Here come the renewed calls for an end to racial animus and healing. Oh, how I am tired of them.
A recent motion to condemn the alt-right died in committee at the Southern Baptist Convention. Predictably, following the outrage, the church issued a statement condemning the alt-right and all forms of racism. Because it’s important, you know, to remember that it’s just as wrong for black people to hate white people as the other way around, and what we need is healing, not this division over race. What we need, church leaders would have us believe, is that there has been a lot of wrong committed on all sides, and we need reconciliation of the races for the healing to begin.
No. No. In Jesus’ holy name, no Racial reconciliation is a misnomer, as reconciliation suggests equal fault. We do not need racial reconciliation. What we need is racial repentance, and racial justice.
Blacks in America are not to blame for the state of race relations in this country; whites are. Racial oppression and white supremacy began on this continent before the country was even established. Let’s look at the issue honestly and fairly.
It was white Christians who enslaved blacks from the 1600s and for the following two centuries. It was white Christians like George Whitefield who saw blacks as worthy recipients of the gospel but not of their freedom. Likewise it was white Christians who stole the labor, the health and the safety of blacks throughout the South, and who fought a bloody war in defense of their right to own black people.
It was white Christians who replaced slavery with Jim Crow, prison camps and segregation following the Civil War; and when the courts and the federal government finally demanded an end to those things, it was white Christians who fled public schools and closed public resources rather than share them with blacks. These actions even found sanction from the pulpit, where ministers taught that it was God’s intent to keep the races separate.
Every bit of progress our nation has made toward racial equality and justice the past 150 years has been fought at every step by white people, often self-identified Christians. Blacks in America today can’t even protest a justice system that targets them more regularly, sentences them more harshly and kills them more frequently than it does whites, without being scolded that All Lives Matter.
Statements disavowing the racist history of the past are not enough. For any denomination, for the church as a whole in our country, or for our nation itself to rise above our legacy of racism, we need to own up to what we’ve done, and we need to correct the fault that we have inherited. It’s not reconciliation that’s needed. It’s repentance.
We can begin by elevating black America: its art, its poetry, its literature, its leaders, its history, and its economy. This is the example we see in the Christian Scriptures. Faced with prejudice against Grecian Jews, the Jerusalem church handed over the welfare programs of the church entirely to those suffering the prejudice. Through humility, the dominant church saw that the minority church was empowered and its widows protected.
Can we follow suit? We should. Can we study church history from the perspective of black America? Can we learn how the enslaved church flourished amid slavery and the abuses of the empowered church?
Can we learn to see the heroism of Nat Turner, and remember the deep moral flaws of white leaders who saw white supremacy and black subjugation as the ordained way of things, or who never gave it a thought? Can we demand black chancellors and presidents at Liberty University and Bob Jones University, and black-majority boards?
Will we throw our moral authority, weakened though it is, behind the efforts to stop honoring the Confederate veterans who defended slavery with their lives, and instead shame them and everyone in the North and South who benefited from slavery?
Will we speak out against the policies and actions of President Trump and Jeff Sessions that threaten the well-being of the African American community?
The Southern Baptist Convention has made steps in the right direction. But what is needed are seven-league boots.
I pray we have the faith to wear them.
Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.