republicans’ behalf, converting white angst over lost cultural supremacy into a fresh language of piety and “religious liberty.” Southern conservatives discovered that they could preserve white nationalism through a proxy fight for Christian Nationalism. They came to recognize that a weak, largely empty Republican grassroots structure in the South was ripe for takeover and colonization.
Fired by the success of their efforts at the top of the ballot in 1980, newly activated congregations pressed further, launching organized efforts to move their members from pew to precinct, filling the largely empty Republican infrastructure in the South. By the late 80’s religious activists like Stephen Hotze in Houston were beginning to cut out the middleman, going around pastors to recruit political warriors in the pews. Hotze circulated a professionally rendered video in 1990, called “Restoring America,” that included step-by-step instructions for taking control of Republican precinct and county organizations. Religious nationalists began to purge traditional Republicans from the region’s few GOP institutions.
The Southern Strategy was not a successful Republican initiative. It was a delayed reaction by Republican operatives to events they neither precipitated nor fully understood. Republicans did not trigger the flight of the Dixiecrats, they were buried by it.
W. A. Criswell and his denominational offspring saw desegregation as “unjust” (and thus saw racism as just), and used their pulpits to justify their segregationist idea of American freedom as a Christian ideal—as a Gospel ideal. In an attempt to preserve white nationalism, it was an evangelical body that promoted one of the greatest examples in modern American history of using the Gospel for political social activism. Thus, for some evangelicals, it seems that when justice meant “segregation” and separating the races, then the Gospel could include social activism. However, for those same evangelicals, when justice means providing economic, educational, housing, and legal equity for African Americans and other ethnic minorities, then the Gospel cannot include social activism. You do the math. No, let me do it for you:
The Gospel + justice as separation of races = The Gospel
– The Gospel + justice as provide equity for races = The Gospel
= justice as separation of races vs. justice as provide equity for racesis the real issue
In response to the messages and panel discussions of the TGC/ERLC MLK50 Conference, some might be tempted to think that the organizers and speakers were promoting a “social gospel.” Of course, a “social gospel” would not be the Gospel, but a false gospel. I did not hear a false gospel at the conference. Rather, what I heard is that those redeemed by the work of Christ in his death and resurrection live out the Gospel, including its implications for affecting racial tensions and unity in American society and the evangelical church in America.
Rather than making a Gospel vs. “social” dichotomy, John Calvin saw addressing social concerns in Geneva as an outworking of the Gospel. I think Calvin set an example to be followed both in his practice (e.g., concern for the poor), and his theology—that the church – those transformed by the Gospel – should care about ills in the society around them. To that end, I am glad to reblog, “How John Calvin Dealt with Refugees and The Poor,” by @CWoznicki.
In the 1550’s Geneva witnessed an influx of French refugees into the city. William Naphy has argued that this influx, and the growing influence of these French religious refugees was the single most common complaint in Geneva during this period. (Naphy, 121) Prior to the influx of politically powerful French refugees, there was an influx of poor refugees. For example, in October 1538-1539 Geneva’s city hospital assisted 10,657 poor strangers as they passed through the city. Naphy notes that this number does not even include Genevans who would have been attended to by the hospital. (Naphy, 122)
Regularly the hospital would have been charged with the city’s poor. The hospital would be expected to take care of the sick in the hospital, deal with outpatients as well as people who were housed in the hospital, including orphans. In addition to these ministrations , the hospital had a bread baking ministry…
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Dr. Eric Mason’s Founder’s Week sermon, “Seeing Through the Lens of the End,” is powerful, bold, and poignant for this time in American society. He preaches the gospel of grace, and courageously applies it to the American Dilemma.
I hope Pastor Mason will gain other opportunities for evangelicals in every corner of the country to hear this message. I was blessed tremendously by this word.
In CT, Raymond Chang responds to John Piper’s post on Lecrae and evangelicalism. Previously Raymond shared a post on this blog here. In the current article, Raymond writes,
For better or worse, we are only at the beginnings of this “Reverse Exodus,” since, at the moment, there aren’t many better options to turn to for people who hold the same doctrines as white evangelicals hold. Evangelicals of color are growing up in, getting trained by, and seeking participation in white evangelical spaces because there aren’t many viable options of another sort who hold the same theological convictions – except in the historically black church which emerged out of exclusionary practices by white Christians who held convictions nearly identical to the ones evangelicalism promotes. Despite this, there are many evangelicals of color who still hold onto a genuine hope and willingness to endure in order to see the church demonstrate what Gospel centered unity in diversity can look like. This flickering flame is what I hope we can fan into a blazing fire.
However, the willingness of evangelicals of color to remain will likely change when they begin to realize that they too are the token/mascot/poster child for white evangelical churches or institutions. Unless white evangelicalism wakes up to the realities that it’s unwillingness to sufficiently change keeps it behind the culture, instead of leading prophetically with a clear vision of the Kingdom of God, the exodus will ensue.
My hope is we can work towards an equitable unity where all people mutually submit to and honor each other.
You can read the rest here.
Thank you, Raymond, for your love for Christ and his church.
My Facebook friend, Raymond Chang, posted a piece on a friend’s experience with campus diversity. He is granting me permission to repost it (below). The post brings to fore some of the problems we face on college and university campuses with moving forward on racial diversity and the lingering problems of racial and ethnic insensitivity.
On Christians campuses, the struggle to achieve a diverse campus at all levels of the institution can be as challenging as attempts to do so on non-Christian campuses. The intent to please Christ by the cultivation of a diverse campus life reflects the Savior’s love for “people for God from every tribe and language and peoples and nation” (Rev. 5:9). But good intentions require yeoman efforts and changes of hearts and minds at all levels in order for conversations on diversity to find welcoming atmospheres, and for diversity to be viewed as a magnolia planted in good soil rather than as a briar patch for only the bravest to traverse.
Duke University has been leading the charge in the fight for campus diversity for over 30 years. By their own admittance, Duke stills lacks success at some levels, as a recent controversy at their divinity school might also reveal. Maybe Duke’s efforts (and failures) can help all of us think through the ways forward—ways, on Christian campuses, that will honor the Lord and help us reach 6.5 billion lost people with the gospel.
An enlightening case study:
A friend is at a large state school in a medical program with 450 students. Each class is comprised of a little over 100 students.
One of his classmates posted a “disrespectful and dignity stripping” rant on their class’ Facebook page making fun of a professor’s accent from an Asian country. This classmate clearly didn’t take into consideration that this professor was teaching at a graduate level in a language that wasn’t his mother tongue.
My friend noticed how it received over 30 likes (out of 100 people in the group) with a host of comments thinking it was hilarious. Each class is comprised of about 15% Asians, with 1-2% black and about 4% Latino. He noticed how the majority of the likes were by white students he has seen treat people (mostly patients) differently based on race and socioeconomic status when they came into the clinic. He remarked, “When we are in the clinic, I see how condescending my white peers are to patients who look poor or foreign.”
Of all the comments, the one that stuck out to him most was one by another student of color who thought the post was hilarious. He saw how other people of color who weren’t aware of the racial dynamics made it difficult for p.o.c’s who were trying to bring about the change the institution needed.
In response to the post, my friend wrote, “Who’s next?” Then, he listed the other faculty of color one by one who had accents or cultural differences other than the ones white people considered normal.
One by one, the likes went from 30 down to 10. The comments also disappeared one after another. Eventually, the O.P. was deleted too. The original poster found my friend’s phone number and asked to talk, realizing his act was racist without realizing it himself.
My friend has observed the institution carefully over the last three years and now that he is in his fourth year, he wants to leave the place better than he found it. As my friend is nearing the end of his program he is asking me what he can do. I look forward to helping him bring about change before he graduates.
These are some of his reflections from my phone call with him:
During his time as a student, he regularly heard off handed comments that were clearly rooted in prejudice and feels like he needs to do something before it’s too late (its already too late – he institution, like every higher education institution, is now playing catch up).
He expressed his frustration with the ways Asians are perceived as docile and black people are seen as angry. He also mentioned how he doesn’t want to be seen as an angry Asian because that is not who he really is. As his friend, I can attest to this.
He mentioned how students are doing things that only benefit themselves. He noted that they are operating out of a marginalized instinct and instead of advocating for systemic change, they huddle together to care for one another, which has its merits, but is doing nothing in the long run.
The faculty is very diverse, but to his surprise, it doesn’t make much difference because the administration isn’t. He noted that the faculty of color can’t stand up for students because they are concerned about their own tenure and promotions (which he understands). But he also notices how white faculty are fine challenging the institution on things that matter to them because their concerns are easier to digest for their superiors. He doesn’t know what to do about this because the people who can represent people like him don’t feel like they have the agency to because their livelihoods would be on the line.
He is frustrated with the diversity officer who doesn’t do anything except get people into the school. Once students and faculty walk in the door, they realize the institution is not what they expected it to be. The diversity officer is a very nice Christian woman who doesn’t do much except fill the quota of international and American people of color. The most she has done was facilitate conversations among people of color over meals. From what he’s observed, the diversity officer doesn’t do much to raise awareness about the communities the institution serves. The institution has a diversity officer for each major program – which means their program of 450 has its own designated diversity worker.
My friend feels a responsibility to talk with the student affairs office, the diversity officer, admissions, and if possible, the administration (who is all white) to address the issues at hand.
All these are things any institution can learn from. May we have the humility to learn from others.
Jemar Tisby already is enduring racist comments for his article in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Why a Racially Insensitive Photo of Southern Baptist Seminary Professors Matters.” The article responds to a controversial photo of Southwestern Baptist Seminary professors posing as rappers. I will not repost the picture here, but one can find it attached to the article at the WaPo.
Significantly, Tisby touches upon the need for greater ethnic diversity among faculty members at US evangelical institutions. At one point Tisby writes,
Southwestern could certainly use this opportunity to dialogue about race and diversity, but I hope the seminary goes further. I hope it will commit to hiring professors and staff members from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. The professors could conduct an audit of their curriculum to see if they are assigning works by scholars of color. The seminary could review the places it goes to recruit students. The leadership could visit other seminaries with more diversity to learn how they could change their own campuses. Sit down with minority students and ask them if they are willing to speak honestly about their experiences at the seminary…. But diversity initiatives and attempts to talk about race haven’t resulted in broad, systemic change. The homogenous environment of predominantly white churches and organizations means people who have all the same cultural blind spots will still marginalize minorities. People are more than offended by pictures like these. They are in pain.
Tisby should be commended rather than castigated for demonstrating, again, that “the problem of the Twentieth Century” is alive and well in the Twenty-First Century. SBC authors’, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, can’t get here fast enough to re-address these concerns. However, seeing that the photo in question arrives only 22 years in the wake of the 1995 SBC’s, “Resolution on Racial Reconciliation on the 150 Anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention,” I’m not sure the stain will go away before the return of Christ. Because, for whatever reasons, some people simply do not see the stain, and others do not want the stain to disappear.
I am grateful for Dr. John M. Yates, Dean at Midwestern College. The article below posted at The Pathway.
KANSAS CITY – It’s an annual event our house – the celebration of the day our children became part of our family forever. “Gotcha Day” or “Adoption Day” features ice cream, pictures, favorite meals, and a recounting of their unique adoption story.
Like most families, we share these moments online. But this year, our celebration angered individuals in the recently emboldened alt-right movement. The alt-right or “white nationalists” as some call them, are a grouping of far-right individuals that truly believe the best solutions for our country comes from separating races. Some have blamed the rise of the alt-right on the current political climate, others on the rapid expansion of politically-correct cultural change. Whatever the rationale, the trolls from the alt-right assured my racially mixed family that I was a disgrace to whites everywhere and that I was most assuredly “going to hell” for violating God’s racial laws. Even worse, according to these individuals, I was “cucked.”
Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this term, but it tends to be a favorite of the alt-right to refer to Christians who take a stand for racial equality. Historically the term “cuck,” or “cucked,” implied a lack of masculinity and virility – particularly to a husband of an adulterous wife or to men who unwittingly invest parental effort in raising children not connected to them genetically. Creating familial relationships through adoption that bridge the racial divide are case-in-point. Even integrating churches or ministries that work with refugees are seen as cowering to the Political Culture and therefore, weak. Churches taking Biblical stands on these issues become demonstrative of “Cuckservative Christianity,” “Cuckianity,” or “Cucked Christianity.”
For the alt-right, white nationalist, race is tied to cultural expression so that certain races inherently possess cultural markers. For those cultures to then flourish and reach their natural ends, the races should be separated and become their own nations. For many, the white, European race needs to reclaim its uniqueness and primacy and therefore protect its cultural heritage. It’s the grand reversal of the identity politics of the left.
This isn’t a new idea launched during a 2016 political campaign. Incredibly prescient, Carol M. Swain identified this Nationalist impulse present in American culture over 15 years ago. Her book, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration deserves a close read by anyone seeking answers to the longer history of this movement. Swain, quotes Dan Gayman, leader of the Church of Israel, a Christian Identity/white nationalist movement located in Missouri, “Most white Americans believe in their hearts in the doctrine of racial separatism even if they are too intimidated by its current disfavor in the media and elsewhere to openly acknowledge their beliefs.”
In a post-2016 election cycle that empowered many of radicalized groups on both sides of the aisle, the cultural filter Gayman referenced has lifted. It’s gone. The attacks have gone mainstream.
Swain argued that a variety of economic as well as cultural currents could ultimately lead to the challenges we are facing today. Her suggestion? The solution has to come from the church.
Because the Gospel doesn’t change. Because the need for all of humanity to be reconciled to God doesn’t change. Because once we trust Christ, our identity changes fundamentally as part of the family of God – we are all adopted sons and daughters and share in the inheritance of the Gospel!
But this concept is often missed by many in America. The Gospel decimates our broken and sinful concepts of race! Jesus’ victory on the cross ended the hostility between Jew/Greek, male/female, black/white/Hispanic/Asian. It doesn’t erase our ethnic heritage or unique attributes – this is not an “I don’t see race” proclamation. Instead, it is a new vision that despite these differences, we are placed into a new family where we become one because of Christ. Ephesians 2:14 is especially poignant: “For He (Christ) himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” We are one in Christ. Period.
But every Sunday, we bring our wretched, broken souls into the gathering place of our churches carrying discrimination against each other or those outside of our doors. How should pastors respond to this reality?
Understand that the media is not “fabricating” or “creating” stories of the rise of an emboldened, racially motivated alt-right. While I believe they are a very small, yet loud, subset of the population, they are doing everything they can to target the young, the disenfranchised, and the poor with their racially charged message. If Swain’s research bears out, this group will continue to see gains if the seed of their teaching is watered and left unchecked.
Your brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of a minority group may actually carry some justified fear about what might happen to them during this presidential transition. If you are not listening to them, please take time to consider what they are feeling and hearing in their congregations.
You must remain vigilant about issues of race and racial reconciliation. Pastors must preach the peace and healing that comes through Christ alone. Beyond preaching, congregations must continue to work to reach their specific mission field. Do a census study of a five-mile radius around your congregation’s meeting place. If your congregational doesn’t mirror the racial proportions of that same space, you are missing your mission field!
Recognize that individuals in your congregation may carry racial discomfort or even hatred against others into your building every week. If the church really is a place where broken sinners find healing through the Gospel, this is a live issue. Since the truth of our true identity in Christ is connected so deeply to the Gospel, we should expect the ideas of race and racial division to be live issues that Satan will use to create division.
Preach the Gospel. Over and again share the hope of the Gospel. There is no underestimating, as Carol Swain states, “the enormous power that Christian religion can exert to save us from our ingrained bigotries and prejudices.”  The Gospel forces us to deal with our sin and the inherent racism that each of carries and annihilates it on the cross of Calvary.
Christians must hold to the higher standard that all believers are one, new race in Christ. This is our identity that supersedes all other markers. When it comes to a question of the alt-right, they are wrong. Attitudes of racial superiority or even discrimination are morally wrong according to what we are told in Scripture. Pastors and churches must guard against this cultural moment and continue to point people to the cross where we are made new.